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Air Cooled Condensers - the emerging need and the advantages .

Rajkumar (AGM –O&M)
P S Deshmukh (DGM-Chem)
H K Sikri (Sr.Mgr-Chem)

Introduction: Availability of quantum and quality of Water plays a significant role in

site selection and performance of a power plant . Over the years water has become a very
scarce resource and all new plants are coming up mandatorily with closed cycle cooling
water systems. The extremely poor quantity and quality issue of raw water for existing
plants like Badarpur is forcing planning for retrofitting with facilities to operate in closed
cycle operation. The plants already operating on closed cycle CW operation face pressure
to operate on higher COC to conserve water .

Water and Power Scenario Yr 2030.:In the years to come water shall become even
more scarce resource .By Yr.2030 Indian demand for surface water shall be 1500 Billion
cubic meter against the availability of 800 Billion cubic meter indicating a shortfall of
700 Billion cubic meter. Indian power demand as on Yr2009 is 500 Billion Kwt hr which
shall be nearly 1100 Billion Kwthr. The growing agricultural need and the shortfall shall
put more pressure on any Industry including Power Industry .

Air Cooled Condensers :In recent years dry cooling options with Air cooled condensers
have emerged as a successful option . Few salient points of ACC are :
• It increases plant siting options
• No water use issues , accelerates approval.
• Shortening a project schedule by six months (approx.), Economics is changed ,
takes care of the increased capital cost.
• Slowly but steadily it is becoming a standard power plant design option.

Although Air cooled condensers are in use since 1930 in US of small capacity as 1
million Btu/h , condensing at 20psi but in the last 10 years their presence is being felt
in a much bigger way . China has installed air cooled condensers on over 35,000
MW of its burgeoning fleet of new plants . Although ACC initially were best suited
for small capacity plants but now they are available for 3x300 MW and 2x600 MW
units also. Due to its advantages only China is purchasing an average of one new
ACC per month. Its popularity is growing in Middle east , S Africa besides China
and US. It is certainly a Wake up call for India and NTPC.

A typical Air cooled condenser is like shown in Fig.1

Fig.1 ( A – frame configuration )

This is a A – frame configuration. wherein air is fed from the bottom it takes away the
heat from the bundles of tubes carrying steam , shown in red, the steam enters at the top
of the heat exchangers , flows downwards through the heat exchanger tubes , it
condenses and is captured in pipes at the base of the heat exchangers . The condensate is
then returned to the boiler water system.
The Thermal data that the manufacturer requires from the purchaser for the design and
optimization of the steam condenser are :
• Exhaust steam flow rate
• Exhaust steam enthalpy
• Design exhaust pressure
• Design ambient air temperature
• Maximum ambient air temperature
• Minimum ambient air temperature
• Lowest optimum turbine exhaust pressure
• Highest permissible turbine exhaust pressure
• Economic optimization of fan power usage

Scope of the package :

An Air Cooled steam Condenser system starts at the turbine exhaust flange .It includes all
the equipments necessary to condensate the steam and return the condensate to the boiler
feed water piping.
Air cooled steam Condenser tower ( Natural Draft option also exists).
-This includes the bundles , steam steam distribution manifi=old , fans , motors , gear
boxes and supporting steal .(this accounts for substantial portion of the cost). All weded
system reduces the potential for air leakages.
Air – flow control equipment .
- This includes Variable – pitch fans , steam isolating valves and two speed motors.
Wind and/or cell partition wall.
- Necessary to protect the bundles from wind gusts which can upset the equilibrium
operating conditions. Partition walls between fan cells isolate operating cells from non
operating ones.
Steam – by pass heating system.
- A steam bypass heating system is required for cold weather startup in cold countries.
Air removal equipment .
- the equipment extracting non condensables from the system consisting of hogging
ejectors and operating ejectors. During startup hogging ejector removes air from inside
the tubine , steam ducts , steam manifold and bundles.
Condensate storage tank.
Condensate pumps.
Steam ducts and expansion joints.
- Steam duct system connects the condenser inlet – steam manifold to the turbine exhaust
flange . It includes the expansion joints , anchor points , elbows , turning vane and duct
Condensate drain and air removal piping .
Instrumentation , controls and alarms.
- Temp.indicators , thermocouples , pressure indicators , Transducers , level devises ,
Annunciator panels and recorders.
Pressure relief device for protection of steam – turbine exhaust casing.
Steam duct condensate drain system.
-during cold startup , condensation takes place in steam duct to condenser, for this a drain
system is provided.

Fig 2 shows the Steam condensing system with air removal package .
Fig 2 .

With A- frame configuration there is the provision of Deflegmator which comprises

33 % area to take care of the backflow of steam as shown in Fig 3.

Fig 4.
Fig 4 shows the extended heat exchanger surface consisting of extruded aluminium fins
over a carbon – steal tube .

Advantages of ACC:
• Elimination of make up water supply
• No Blow down disposal issues
• No water vapour plumes
• No concern over Governmental Water pollution restrictions
• Lower maintenance cost because of dry nature
• Enhances siting options
• Option of using mechanical draft / natural draft.

The air cooled condenser is complete in itself . When using a water cooled condenser , in
addition to the cost of condenser , the cost of cooling towers, cooling pumps , cooling
water treatment system , piping , valves and basic cost of make up water must be
evaluated to arrive at the total system cost . Maintenance cost of the water cooling system
must also be carefully considered in overall evaluation . The air cooled condenser
eliminates all of these expensive water charges in addition to the elimination of vital
environmental concerns , such as increased water exit temperature and cooling water