Performance degradation analysis of a medium pressure superheater due to tube deactivation
Keywords:Superheater, Steam, Flue Gas, Tube Deactivation, Plugging
Steam is essential in petrochemical industries for the transportation of thermal energy and usage in some reforming process. Superheaters are heat exchangers that convert saturated steam to dry steam by utilizing waste heat from the flue gas stream. Medium pressure steam superheaters are prone to tube deterioration due to service at elevated temperatures and erosion from the presence of liquid phase in the steam, leading to tube plugging after tube failure. This reduces the overall surface heating area of the superheater. Relations between the tube plugging practice and the energy dynamics of the superheaters are important for engineers to identify the responses of the superheater for operation planning, and this issue has not been extensively explored academically. This article analyses the deterioration of superheater performance due to reduction of surface heating area based on operational data of a petrochemical steam generation line. The objective is to find relations between the effect of tube plugging on the states of both steam and flue gas streams, as well as its impact on the overall energy exchange. The operating conditions of a superheater at two separate service years, before (year 2014) and after (year 2017) tube plugging, were compared through the first law energy analysis. The average steam inlet temperatures were between 248 °C and 250 °C, at flow rates between 70 and 90 ton/hour. The analysis indicated that 0.3 to 0.8 % increase in inlet energy is required for every plugged tube to compensate for the reduction of heating surface. At 3 % reduction of heating surface area, the heat exchanger effectiveness decreases by an average of 11 % that also leads to a lower steam temperature output by approximately 6% from the design operating temperature. These results would assist steam engineers to analyse changes to the energy economics of the whole plant and decide the feasibility of replacing existing superheaters with new ones. Also, another significant finding to be considered by steam engineers is that the current practice of increasing the steam flow rate does not offset the loss of energy effectiveness due to tube plugging.
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