Production downtime and increased maintenance costs due to corrosion leaks, pipe bursts and blocked valves are not uncommon in power plants and can lead to far-reaching consequences for operators. Thermoplastic piping systems are a modern alternative due to their corrosion-freeness and longevity.
Corrosion-free piping systems in power plants to reduce costs and risks of leaks and pipe failures
The global power generation industry remains on a stable growth path as the installed fleet of power generation assets in many countries and regions of the world are not sufficient to meet the ever-growing power needs of industry and households. Particularly in strongly growing economies, emerging and developing countries, population growth, rapid industrialization and urbanization are leading to ever-increasing generation requirements and thus to a large number of new power plant construction and modernization projects. At the same time, power plant owners and operators must pay more and more attention to the economic viability of their facilities in order to address market risks and fundamental changes in the power generation landscape and to ensure the profitability of the installations.
A modern way to increase the profitability of new and existing plants is the conversion of larger parts of the piping system from metal to plastic. It is suitable for conventional power plants as well as for regenerative forms of energy generation, which also use a water-steam cycle, such as biomass power plants. This step helps to reduce maintenance and repair costs and significantly reduce the risks of leaks and pipe bursts caused by corrosion in the power plant. "Owners and operators are aware of the potential impact of downtime and unplanned downtime," said Gero Meinecke, global market segment manager Energy at GF Piping Systems. "This has implications for their customers as well as their reputation as a reliable electricity supplier." Possible financial implications of piping problems due to corrosion include revenue shortfalls and penalties for non-compliance with power supply contracts.
Benefits of thermoplastic piping systems and application opportunities for your power plant
In most power plants, around 80 percent of the pipelines are still made of metal. About a third of them are considered convertible to plastic. Meinecke: "The material change has many advantages. Thermoplastic pipes are corrosion-free, making them much less susceptible to leaks. They last as long as the plant itself, at least 25 years.
Plastic piping is, typical of the material, tough and robust and at the same time ductile. It is therefore less prone to breakage. They can be easily and cleanly jointed within minutes by butt-fusion or electro-fusion welding. Meinecke: "Also, the replacement of defective or ageing metal piping sections is an efficient way to improve the life time of your power plant." Suitable application areas for conversion to plastic can be found where maximum process media temperature does not exceed 60 to 80°C. Meinecke: "Typically, this includes the primary cooling circuit up to and from the boiler and the water treatment, as well as other auxiliary piping areas. Here, thermoplastics such as polyethylene (PE) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) have proven very successful."
For the large-volume cooling water intake from the sea, a lake or river large cross sections are necessary, which lead via the pumping station to the corresponding distribution points in the power plant. Meinecke: "If it is seawater, it must be desalinated and treated. Cleaning and treatment are always necessary to make the water suitable for the technical processes. "Plastic pipelines are also highly suitable for the aggressive chemicals required, such as sodium hypochlorite. They resist corrosive substances and have been used for several decades in typical industrial water treatment due to their high chemical resistance to reduce repair needs and costs.
Complete system solution
To optimize a complex system with many dependencies and increase its efficiency requires deep expertise and experience in planning and implementation - especially when working with new materials. Often, owners and operators feel overwhelmed and overwhelmed. Therefore it is helpful and often necessary to rely on the material and planning competence of the manufacturers and on complete system solutions instead of the purchase of individual products.
"The global energy industry is currently clearly marked by the challenges of decarbonisation and the transformation of national energy generation systems on the one hand, and the demand for reliable and cost-effective electricity demand in line with the economic and social developments of the respective countries on the other "says Meinecke. "At the same time, uncertainty and market risks should not lead to total stagnation. In many cases, the desire for more innovation is focused above all on possible new processes in energy production. Thermoplastic piping systems are an opportunity to benefit immediately from innovative materials and increase the profitability of new and existing plants."