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Protective coatings with combined monitoring system to control process conditions in boilers

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Reliable control of biomass co-combustion boilers

Enhanced corrosion-resistant coatings and a novel fibre optic temperature monitoring system developed by EU-funded researchers have the potential to increase widespread implementation of biomass co-combustion with fossil fuels. This will yield economic benefits for boiler users and environmental benefits for all.

Industrial Technologies

Boilers are used extensively in combustion processes to produce heat and electricity. Given Europe’s goal of reducing dependence on fossil fuels, co-combustion of substances such as waste, biomass, oil and coal has gained widespread interest. However, co-combustion requires much more complex processes in extremely harsh environments compared to traditional combustion, raising issues of erosion and corrosion of boiler parts. In order to enhance monitoring and control of the co-combustion process and protect sensitive boiler components, European researchers developed the Procomo project. The Procomo system consisted of three main parts: a coated optical fibre to transmit temperature information from within the boiler, a protective coating for metal parts in the boiler itself and an integration module to couple the optical fibre and temperature monitor. In addition, tailor-made software was required for data collection and analysis. Researchers therefore conducted extensive research on suitable fibres for the cable and developed spraying technology to hermetically seal the optical fibres in a metal coating. The resulting metal-coated fibres demonstrated stability in the corrosive chemicals that typically react with traditional silica glass-coated fibres while retaining all the benefits of the conventional fibres. Investigators also developed a protective metal alloy coating for boiler parts with superior erosion and corrosion resistance. Finite element modelling was employed to relate measured temperature variations to estimated stress and strain variations in boiler materials. This provided valuable information to predict the lifetime of metal components and more efficient programme shutdowns for maintenance and service. Procomo project outcomes have the potential to increase the efficient control and reliability of boilers functioning under harsh industrial conditions, with the core technology applicable to a variety of other processes and components subjected to extreme environments. Exploitation of project results could increase the lifetime of parts while decreasing unplanned downtime, both of which translate into economic benefits for users. In addition, enhancing implementation of co-combustion could help reduce Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels and help the planet at the same time.

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