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POWER & WATER

A new approach
to gas turbine cleaning

he gas turbine engine was originally designed for use as an aircraft engine. Due to its small size and weight, the gas turbine has become an appreciated machine for other applications including power generation.

DECREASING PERFORMANCE
What is special about gas turbines is that they consume large quantities of air. However, the air contains particles that have the tendency to stick to components in the engines gas path, a phenomenon known as fouling. Particles that cause fouling include pollen, insect residues, hydrocarbons from industrial activities, sand and dust carried with the wind, salt coming from a nearby sea, leaking turbine oil, etc. Air conditions such as humidity can also contribute to fouling. As a result, the gas turbine engine performance will deteriorate in the form of a power output and engine efficiency loss. The loss of performance becomes an economic issue to the operator. Fouling will gradually build up over time and may cause a 10 percent power loss. Recovering lost power is therefore essential in maintaining high operational revenues. Furthermore, the losses in engine efficiency result in more fuel having to be fired for the same power output. The efficiency loss will also cause greater carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere; something that can easily be quantified in numbers: Combustion of 1kg of natural gas results in the formation of 2.75kg CO2. For example, a 50MW medium size gas turbine consumes about 2.5kg/sec fuel, which in turn generates 6.9kg/sec CO2 emissions. Each percentage point in efficiency improvement will result in a 300kg/hr fuel saving and subsequently reduces CO2 emissions by 800kg/hr.

Figure 1: High-pressure wash system in operation

FEELING THE PRESSURE


Many attempts have been made to combat fouling and the development of more efficient inlet air filters has been very successful. However, no filter is 100 percent effective and fouling will build up despite an efficient filter. As such, a recent development is clean-

ing the engine with a high-pressure water wash system that supplements the air filter. The high-pressure system comprises a set of nozzles installed at the engine inlet and a pump skid pumping wash liquid at a pressure of 70-bar. The liquid forms a spray directed towards the engine compressor as shown in Figure 1.

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POWER & WATER

Many attempts have been made to combat fouling and the development of more efficient inlet air filters has been very successful. However, no filter is 100 percent effective and fouling will build up despite an efficient filter

ing with the blade. Furthermore, high liquid capacity per nozzle is inherent with the high-pressure. This results in fewer nozzles being required, which makes the system easy to install and retrofit to existing gas turbines. Washing of gas turbines is traditionally conducted when the engine is shut down. This washing procedure is called offline washing as the engine is offline (not firing fuel) at the time. Another term used is crank washing as the engine rotor is being cranked during the wash operation. The cranking of the rotor will effectively make the liquid move around inside the engine. In addition, the cranking causes airflow through the machine taking the wash liquid from the air intake towards the exhaust. For a successful wash operation the wash liquid should penetrate the whole gas path and uniformly exit the exhaust end as shown in Figure 2.

CLEANING ONLINE
For many gas turbines the period between shut downs may be long, typically several months. Many gas turbines experience severe fouling where more frequent washing would be desired. This is typical for gas turbines on an offshore oilrig, which suffer from ingesting salt laden air, or gas turbines in desert locations suffering from sand on a windy day. The need for a more frequent wash results in the requirement to wash the engine online, i.e. while the engine is in operation. During online washing it is far more difficult to achieve a good wash result. For example, the high rotor speed will make the liquid centrifuge towards the compressor casing. Another issue is the high air velocities resulting in short retention time for the liquid in the machine. Furthermore, the strong turbulence in the inlet air forces liquid against the duct walls. Yet another issue is that the temperature rise during compression will reach a point where liquid will start to boil off. Online washing therefore sets stringent requireFigure 2: Total gas path penetration ments on the wash system. Experience from operations with the high-pressure system shows excellent results for both online and offline cleaning, which is accomplished from the same set of nozzles resulting in the need to install fewer nozzles. The tests show that the liquid requirement for cleaning with the high-pressure system is very low, e.g. cleaning a 50MW gas turbine would require only 400 litres of liquid. Also, cleaning with hot water only is very successful and result in elimination of use of hazardous chemicals. Cleaning with hot water is indeed environmentally friendly.

The key feature of the high-pressure spray is that fine droplets are formed. The droplets are not too big to cause erosion damage to the compressor blades and yet not too small to follow the air stream between the blades. The droplets are just the right size; they must not be too big. The volume of a droplet is a function of radius cubed, i.e. a droplet of half the size has only one-eighth of the volume and thereby only one-eighth of the mass and impact force when collid-

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