Peter Clark, 2009 Award Winner, Birmingham University: with from left to right Joern Boedeker, Swan Analytical (UK); Richard Harries, BIAPWS Award Co-ordinator; Andy Rudge, Chair of BIAPWS; Peter Clark; Paul Kelk, Centrica, South Humber Bank Power.

Peter Clark at Centrica SHB Power Station

Project Report - "Can Degassing Technology Enable Reduced Power Station Start-up Times?"

The BIAPWS 2009 Undergraduate Award was co-sponsored by Centrica Energy and took place at their flagship power station, the 1260MW SHB Gas-fired Power Station near Grimsby on the South bank of the Humber Estuary. This is one of the largest gas-fired power stations in the country and is split into two phases; Phase I and II. Phase I was completed in 1997 and Phase II in 1999.

I was given a project to deduce if it is possible to reduce the time taken during a power station start-up. This primarily involved using a Degassing technique to boil off carbon dioxide therefore giving a more accurate measurement of conductivity of the high pressure steam entering the Steam turbine. As a side-along project, I experimented with different degassers to determine in the long-run which degasser would be best as an investment.

At the time of my placement there was a full outage on 'Phase II' of the Centrica SHB site, this was highly convenient as I could monitor fully a Gas/Steam Turbine cold start using the degasser equipment on loan. I designed a multiplex system that allowed the inlet to the degasser be switched instantaneously from one sample stream to another. This was highly important as a flowrate had to be established through the equipment to keep the degassing boiler switched on. Switching the samples through the multiplex kept the flowrate above the minimum specification of the equipment.

During the construction of the multiplex system by C&I technicians, I had chance to test the flexibility and reliability of the unit by switching samples and reducing flowrates in the Phase I samples lab. Once the multiplex system was constructed, the Degasser unit was plumbed into the system; as the gas turbines were fired up, results started pouring in!

For the duration of the project I was supervised by the station chemist (the Centrica representative to BIAPWS); we took the equipment to Brigg power station to obtain results for a two-shifting power station as SHB is predominantly a base-load station so start-ups were hard to come-by! Again the results proved conclusive as they showed a definite time saving could be made in start-ups. 

This placement presented to me by BIAPWS and Centrica has not only given me the opportunity to gain and further my knowledge of the power industry but I have specialised in a subject I had no understanding of prior to the placement. Throughout the project I have learnt skills in analytical power plant chemistry, instrumental design and have gained an understanding of how different areas of expertise all fit together to enable the station to run efficiently. I would conclusively say that the most valuable asset I have gained from this placement is the practical experience of working on-site on a power station and gaining an idea of the career opportunities present within the power industry. 

Many thanks to BIAPWS, Centrica Energy and all my colleagues at SHB Power Station for giving me the opportunity of this placement and helping me throughout the period.