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Lessons in Power Plant Engineering (Or How to Condense 40 Years into 600 Pages)

By: , Posted on: September 18, 2015

We took some time to catch up with Dipak Sarkar, Author of recently published Thermal Power Plants to find out why he decided to write a book.

About 45 years ago when I was posted at a 60 MW non-reheat pulverized coal fired power plant as a budding engineer I was amazed by seeing the size of the boiler and height of the stack. My experience prior to the above is as an undergraduate student on vocational training at a stoker fired power plant with capacity of 1400 kW. Obviously, the latest change in size made a great dent on my visual senses. Over the next few days I found myself in a sort of in trance and used to look at the stack height and at the elevation of boiler drum just to get acquainted with the bare facts and physical dimensions. The feeling of such vastness were soon surpassed when I regularly started to visit plants of even larger sizes.  Looking back, when I visualize the size of a 950 MW supercritical power plant, the size of the old 60 MW plant appears to be a midget.

The transition from a 1400 kW to 950 MW plant, not only revealed the physical growth of a plant to me, my brain went into overload with questions that started with ‘why’, ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘whether’, etc. Eventually plausible answers to these questions resulted in immense development of my technical skills and erudition along with satisfying comfort of knowledge enhancement.

In older plants I found ‘raw water’ is utilized for cooling of various auxiliary equipment, viz. fans, pumps, coolers, etc. Later on I found ‘raw water’ is replaced with ‘clarified water’. One imperative question that arose was ‘why such a change?’. In some plants I found that condenser cooling is ‘once-through’ type, while in certain plants the cooling is ‘closed-circuit’ one.  What factors decide which type of condenser cooling should be adopted? What are the advantages of adopting multi-pressure condenser over single-pressure condenser? Why are feedwater heaters of smaller size plants installed vertically, while larger size plants go for horizontally installed feedwater heaters? Whether valves should be erected in vertical pipe lines or horizontal pipe lines, in other words whether spindle of valves should be horizontal or vertical? Fifty years back smoke coming out from the stack could be visible, yet within a decade or so and onwards the stack exhaust had to be made invisible. The question why and how? arises. Why is wet bottom ash handling from a coal fired boiler no longer preferred to meet environmental norms? From techno-economic consideration whether boiler feed pump should be electric motor driven or steam turbine driven. Why are SF6 circuit breakers preferred to minimum-oil circuit breakers? In smaller size plants generators used to be cooled with air, but a generator of larger size plants adopts hydrogen cooling. What prompted such a change in the cooling medium and what are the added advantages? For process control whether to choose ‘pneumatic control’ or ‘hydraulic control’ or ‘electronic control’ or ‘electro-hydraulic control’. What are the advantages of selecting each control system and which system should be suitable for control of a specific parameter? Up to 200 MW unit capacity main steam flow used to be measured with the help of flow nozzles installed in main steam lines. Units larger than 200 MW capacity never use flow nozzles to measure main steam flow. Two questions arise why flow nozzles are not required and how main steam flow is measured in units larger than 200 MW unit capacity?

These are just some of the questions I faced during my professional career both at a design office as while working out in the field. Answers to these questions were so fascinating that I still cherish the efficacy of each of the answers, and shared my experiences with my peers and associates whenever there was an opportunity.

Besides the above, I also faced different types of queries from fellow students at technical institutes and from operating personnel during various training programs. I made utmost effort to clarify all queries to their full satisfaction. These ranged from;

What factors influence selection of type and size of a boiler?

What is fuel? How fuels are classified?

Why are  both ultimate analysis and proximate analysis of a fuel are determined?

What are the different types of air heaters?

Why is thermal insulation of hot surfaces imperative?

What are the differences between fans, compressors and blowers?

Why is DM water required in steam power plants?

When are both ‘weak base’ and ‘strong base’ anion exchangers used?

Whether to go for induced draft (ID) cooling tower or natural draft (ND)?

What are the functions of a stacker-reclaimer?

What code is to be followed for evaluating turbine performance?

How to design a restricting orifice?

With these questions in mind I had a profound feeling that I must share my experience and knowledge with a wider group of engineers. As a result I decided to write the book Thermal Power Plant; Design and Operation.

thermal power plant– Focuses exclusively on thermal power, addressing some new frontiers specific to thermal plants

– Presents both technology and design aspects of thermal power plants, with special treatment on plant operating practices and troubleshooting

– Features a practical approach ideal for professionals, but can also be used to complement undergraduate and graduate studies

Do you find yourself seeking answers to these questions? You can purchase your very own copy of Thermal Power Plant; Design and Operation and save up to 30% using discount code “STC215”.

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