Turndown and Ramp Rate Issues with Utility Boilers


Melvin J. Albrecht
Technical Fellow, Technology
The Babcock & Wilcox Company
Barberton, Ohio


Many of the current fleet of base loaded coal fired power plants are being affected by what is colloquially being called flexible operation. The primary driving forces vary by geographic location but include low natural gas prices, softened demand due to economic pressures, environmental issues, and installed renewable generation in the area. The result is that large units that have traditionally experienced base load operation are now being required to quickly follow load, cycle on and off line, or periodically operate at much lower loads than they were originally designed for. This type of operation may cause boiler component damage to occur in locations and by damage mechanisms not typically seen in the history of the units.

This report provides a background on the types of damage mechanisms and locations where damage may be experienced in various boiler designs. It describes the experience from one boiler manufacturer, Babcock & Wilcox (B&W), and explains some of the design philosophy that went into many of the boiler designs of the existing fleet. It is intended to provide background information on damage that may be expected from flexible operation while providing a starting point for future research to determine the extent of damage from different types of operation and modifications that may be implemented to minimize damage. These modifications may include physical changes to the boiler and/or changes to operational policies or procedures.

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