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Monitoring and maintaining desuperheaters and turbine bypass systems

By Dr Sanjay V Sherikar, PE, CCI-Control Components Inc

eliable desuperheater spray and turbine bypass systems are critical to achieving high efficiency and availability at combined-cycle plants. These systems are challenged by demanding operating conditions that often are the cause of unscheduled unit trips, costly valve maintenance, and even more costly collateral damage to downstream piping and equipment (Fig 1). The robustness of the control logicincluding signal generation as well as of the control valves and desuperheaters, which are the final control elements, is a major factor influencing the success of these systems. To mitigate problems, plant personnel must closely monitor mainand reheat-steam desuperheaters (sometimes called attemperators) and severe-service valves, and implement a rigorous maintenance program for them. Often, valve specialists are needed to develop that program and plant outages are required to execute the actual maintenance.

Visible, hidden signs

Monitoring severe-service valves has

two aspectsone visible, the other hidden. The visible aspect is the one that is readily seen by the operating staff. It includes clear-cut questions like the ones below. If the answer to any of these questions is no, then that valve requires attention: n Does the valve open and shut ondemand normally, without any work-around procedures? n Is the process parameter that the valve is modulating being controlled satisfactorily, without an abnormal number of excursions or alarms? n Does the valve shut-off tightly? The hidden aspect of monitoring desuperheater spray and turbine bypass valves stems from the processes that are happening internal to the system, and which impact the reliability and integrity of the pressure boundary. To understand the hidden aspect, you must know the control logic, the valves transient performance, and the severity of the operating environment. For example, at some combinedcycle plants the desuperheater spray valve is not synchronized with the steam flow, or the spray-water flow rates are unstable. Either problem

causes quenching of a pressure boundaryspecifically, cold water spraying on hot pipesresulting in high transient thermal stresses and potentially premature failure. For cycling plants, hidden problems such as this have enormous importance, yet they typically are not identified and addressed until after actual component failures have occurred. Plant personnel should actively check and trend appropriate data to identify hidden problems. Data that typically are available directly from the distributed control system (DCS) or plant historian include upstream pressures and temperatures, demand signals to the steam valve and the desuperheater spray valve, and steam temperatures downstream of the desuperheater. However, for complete monitoring of the severe-service valves, additional data are needed. Most of this instrumentation can be retrofit if it currently is not installed at your plant: n Temperature and pressure immediately upstream of the steamvalve inlet. n Feedback signal from the steam valve.

1. Collateral damage from improperly operating desuperheater spray valves can include tube failures in the superheater and reheater sections (left), header failures in the main and reheat steam systems (right)
COMBINED CYCLE JOURNAL, Third Quarter 2006 OH-53


spray on hot pipes giving rise to high thermal stresses which eventually will lead to cracks. Similar quenching of hot pipes will occur if the spraywater valve opens with too long of a delay after the steam valve opens. If the temperature sensor downstream of the desuperheaters indicates that the steam is at or below saturation conditions, then you definitely have liquid water flowing through those steam lines, bringing with it a host of undesirable consequences.

System review
2. A thorough design review may uncover big picture causes of valve troublesuch as this piping layout problem where spray water gets injected directly downstream of elbows. Resulting problems include non-uniform steam-velocity profile, water impinging on the pipe wall and dropping out of the flow, and pipe cracking If your plant is experiencing problems with desuperheater-spray or turbine-bypass valves, you should begin with a design review, tapping the talents of the valve OEM or a qualified fluid-system consultant. Instead of repeatedly replacing failed parts in a particular valve, a thorough review will help you detect and correct big-picture issuessuch as improper system layout, inadequate instrumentation, and poorly configured controls (Fig 2). For example, isolation valves should back up all spray-water valves, as a matter of good practiceparticularly on the high-pressure steam system. This reduces the risk of water from the spray valve, if it leaks, impinging on hot pipe. Other seemingly minor design featuressuch as the relative elevation of the spray-water valves and the distance from the spray-water valves to the spray nozzlesexact an enormous toll on combined-cycle plants, particularly those that cycle frequently. A thorough system review can identify requirements unique to a particular plant and suggest solutions that meet the specific requirements. Doing this early in plant life is best, to limit the accumulation of damage (Fig 3). In fact, the review should be done during commissioning, since many of the excursions from design conditions can be encountered during initial startup and testing of the plant. Another such review after the plant has been in operation for some time, perhaps one to three years.

3. Cage from a turbine bypass valve in a combined-cycle plant required to cycle daily exhibits cracking. Accumulated damage over many cycles between outages was caused by thermal stresses
n Pipe temperatures at key locations n Spray-water flow rates. n Signal to the spray-water isolation n Feedback signal from the water n Pressure downstream of the steam

downstream of the desuperheater. valve. valve.

valve (if dumping to the condenser). n Pressures, using high-quality pressure gages, on all valve positioners. Armed with these data, plant personnelwith guidance from technical advisors if necessarycan uncover most of the hidden problems that may be affecting severe-service valves. For example, spray-water flow remaining on after the steam valve is shut means big trouble, because it will cause cold water to

Control logic and initial valve set-up

Correct set-up of the control logic for desuperheaters and turbine bypass systems is important to achieving long-term reliable performance. Incorrect control logic and improper valve set-up are the leading causes of problems experienced by these systems. From the standpoint of overall

plant operation, there are functional demands on the systems that must be met. Remember that hardware incorporated into the systems also has its own operational requirements such as not allowing spray water to impinge on hot metal parts. Control logic must address these requirements as well. Example: Many plants still use a thermocouple downstream of the turbine bypass system for feedback to the control system. This can cause two kinds of problems: If the thermocouple is located too far downstream, its response is very slow; if too near, water in the steam can cause erroneous temperature measurement. In either case, the result is poor control. An enthalpy control algorithm eliminates these problems and is recommended when bypassing steam to the condenser; it also reduces the potential for inadvertent quenching of hot pipes downstream of the steam valves during bypass operation (Fig 4). Adequate interlocks between the spray-water flow and steam flow are necessary to ensure that the spray water can come on only when the steam valves are open. Most turbine bypass systems are designed for steam that is at least 50 deg F above saturation at the inlet. This requires adequate of drainage of condensate formed upstream, as well as operation of the drains until steam quality is suitable for the bypass system. A good design accomplishes this by locating bypass valves close to main steam headers; an alternative is preheating of the valves through a small warming line. Wet steam or condensate entering the inlet of the steam bypass valves erodes the sealing surfaces of the valve trim. Such conditions should be avoided to the extent possible. damage is heavy, trim-component repair might still be possible, but its best to replace with new trim. For each set of identical valves, have at least one set of spare trim parts (seat ring, plug, and cage) on-hand. These parts are not off-the-shelf items, and their lead times can be significant. Outage work. If severe-service valve problems are encountered, and their root causes are identified, major repairs can begin. Unless the problem is traced to signal generation or the external control element (valve positioner plus accessories), the valves must be completely dismantled. Typically this can only be done during an outage, though it usually requires attention weeks or months before that event to allow for procurement of materials and scheduling of personnel. If the problem stems from faulty sensors or poor calibration, then these issues should be addressed first. If it relates to operation when the valve is open, then response of the valve

4. Pipe cracking downstream of a hot-reheat bypass valve was caused by repeated thermal shocks attributed to poor control of spray water flow based on its feedback position should be compared to the demand signal. This determines whether the problem is caused by signal generation or by the valve itself. If the valve leaks when shut, a couple of items require checking. First, be sure the full actuator load is being applied for valve shut-off, using the pressure gages on the positioner. If full actuator load is not being applied, is it because of limit switches, or improper calibration, or some other reason? If the problem is noticed because of a long-term trendsuch as the plug position keeps getting lower at the same maximum flow conditionthen there could be damage to valve internals. If the plug-lift progressively gets higher over time for a given flow condition, the trim could be blocked by foreign material. Either situaOH-55

Valve maintenance
Even if the design review and day-today operation reveal no major problems, all severe-service valves should still receive periodic inspection and minor maintenance. This includes measuring the critical dimensions on all the parts, and changing all of the soft goods (the seals). Plants should have at least one set of soft goods per valve on-hand at any given time. In general, seals should never be reused since they are designed to take a permanent set when assembled as part of their functioning. If valve inspection reveals minor damage to the trim component, it likely can be cleaned up onsite. If the

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tion requires disassembly for further trouble-shooting. When planning your next outage, allow five days for disassembly and reassembly of the desuperheater spray and turbine bypass valves. This includes time required for the valves to cool down. The window may be longer if there are unique constraints such as constricted workspace, lack of lifting equipment, and so on. The teardown and repair of severe-service valves requires specially trained personnel, because it involves highly engineered equipment in which tolerances and precision are particularly important. This task is best carried out by the OEMs specialists. As part of your outage planning, ensure that the recommended spares are on-hand. If not, order immediately; many of the engineered components are not stock items and you do not want to extend the outage waiting for spare parts, or incur expediting charges that could have been avoided through better planning. Replacement needed? When repairs become too expensive, or underperformance of the system results in unacceptable penalties, consideration must be given to upgrading the troublesome valve. Once the root cause of the problem, and any special system requirements, are identified,

it often is possible Combineto Cycle modify Journal Handbook valve A1 internals to address the issues of concern (Fig 5). When upgrades cannot adequately address the root cause of the problem, replacement is the only practical solution. Improper selection and sizing of severe-service valves has been a common problem in combined-cycle plants and many of these valves have had to be replacedan expensive and time-consuming taskafter only a few years of service. CCJ OH

8/28/06 6:48:58 PM

5. Erosion of sealing surface on a valve plug was caused by wet steam. Bypass valve was located too far from the main steam header and prewarming was not provided. Proper surface treatment can improve resistance to droplet erosion

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