Jean-Patrice Delia Highlights Ways to Improve Power Plant Efficiency
The world is increasingly turning to renewable power sources like solar and hydropower in an effort to burn less of the harmful fossil fuels like coal and natural gas that are polluting our planet’s oceans and atmosphere.
However, there are means by which to further reduce carbon emissions even when using fossil fuels says Thermogen Power Services Director of Operations Jean-Patrice Delia, who notes that existing plants can markedly reduce their on-site power consumption through the proper retrofits.
According to Delia, who has also spent time as an engineer with both Siemens Power Generation and General Electric, these upgrades can improve the plant’s overall efficiency, increasing the amount of available capacity at a much cheaper price tag than adding new capacity.
Let’s run through a few of the most prominent ways that power plant operators can improve the efficiency of their plant’s output, save money, and reduce their carbon footprint.
Using High-Quality, No-Leak Valves
Those familiar with the Deepwater Horizon accident may be aware that it was a faulty valve that lead to the devastating oil spill, which has cost BP an estimated $65 billion. While valves are rarely responsible for such cataclysmic occurrences, it’s undeniable that bad-acting valves can greatly reduce a plant’s efficiency.
Manually identifying leaky valves can be tedious work according to Jean-Patrice Delia, but the results are more than worth it. Moreover, sensors and other tools are making it easier than ever to monitor the performance of valves and other parts in real-time.
Making Condensers More Efficient
Condensers are quite inefficient as a general rule says Delia. However, taking advantage of recent innovations and best practices can get a lot more out of them. Perhaps surprisingly, one of the easiest methods of boosting their productivity is through regular cleaning, which can lower its pressure and bolster its ability to transfer heat.
Furthermore, a novel new approach to boosting condenser efficiency was recently developed by scientists at MIT, who found that applying a graphene coating to them that is just a single atom thick could improve the entire plant’s performance (not just the condenser’s performance) by 2–3%.
Putting a Charge in Power Plant’s Electrical Systems
Between 5–7% of a plant’s on-site power requirements are earmarked for its electrical systems, making them a prime candidate for efficiency upgrades. The older motors found in devices like pumps, fans, and mills are often highly inefficient, with these systems relying on throttling to deliver the necessary output rather than adjusting their capacity to match requirements.
Drying Off High-Moisture Coal
When it comes to coal-fired power plants, the type of coal used has a big effect on the resulting efficiency and carbon emissions produced. There are four main types of coal, which are anthracite, bituminous, lignite, and subbituminous.
The latter two types are far less efficient due to their high moisture content says Jean-Patrice Delia, which requires additional power usage to evaporate. By drying the coal first instead, plants can reduce their power usage while simultaneously cutting back the amount of harmful chemicals like sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and mercury that are released by burning them.