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Steam Power Generation Turbines

Final Report Summary - SAFELUBE (Steam Power Generation Turbines)

A European consortium of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and research performers, led by Kelman Limited, have just participated in a two year European research project, to develop a novel method of continuous on-line conditioning and safe management to enable the use of fire retardant lubricants in gas and steam power generation turbines, for the power generation sector called SAFELUBE.

There is a need, both economically and socially, for more effective fire prevention measures in the power generation industry to improve the security of energy supply. Phosphate ester (PE) lubricants have superior oxidative stability and potentially last the lifetime of the turbine. Current oil conditioning programmes for phosphate ester lubricants require intermittent manual sampling and analytical techniques followed by the removal of water and conditioning depending on the analysis results. This process is time consuming, costly and prone to human error.

SAFELUBE addresses the issues relating to the use of PE's by developing a remote sensing and conditioning system. This makes cost effective use of the fire retardant PE's as a turbine lubricant, by extending lubricant life to match the life of the turbine. This is achieved with the development of a system of solid state laser diode sensors to monitor and quantify the water and TAN levels in the phosphate ester lubricants, together with an expert process control system to manage acid and water removal. The integration of these elements it into a single turbine lubricant monitoring and condition system is SAFELUBE. The intention of SAFELUBE being that it operates continuously on-line to measure and condition the PE's, to ensure optimum use of resource, reduce production costs and maximise operational life.

Scientific research work was required to meet the following targets:
- characterisation of vital properties of moisture levels and TAN
- sensor development
- Water and acid removal
- Water and acid management and communications protocol
- Prototype integration and validation.

The project was organised into eight work packages (WPs), as follows:

WP 1: Characterisation of vital properties
- To generate new scientific knowledge and understanding of how moisture levels, total acid number and chlorine levels affects the 'condition' and 'performance' of the PE's.
- To characterise other factors that may affect the performance of the lubricant such as temperature fluctuations, etc. Identification of target moisture and acid content and chlorine levels in the PE's to deliver maximum life. Data gathering to confirm the specification and concept design of the system.
- To provide the foundation to of future work programmes and to pave the way forward for the study.

WP 2: Laser diode sensor development
- To develop solid state single frequency laser diodes as follows: water sensor - specifically for measuring the water content in PE's in the region of 0-1500 ppm with a sensitivity response of 5 %; TAN sensor - specifically for measuring the TAN in the range 0-0.5 mg/KOH/g with a sensitivity response of 5 %.

WP 3: Membrane regeneration technology for water removal and ion-exchange selection for TAN removal
- To dehydrate the oil, in-situ, with minimal or no manual intervention using membrane filtration / adsorption technology in an automated system. The moisture removal will be facilitated by chilling the oil in a localised environment prior to membrane filtration to reduce its solubility properties in the oil.
- To regenerate the membrane filter by electrically heating the filter system to liberate the captured moisture / gases and vent to atmosphere.
- To remove acids form the oil using in-situ ion-exchange technology.

WP 4: Water and tan management and communications protocol
- To develop an intelligent moisture and TAN management process for PE's in turbine systems. This will encompass an embedded control system comprising a microcontroller, firmware and interface electronics to manage the PE drying and TAN scavenging process. If the water or TAN contents are within acceptable limits (as defined in WP1), then no action will be taken, if they are outside the limits then water / TAN removal steps will be implemented (as defined in WP3).
- To develop a fibre optic communications and scada technology to report PE condition to a central software database e.g. at the generator's operations centre, where the recorded data will be extrapolated to provide intelligence on the life expectancy of the PE.
- To alert the data controller using the database, where moisture / TAN levels in the PE are exceeding defined limits – i.e. warning system.

WP 5: Prototype integration and validation
- To design and construct a fully functional, PE monitoring and conditioning system for simple retrofitting into a selected case study turbine. To integrate the prototype system with the intelligent water and TAN management and communications protocol (delivered in WP 4).
- To conduct a series of tests to ensure the functionality of the water and TAN management system and communications protocol.
- To generate 'benchmark' validation test data from the case study demonstrator.
- To review the data, and explore opportunities of optimising performance as necessary.

WP 6: Innovation related activities
- To ensure that all the project results are formulated and compiled into a form that can be protected and all necessary patents are made.
- To transfer specific knowledge from the RTD performers to the SME participants to enable them to rapidly apply and embed the technology to manufacture and exploit the developed insulation monitoring and conditioning system.
- To broadcast the benefits of the developed lubrication monitoring and conditioning system and knowledge beyond the consortium to the end-user communities.

WP 7: Project management
- To manage, from a technical perspective, the project resource, timing, delegation, intra partner communications, coordination of cross partner activities within work packages and review / reporting of progress against gateways / milestones.

WP 8 : Consortium management
- To co-ordinate all project activity and act as the administrative interface with the Commission.
- To manage time, resources and facilities allocation to optimise the application of resource and establish exploitation mechanisms.

SAFELUBE has been subject to the restriction of a limited project time. Key consortium members withdrew from the project and their replacement proved too difficult to fulfil within the project lifetime. There was a sustained effort to recruit replacement partners, however due to the nature and limitations of the turbine technology, this was not ultimately successful and the project was terminated in month 17 by the European Commission.

The limited development and results generated are still subject to intellectual property rights (IPR) protection. When the consortium are reformed and in a position to take this technology to its next developmental stage then the benefits and knowledge of the SAFELUBE project can then be further disseminated.

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