For power plants that rely on thermal power generation, condenser tube cleaning and maintenance directly impacts performance and efficiency of power generation. Having an effective condenser cleaning process that thoroughly removes deposits on a regular schedule not only maximizes megawatt output and heat transfers, it reduces the chances of tube failures from fouling and corrosion.
Fouling can occur from a variety of condenser tube deposits that form due to a variety of organic materials and debris that are present in lake, stream, and ocean water supplies used by the plant. There are a number of different possible condenser tube deposits that will invariably build up and reduce the heat transfer ability and eventually will lead to tube corrosion and premature tube failures.
In most cases, different aspects of each type of condenser tube deposit fouling will be present, which is best handled by experts in condenser cleaning. Not only do experts have experience with a variety of condenser cleaning methods and technology, they understand which methods will work best in the various tube materials such as titanium, stainless and copper tube materials, which foul differently due to varied surface conditions and composition.
These experts will begin with a thorough assessment via a detailed visual and boroscopic inspection followed by gathering deposit samples in order to make a determination on the best condenser tube cleaning methods and technology. Those with the greatest level and breadth of experience in different plants around the country and even the world have the necessary insight to choose cleaners, methods and technology. The goal is not only to bring the condenser back to original specifications but to meet the highest safety standards for the condenser architecture as well as the cooling water and any environmental considerations.
In order to avoid and/or minimize downtime, the leading condenser tube cleaning experts will have protocols that allow them to schedule condenser cleaning during scheduled overhauls. If this is not possible, then a period of reduced load is chosen. This will allow the plant to shut down one side for cleaning and then the other. Cleaning of the condenser should be done at a minimum of once a year and as frequently as when the economic impact of fouling exceeds the cost to clean.
John Merrick is the owner and president of The Merrick Group, Inc. He has over 25 years of experience with coordinating national and international sales efforts for nuclear and fossil fuel related maintenance projects. He has successfully completed projects in over 30 nuclear and fossil fuel sites.