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Addressing the challenge of fast load

change requirements

Jenö Kovacs
Ari Kettunen
Amec Foster Wheeler
Varkaus, Finland

Enso Ikonen
Matias Hultgren
Laura Niva
University of Oulu
Oulu, Finland

Presented at
22 International Conference of
Fluidized Bed Conversion
Turku, Finland
June 14-17, 2015

© Amec Foster Wheeler 2015.

Addressing the challenge of fast load change requirements
1 1 2 2 2
Jenö Kovács , Ari Kettunen , Enso Ikonen , Matias Hultgren , Laura Niva
Foster Wheeler Energia Oy. Relanderinkatu 2, POB 201, FI-78201 Varkaus, Finland.
Systems Engineering, University of Oulu. Linnanmaa, POB 4300, FI-90014 Oulun yliopisto, Finland.

Tel. +358403522795, fax +3581039367689,


Large scale, fossil power plants are nowadays facing, besides tightened operational requirements and
emission regulations, a need to operate more flexibly due to the fast, frequent and periodic changes in
load demand. This may occur either from the local interaction between traditional energy production
and intermittent production based on renewables or the requirement to participate in electricity grid
frequency control. These challenges can be answered by new designs of power plants and also by
improving the performance of the existing ones.

Circulating Fluidized Bed (CFB) technology is increasingly becoming the market-leading technology
used in the large scale utility solid fuel power production sector. The paper discusses the possibilities
of improving the dynamic performance of CFB boilers focusing on the conceptual development of
control and operation methods, including integrated plant design, plant wide control approach and
optimisation methods.

Keywords: dynamic process modeling, control, circulating fluidized bed.

1. Introduction

The operation of large scale power plants has to face the continuously tightening regulations and
satisfy more and more demanding performance requirements; either it is defined by a single customer
or an electric grid operator. These extended operation modes involve: a) increased operational range
by decreasing the minimum achievable load level without boiler or turbine trip, b) capability to change
load level frequently and in a fast manner within as wide range of load level as possible and c)
meanwhile satisfying emissions limitations at steady-state operation and during the transient
response, too. In order to achieve these goals – from systems engineering point of view – the dynamic
response of the large power plants has to be improved. It requires flexible operation from the firing
system, the water-steam system, the turbine system as well as the emission removal system.
Increasing dynamic performance also results in faster and larger changes in pressure and
temperature conditions, therefore larger attention must be given to the potential detrimental effect on
pressure components. Additionally, co-combustion of fossil and biofuels – such as mixture of lignite
and biowaste, peat and wood chips, etc. – is often favored.

The challenge is even more complex since not only the new, green field plants have to be designed up
to these requirements, but also the existing ones – which are fundamentally designed for constant
load operation – have to meet the new requirements.

The most cost-effective manner improving the operation of an existing plant is to redesign its unit
master control, since the plant may inherently have large potential for flexibility. The large stored
energy of a drum type boiler or the storage capacity of the superheater system can be exploited. The
balance of plant (BOP) system may actively participate in controlling the generated power either
applying condensate throttling technique or acting as an energy buffer [1]. Considering the firing
system, the circulating fluidized bed (CFB) boilers, see on Figure 1, have a great potential due to their
inherent fuel flexibility combustion large variety of fuels or fuel mixture.
Figure 1 Operation schematic of the CFB boiler, with the hotloop highlighted with the dashed line
(modified from Foster Wheeler Energia Oy, 2012).

Naturally, during the design of a new plant the challenging dynamic performance demands can be
taken into account. However, the control of such plants has to be also improved since new operational
and control concepts are required. The current paper summarizes the experience of the AMEC Foster
Wheeler improving load change performance of the CFB boilers as well as introduces the current
control engineering research activities in co-operation with the University of Oulu.

2. Load change capability

One of the most important property of a power plant is the load change capability, namely how fast it
can change its load and in what range. It is generally defined as percentage of the maximum
continuous rate per time period, e.g. 2-5 %MCR/min. Faster the load change the better economic
benefit the plant can achieve in the electrical power market; i.e. in grid primary or secondary frequency

There are several factors determining – as well as limiting – the size of feasible ramp, including the
size of firing system (thermal inertia), the steam generation process either drum or once through boiler
(storage capacity of the evaporator), the size of the superheater system (storage capacity of the
superheater system). Furthermore, the operation mode – constant or sliding pressure unit, subcritical
or supercritical boiler – has a large influence. Typical load change capabilities are shown in Figure 2.
Load [%]



Turbine 10%/min
OTU boiler 3-4 %/min
Drum boiler 2-3 %/min

Time [min]

Figure 2 Typical load change capability of different boilers (assuming sliding pressure operation mode)
and turbine.

2.1. Modeling dynamic performance

Based on the above defined characteristics, a simplified model can be defined to demonstrate the load
change performance. AMEC Foster Wheeler has developed a simulator tool for drum- and once
through (OTU) boilers operating at either constant or sliding pressure mode. The concept of the model
structure see Figure 3 follows the simplified representation of the dynamic relationships defined in [2].
The required parameters can be either calculated from the design data and the a priori performance
calculations or can be estimated from the dynamic test results obtained from similar existing plants.
The parameter approximation (calculation) method, developed in Amec Foster Wheeler, has been
successfully verified based on measured performance of existing plants.

fuel power steam pressure steam pressure turbine



Figure 3 Simplified representation of the dynamic relationships in boiler/turbine process.

2.2. Design of boiler load demand

The dynamic performance model provides an excellent opportunity to evaluate the load change
capability of a plant under design and to give feedback to design engineers. Furthermore, the
controllability of the process can be evaluated and an optimal control strategy, e.g. the coordinated
unit control / boiler master control, can be developed.

Fundamentally, there are two types of control structures: the feedback and the feed forward structure.
In the first approach, the controlled variables (CV) are measured (or estimated) and based on the
deviation from the desired value (set point, SP) the controller defines/calculates new value of the
manipulated variable (MV). The main advantage is that it measures the effect of the control action and
compares to the SP. The main backdraw is that the speed of the control action is highly determined by
Load [%]


Turbine power demand

Boiler load scenario 1
Boiler load scenario 2
Boiler load scenario 3

Time [min]
Figure 4 Different advanced boiler load demand scenario

the dynamic nature of the controlled process; i.e. change in the controlled variable may appear after a
long (sometimes latent) time delay. In case of a combustion plant, the firing system – which
determines the power output – is a slow process. Thus, when quick load changes are demanded, e.g.
primary/secondary control in grid operation, this control approach cannot bring the process into the
require state during the required time period. The other approach is the feed forward control structure,
which – assuming a priori knowledge on the process dynamics and the demand – can calculate in
advanced the necessary action at the input of the process to reach the demanded performance. In
combustion power plants, it means the calculation of the firing demand (boiler load demand) to
achieve the required power output. It is well-known that during the transient period the boiler load
demand must exceed the power output demand due to the mass and energy stored in the
water/steam system and in metal elements. In the figure below, several scenario are shown for the
boiler load demand (blue line) taken into account the process dynamics compared to the generator
load demand (red signal) on
Figure 4. The shape of the curve depends on the process dynamics, the current and targeted state of
the plant and the performance limitations such as temperature/pressure limits, fuel conveyor speed

Defining proper boiler load demand set point curve decreases the need of action of the feedback –
usually pressure – controller. The Figure 5 and Figure 6 demonstrate the advantage of the advanced
boiler demand calculation in case of a constant pressure drum boiler. In the first case, the pressure
control generated the necessary boiler load in a feedback manner (slow and having the tendency of
oscillation). On the second figure one can find that the feed forward boiler load demand was very
close to the needed one, thus the feedback pressure controller had a minor action. The deviation in
the main steam pressure was decreased by 50%. These results are from a design of a new 100MW
biomass fired CFB boiler.
Figure 5 Boiler demand with pressure feedback control.

Figure 6 Boiler demand with advanced feed forward and pressure feedback control.

2.3. Experimental results

Next, test results are presented from a lignite-fired CFB boiler, located in Kladno. The design for
Kladno K7 boiler is based on well proven Amec Foster Wheeler CFB technology. It incorporates the
latest design of solids separator build from water- or steam-cooled panels integrated with the
combustion chamber and features such as INTREX superheaters. The main steam parameters of
the Kladno K7 boiler are listed in TABLE I.

TABLE I. Kladno boiler steam data

Total Heat Output 303 MWth
Steam Flow 105/102 kg/s
Steam Pressure 133/33 bar(a)
Steam Temperature 541/541 °C
Feedwater Temperature 251 °C

In Figure 7 and Figure 8, the results of testing of the Primary and Secondary support of electric grid
frequency with new Kladno K7 Power unit are shown. First figure illustrates electrical grid secondary
support capability while simultaneously extracting steam for district heating. Ramp speed in test was 4
MW e/min. In second figure primary support is shown with maximum and minimum generator output.
These tests were part of grid code certification tests; more details can be found in [3].
Figure 7: Kladno new CFB unit load changes between minimum and maximum load

Figure 8: Kladno new CFB unit grid Primary Support tests at full and minimum load

3. Plant wide control approach

The boiler demand control design, as explain previously, determines the necessary firing rate in order
to achieve the demanded power output. At one layer lower, the combustion control performance can
be tuned/designed to make the combustor available to perform as desired. In CFB combustor there
are several options to select the pairs of manipulated (MV) and controlled variables (CV). The
following section will explain how the so-called plant-wide control concept can be applied in CFB
boilers via an example.

Plant-wide control refers to systems and strategies required to control an entire plant consisting of
many interconnected unit operations. More precisely, it is the development of control needed for
smooth operation of the entire process, not just individual unit operations [4]. Because overall plant
behavior defines the economics of the plant, it is required to take a plant-wide perspective when
making structural decisions [5]. Most importantly, the economic objectives for the process should be
translated to control objectives [6]. In control structure design [5][1], the first task is that of selecting
the controlled variable(s). It is followed by the refinement of the control solution: selection of
manipulated variables, measurements, controller configuration and control laws (such as PI or fuzzy).

This self-optimizing control design uses a closed loop implementation and searches for a set of
controlled variables called self-optimizing variables, which when kept constant at their set points,
result in a performance with acceptable loss (i.e. deviation from the truly optimal control). Note that the
approach is insensitive to the choice of the control algorithm as long as the controller will eventually
take the CV to its set point (typically, a controller with an integrator of error).

Skogestad proposes a direct loss evaluation method [5]. The advantage of the method is that it can be
applied for nonlinear static process models, and is hence a very general method. Main steps of the
procedure are:

1. Analysis of the degrees of freedom, and consequent setting of the base variables u

2. Definition of the economic cost function J and constraints g.

3. Identification of a set of important disturbances d. These may be process disturbances, modeling

errors, and implementation errors (e.g. poor measurements or actuators).

4. Obtaining a solution for the nominal optimization problem, uopt(d*). If not too demanding, an optimal
solution for the disturbance cases is also convenient for an easily interpretable calculation of loss.

5. Identification of CV candidate sets. First, active constraint control can be considered for variables at
their constraints. The CVs for the remaining degrees of freedom are then proposed. The choice can
be aided by the four general guidelines proposed above.

6. Evaluation of losses for using each of the candidate sets. For each alternative set of CVs, the loss
L(u, d) is evaluated, equation (3). In case of implementation errors, the u is adjusted accordingly.

7. Screening promising solutions and conducting the analysis further. The solutions with acceptable
loss are then further examined for criteria such as feasibility in different operating regions and dynamic
control performance.

4. Plant wide control approach applied to pilot CFB

The PWC design concept was applied to a pilot CFB boiler described in [7] and [8]. The economic cost
function characterizes the optimal operation of the plant, i.e., operation that fulfills the power
production request, providing low operating costs and acceptable flue gas emissions. Generated
power equals profit. Deviations from power set point result in lower additional profit (surplus is less
profitable), or high costs (deficiency in power). Fuel and air input costs can be estimated based on
coal price and fan operation costs. Emissions (CO 2, SO2 and NOx) involve limestone treatment or
emission trading, and therefore induce costs; NOx emission rate was not provided by the model and
was therefore approximated based on O2 concentration in the flue gas. Deviation from the desired flue
gas O2 (2%) was also penalized by a small cost.

Five process disturbance scenarios were considered:

 d=1. Nominal case, no disturbances.

 d=2. Fuel heat value reduced by 5%.
 d=3. Fuel heat value increased by 5%.
 d=4. Fuel moisture reduced by 10%.
 d=5. Fuel moisture increased by 10%.
Eight control configurations were considered. Manipulated (base) variables were the same three
inputs in all configurations: total fuel feed rate (0 ≤ u1 ≤ 0.004 kg/s), primary air flow (0 ≤ u2 ≤ 0.03 kg/s)
and secondary air flow (0 ≤ u3 ≤ 0.009 kg/s), for which the constraints were determined by operational
limits. The eight controlled variable sets considered were:

 c=1. Power (kW), primary air/fuel ratio and flue gas O 2 (%)
 c=2. Total fuel feed (kg/s), prim/fuel ratio and flue gas O 2.
 c=3. Power, bed fluidization velocity (m/s) and flue gas O 2.
 c=4. Total fuel feed, bed velocity and flue gas O2.
 c=5. Bed temperature (°C), flue gas temperature (°C) and flue gas O2.
 c=6. Bed temperature, bed velocity and flue gas O2.
 c=7. Bed temperature, primary/fuel ratio, and flue gas O2.
 c=8. Bed temperature, secondary/primary air ratio and flue gas O 2.

Implementation errors were considered only for actuator errors for simplicity: ±2% errors in the
implementation of fuel feed rate, primary and secondary air flow were considered.

Loss percentages for the high load case are shown in TABLE II. Configuration c=1 is evaluated as the
best (with the smallest mean loss). However, also configurations 3, 7 and 8 have losses less than 0.1.
As could be expected, the open loop control configurations 2 and 4 do not perform well when there are
disturbances in the fuel quality (low heat value in particular, d = 2). Flue gas temperature
(configuration 5) is not a valid CV, as the set point cannot be reached in most of the disturbance
cases. However, it has a minor effect on the economic cost and this infeasibility does not ruin the
ranking performance. Replacing the power by bed temperature appears to perform well (configuration

TABLE II. Loss percentages (high load)

The performance at a low load level is displayed in TABLE III. In this case, the power is at 33.9 kW
and O2 setpoint at 2%. As a part of a truly optimal solution, in all disturbance cases, it is optimal to
shut down the secondary air flow (recall that the considered pilot plant is an experimental testing
facility, not a commercial scale plant). In most of the disturbed process conditions, the set points are
not feasible (i.e. it is not possible to attain them under the given constraints). Since the secondary air
lower bound is reached, and the constraint on the bed velocity needs to be maintained, the flue gas O 2
remains above its set point. This results in economic loss, but does not make the configuration
unfeasible from operational point of view. Again, configurations 1, 3 and 7 are within the best ones. In
the low load case, configuration 8 performs poorly. This is mainly addressed to the disturbance with a
fuel with high heating value.

TABLE III. Loss percentages (low load)

5. Plant wide control approach with partial relative gain

The partial relative gain metric (PRG) was utilized to generate template control structures for the once-
through circulating fluidized bed boiler (OTU-CFB). This was done by pairing principal input and output
variables into decentralized control structures based on the PRG pairing rules (PRG values close to 1
are good, solutions with negative PRG elements are discarded). The PRG is based on the relative
gain array (RGA), and it can be used as a condition for integral controllability with integrity (ICI). The
RGA and PRG are calculated with steady-state system gains, and this information was obtained by
performing step tests with an industrial OTU-CFB process simulator. The ICI control structure
selection is shown for an 8 × 8 input-output system in TABLE IV. The plant wide control design with
the PRG was successful, as the analysis was able to generate several control structure alternatives
with the ICI property. The preferred solution displayed good PRG and RGA element values, and this
structure corresponded to standard boiler control practices with the turbine-following unit master
configuration. The secondary solutions were less feasible in practice, which was visible as poor PRG
values (over 10 or close to 0). However, these solutions also highlighted the connections between the
feedwater, the evaporator, the combustion side and the output power. The PRG provided a more
effective screening of solution alternatives than the RGA. Application to oxy-fuel combustion OTU can
be found in [9].

TABLE IV. OTU-CFB plantwide control structure selection based on PRG analysis. ICI controllable
structures are ranked based on the amount of beneficial and undesired PRG elements and PRG
element averages. The system RGA matrix, the total amount of solution candidates and possible
solutions by the RGA alone are also shown. SH = superheater, DSH = desuperheater spray. Loss
percentages (low load)
Inputs Turbine valve Feedwater flow Sec air flow DSH1 spray flow DSH2 spray flow DSH3 spray flow DSH4 spray flow Firing power
Outputs RGA values 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Live steam pressure 1 1.0735 0.1555 -0.0001 -0.1857 0.0021 -0.0367 0.0039 -0.0123
Live steam temperature 2 0.0040 -1.2130 0.0003 0.4892 -0.1378 0.1902 1.6132 0.0539
Evaporator temperature 3 -0.0937 2.3521 0.0004 -1.2839 0.1202 -0.1809 0.0439 0.0419
Flue gas O2 content 4 0.0000 0.0000 0.9921 0.0000 0.0001 -0.0002 0.0000 0.0079
Steam temperature SH2 5 0.0041 -0.0577 0.0001 1.9251 -0.8761 0.0001 -0.0033 0.0078
Steam temperature SH3 6 0.0063 -0.2565 0.0000 0.0970 1.9168 -0.7782 -0.0094 0.0240
Steam temperature SH4 7 0.0024 -0.1808 -0.0001 0.0269 -0.0249 1.8275 -0.6512 0.0002
Total MW 8 0.0035 0.2004 0.0073 -0.0687 -0.0004 -0.0219 0.0030 0.8766

Total amount of PRG elements in the specified classes

Solution amount, Solution
Rank by PRG Solutions, ICI by PRG 0.9  PRG  1.2 0.1  PRG < 0.5 0.05  PRG < 0.1 0 < PRG < 0.05 PRG > 10 Total average PRG total amount, RGA
1 1 7 2 3 4 5 6 8 924 0 0 0 0 1.0518 40320 687
2 1 7 2 8 4 5 6 3 800 0 0 126 0 0.9277
3 1 7 8 3 4 5 6 2 645 47 4 119 0 0.8425
4 1 7 3 8 4 5 6 2 524 31 23 195 0 0.7709

6. Conclusion

Requirement for increased operational flexibility, especially load following capability, has been
increased in the past few years. This is mainly due to the growing need participating in grid frequency
control balancing the intermittent energy production based on renewable energy sources. At the
moment, Amec Foster Wheeler CFB boilers are capable for primary and secondary control
requirements. However, it looks obvious that in the future even more flexibility is required. The current
paper dealt with the possibilities how to improve the load change capability of a CFB boiler. Advanced
control design tools were applied to CFB boilers at the design of a control structure selecting suitable
pairs of manipulated and controlled variables. In the future, these design methods will be extended to
analyze dynamic control performances.


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