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SPECIAL PUBLICATION
SH 136 e

Header-type Feedwater Heaters


Renaissance of Superior Technology
for Supercritical Power Plants
Dipl.-Ing. Dirk Band, Dipl.-Ing. Thorsten Benten
and Dipl.-Ing. Jrg Stahlhut
VGB PowerTech 10/2007

Header-type Feedwater Heaters

Header-type Feedwater Heaters Renaissance


of Superior Technology for Supercritical Power Plants
Kurzfassung
Speisewasservorwrmer in Sammlerbauweise - Renaissance einer berlegenen Technologie fr berkritische
Kraftwerke
Die gegenwrtige Erweiterung des deutschen
und europischen Kraftwerksparks durch zahlreiche kohlebefeuerte, berkritische Neuanlagen rckt zunehmend eine Wrmetauschertechnologie in den Blickpunkt, die berzeugende technische und wirtschaftliche Vorteile
gegenber den konventionellen U-Rohr-Vorwrmern bietet: der Hochdruck-Speisewasservorwmer in Sammlerbauart, auch Sammlervorwrmer genannt.
Sammlervorwrmer erlauben eine wesentlich
flexiblere Anlagenfahrweise mit hherer Lastwechselzahl, erreichen eine bis zu 4-fach lngere Lebensdauer und ermglichen betrchtliche
Kosteneinsparungen. Anders als bei herkmmlichen U-Rohr-Vorwrmern wird der Wasserund Dampfraum nicht durch eine Rohrscheibe,
sondern durch dickwandige Rohre, den Einund Austrittsammlern, getrennt. Ein weiteres
konstruktives Unterscheidungsmerkmal besteht
darin, dass die Wrmetauscherrohre nicht Ufrmig, sondern schlangenfrmig durch den
Dampfraum gefhrt werden.
Die hohen Drcke berkritischer WasserDampf-Kreislufe erfordern bei herkmmlichen U-Rohr-Vorwrmern enorme Wanddicken der Rohrscheiben, an deren Verbindungsstelle zum vergleichsweise dnnwandigen Mantel hufig bereits nach 10 bis 15 Betriebsjahren irreparable Thermorisse auftreten.
Der zudem sehr groe Speisewassermassenstrom macht es notwendig, die doppelte Anzahl von Vorwrmern in zwei parallelen Rohrleitungsstrngen anzuordnen. Schlangenvorwrmer demgegenber erreichen dank ihrer
exzellenten Thermoelastizitt eine Lebensdauer von mehr als 40 Jahren und gestatten zudem eine einstrngige Anordnung mit geringerem Investitionsaufwand fr Rohrleitungen, Armaturen und Gebude.

Authors
Autoors

Drei Sammlervorwrmer und ein separater


Enthitzer bilden in der Regel einen kompletten
Hochdruck-Vorwrmerstrang. Sie werden
berwiegend in vertikaler, seltener in horizontaler Anordnung aufgestellt und weisen je
nach Rohrleitungsfhrung meist drei oder vier
Wasserwege auf. Die derzeit weltgrten
Sammlervorwrmer besitzen ein Leergewicht
von 270 t und werden im 2 x 1100 MW Braunkohlekraftwerk Neurath F/G (BoA 2/3) in
Deutschland eingesetzt.
Sammlervorwrmer sind derzeit nur in Europa,
Sdafrika und Australien verbreitet, finden jedoch zunehmend Bercksichtigung in den
Planungskonzepten neuer berkritischer Kraftwerke in Korea, China und den USA.

Introduction
More than 200 power plants are currently being planned or built throughout Europe with
a nominal electrical output of 300 to 1100
MW. Numerous coal-fired, supercritical new
plants are increasingly turning their attention
to a heat exchanger technology that offers
convincing technical and economic advantages over conventional U-type feedwater heaters: the header-type feedwater heater, also
called snake heater or header-type heater.
Three header-type heaters and a separate desuperheater normally form a complete highpressure heater train. They are usually installed upright, seldom horizontally, and normally have three or four water passes depending
on the piping system. The world's biggest
header-type heaters weigh more than 270
tons when empty and are used in both 1100
MW units F and G of the Neurath lignite-fired power plant in (BoA 2 and 3).

pe heaters. Whereas low-pressure heaters were introduced in the 1920ies, high-pressure


heaters did not go into operation until between 1940 and 1955 following the construction of unit-type power plants. Whereas the
low-pressure heater was clearly based on a
shell-and-tube condenser, designers of the
first high-pressure heater also took their bearings from the design of water-tube boilers
( F i g u r e 1 ).
Two types of heater with different fields of
use developed from these origins in Germany. Whereas U-type heaters are used for low
tube-side pressures and flow rates, header-type heaters are predominantly used for high
pressures and flow rates. A heater design
with header pipes instead of tube sheets allowed a much better thermoelastic operating
behaviour during start-up, turbine trip or cycling power plant operation. Header-type
heaters have established themselves in the
high-pressure range of German power plants
on account of their advantages.
Triggered by the National Allocation Plan
20082012 that is coming into force, around
30 coal-fired power plant units with nominal
outputs of 600 to 1100 MW and a total output of 26 GW are currently being built in
Germany. The new power plants will set new
standards with efficiencies of over 45 %, flexible power plant operation and high availability, and all of them will be fitted with header-type heaters.

Global Technology Trend

High-pressure header-type heaters have also


been known for some time in Denmark. Coalfired power plants with unit outputs of 300 to
600 MW such as Avedre, Ensted or Nefo
have been operated successfully with headertype heaters for decades ( F i g u r e 2 ).

In Germany, high-efficiency coal-fired power


plants are traditionally fitted with header-ty-

The situation in South Africa is similar to


that in Central and Northern Europe, where
many conventional power plants are traditio-

Dipl.-Ing. Dirk Band


Sales Manager Feedwater Heaters
Balcke-Drr GmbH
Ratingen/Germany.
Dipl.-Ing. Thorsten Benten
Sales Manager Feedwater Heaters
Balcke-Drr GmbH
Ratingen/Germany.
Dipl.-Ing. Jrg Stahlhut
Head of Business Division Power Plant
Components
Balcke-Drr GmbH
Ratingen/Germany.

VGB PowerTech 10/2007

Figure 1. Manufacture of header-type heaters


in the 1970ies.

Figure 2. Header-type heater for Avedre 2,


Denmark, 450 MW, commissioned
in 2000.

Header-type Feedwater Heaters

Figure 3. Header-type heater for Duvha 1-6,


South Africa, 6 x 600 MW, commissioned in 1975.

nally equipped with header-type heaters. Unlike the normal arrangement with only one
high-pressure heater train, the South African
header-type heaters are installed in two parallel piping trains with two high-pressure heaters each for historical reasons. One of the
first large-scale power plants to be equipped
with header-type heaters is Duvha, which
went into operation in 1975 with an overall
capacity of 6 x 600 MW. This example was
followed, amongst others, by the power
plants in Matla, Lethabo, Majuba and Kendal, which is currently the biggest coal-fired
power plant in the world with 6 x 686 MW
( F i g u r e 3 ).
The dynamic economic growth of the past
few years with and unexpectedly high demand for electricity has greatly depleted the
South African power plant capacity reserves.
On account of imminent power failures, a government resolution was passed to build new
coal-fired power plants between 2008 and
2018. These new plants with an overall capacity of over 20 GW will again be planned
with header-type heaters because of the convincing advantages and very good operational experience gained with header technology.
Unlike the countries named above, high-pressure header-type heaters were largely unknown for many years in the USA. American
coal-fired power plants were operated exclusively with U-type feedwater heaters until the
1990ies. However, serious damage occurred
in several U-type heaters after only 12 to 15
years of operation, benefited by a cycling
operation of the power plant. This was caused by stress-induced cracks in thick-walled
components, at least at the connection between the tubesheet and waterbox. The damage forced a reduced output operation of the
power plants, numerous unscheduled downtimes for repairs and quite often the replacement of the heaters.
With this in mind, a study was launched in
1990 by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) aiming at the identification of possibilities for avoiding damage and thus significantly improving the availability of American coal-fired power plants with a simulta-

Snake tube

Figure 4. Comparison of U-type and header-type heater.

neous reduction of operating costs [1]. The


EPRI study underlines the technical and
long-term economic advantages of header
technology and describes the benefits of a
conversion to header-type heaters. The first
U-type heaters in the 100 MW Glennwood 5
(New York) power plant were replaced by
header-type heaters in 1991. Other heaters
followed in the 500 MW Sioux 2 (Missouri)
power plant in 1996 [2, 3].
Supported by the Energy Policy Act 2005
(Energy Bill), around 120 new coal-fired power plant projects were applied for in the
USA. Plant concepts based on header technology exist for some of these. It is doubtful
whether these concepts will catch on since
the US American manufacturers of feedwater
heaters do not have any header technology
know-how and will defend the traditional Utype heater in their own economic interests.
Two countries with a steep rise in demand for
electricity that were greatly affected by the
US-American power plant technology for
historical reasons are China and South Korea.
A change in the way of thinking is also noticeable here with a growing interest in header
technology. For example, the Korea Power
Engineering Company (KOPEC), the planning company for the South Korean power
plant operator KEPCO, describes the technical and economic advantages of header-type
heaters over U-type heaters in great detail in
its 2006 study Next Generation Thermal Power Plant [4].

Technical Advantages
The two types of heater, U-type and headertype heater, are fundamentally different in
the separation of the tube and shell sides and
design of the heat exchanger tubes. In the Utype heater, the feedwater and heating steam
are separated by the tubesheet and bundle of
U-tubes. In header-type heaters they are separated by headers and a bundle of snakeshaped tubes.
Whereas the feedwater in U-type heaters passes through the inlet side of the waterbox,
then the U-shaped tubes and finally the outlet
side of the waterbox, the feedwater in header-type heaters initially enters the inlet header, passes through the snake-shaped tubes in
three or four passes and leaves the unit via
the outlet header ( F i g u r e 4 ).
High-pressure heaters have to withstand an
internal pressure of 300 to 400 bar on their
tube side in supercritical steam power plants.
The mass flow of the feedwater ranges from
400 to 800 kg/s. Under these boundary conditions, the pressure-bearing components of
the heater can have very thick walls that react
quite sluggishly to short-term changes in
temperature. This leads to secondary stresses,
which increase with an increasing and differing wall thickness of the components.
The tubesheets have the highest wall thickness in a U-type heater. In high-output power
plants the tubesheet thickness is between 400

VGB PowerTech 10/2007

Header-type Feedwater Heaters

Figure 6. Micrograph and stress distribution in the transition area tubesheet/waterbox [5].

Figure 5. Critical tubesheet thickness.

Figure 7. Low wall thickness of headers.


Figure 8. Thermal stresses in the critical transition areas.

and 800 mm depending on the design data.


Tests have shown that wall thicknesses over
500 mm must be regarded as critical ( F i g u r e 5 ).
Very high peak stresses are induced through
transient temperature gradients at the connection points between the thick tubesheet and
relatively thin waterbox shell with wall thicknesses above the critical value. The consequences are mostly cracks in the areas of the
transition between the tubesheet and waterbox. F i g u r e 6 shows this type of damage
that was investigated by metallography and
FE analysis. The micrograph shows the relief
groove of a tubesheet with clear cracks and
critical stresses for the material with values
of over 730 N/mm2. The results of the metallographic tests and FE analysis confirm that
the cracking is caused by expansion-induced
corrosion [5, 6].
The thickness of the tubesheet wall has to be
reduced to reduce the stresses. This is why
U-type heaters are arranged in two trains in
the high-pressure area, in other words twice
the number of units in two parallel piping
trains. The feedwater mass flow through the
heater can thus be halved, and the necessary
shell diameter and tubesheet thickness reduced. The thermoelasticity of the U-type heater nevertheless remains relatively low. Maximum temperature gradients of 5 to 10 K
per minute only allow a very slow start-up

VGB PowerTech 10/2007

and shutdown of the power plant and a very


limited number of possible load changes.
Operation in the cycling mode should be
avoided. U-type heaters in supercritical power plants often have a service life of only 10
to 15 years and have to be replaced up to
three times with an average power plant lifetime of around 40 years.

operation for power plants with a large number of load changes. Maximum temperature
gradients of up to 25 K per minute permit a
fast start-up and shutdown of the power plant
with service lives of 35 to 50 years. In addition, the heater section does not have to be designed as a two train system ( F i g u r e 9 ).

In comparison, header-type heaters with their


excellent thermoelasticity have a number of
advantages. Unlike the tubesheets in U-type
heaters, the inlet and outlet header of a header-type heater have walls that are only 70 to
120 mm thick. Accordingly, the necessary
header wall thickness under the same basic
conditions is only around 15 % of the tubesheet thickness ( F i g u r e 7 ).

Profitability
An investment in a header-type heater pays
off, as shown in F i g u r e 10, as of a power

Geometric discontinuities in the transitional


areas between the header and shell that favour the occurrence of unacceptable stresses
are completely avoided through the low wall
thicknesses and wall thickness differences,
thus ruling out the risk of damage through
thermal cracks. As shown exemplarily in the
comparison in F i g u r e 8 , much lower stresses occur at the transition header/shell of header-type heaters than in the critical transition
area of the tubesheet in U-type heaters.
The thermoelastic design of high-pressure
header-type heaters allows a flexible mode of

Figure 9. Advantage of the header-type


heater through single-train design
of the heater section.

Header-type Feedwater Heaters

Figure 12. Connection between snakeshaped tube and header.

Figure 10. Heater arrangement depending on investment costs and power plant output.

nipple, see F i g u r e 1 2 . The nipples are first


welded to the header. The snake-shaped tube
is then welded to the nipple and each weld
seam is then X-rayed on two levels. The automated welding procedures used are characterised by a high reliability. Only 15 cases of
damage to tubes are known in more than
1200 header-type heaters manufactured since
1935 with approximately 1,000,000 tubes.
This corresponds to an error rate of only
0.00015 % ( F i g u r e 1 3 ).
If damage nevertheless occurs to a snakeshaped tube the damaged tube must be able
to be plugged. The plugging device shown in
F i g u r e 14 that hydraulically seals the damaged tubes with balls was developed for
this purpose. Thanks to the high reliability of
header-type heaters, this tube-plugging device has never had to be used. Easy access to
the header is also ensured through a service
opening with a self-sealing cover.

Figure 11. Cause and frequency of heater damage in the USA and Europe [7].

plant output of around 500 MW. Both header-type and U-type heaters are designed as
single-train systems below this power plant
output. Whereas header-type heaters can also
be used with higher power plant outputs
currently up to 1100 MW in a single-train
arrangement, U-type heaters are normally designed as two-train systems with power plant
outputs over 500 MW on account of the increasing risk of damage due to thick-walled
tubesheets. The double piping, double the
number of U-type heaters and increased
space requirements of the two-train design
cause additional investment costs. The investment costs for U-type heaters escalate on
account of these additional components and
normally exceed the investment costs of
equivalent header-type heaters.
The operating and maintenance costs of header-type heaters are also much lower with
higher power plant outputs. The lower failure
rate and up to 4-times longer service life of
header-type heaters result in a higher availability of the power plant and much lower
maintenance costs and work. This is also

confirmed by the results of an EPRI study,


shown in F i g u r e 11, which investigated the
frequency and causes of damage in almost
200 high-pressure heaters in 51 power plants
(35 in the USA and 16 in Europe). European
power plants display much better results on
account of the widespread use of header-type
heaters. The high vulnerability of U-type
heaters in comparison calls for frequent repairs and very often complete replacements
[7].
Product Specifics
A header-type heater is much more complicated in its manufacture than a U-type heater.
The assembly of the bundle of snake-shaped
tubes in particular calls for both great care
and above all extensive experience with the
product during welding and in-process quality control.
Special attention has to be paid to the connection between the snake-shaped tube and
header, which are indirectly connected by a

Summary
Header-type heaters are mainly found in
Europe, South Africa and Australia but are
being increasingly considered in the planning concepts for new supercritical power
plants in the USA, China and South Korea.
Around 30 coal-fired power plant units
from 600 to 1100 MW are currently being
planned or built in Germany with headertype heaters.
In header-type heaters the water and steam
sections are not separated by a tubesheet, as
in U-type heaters, but by thick-walled, forged
tubes, the inlet and outlet headers. A further
distinguishing feature compared to U-type
heaters is that the heat exchanger tubes are
snake-shaped and not U-shaped when they
pass through the steam section.
In conventional U-type heaters, the high
pressures of supercritical water/steam cycles
require tubesheets with enormous wall thicknesses. Irreparable thermal cracking often occurs already after 10 to 15 years of operation
at the joint of the tubesheets with the comparably thin-walled shell. In addition, the very

VGB PowerTech 10/2007

Header-type Feedwater Heaters


her load changes than U-type heaters and are
by far the more cost-effective solution in
high-output power plants in terms of both the
investment as well as operating and maintenance costs.

References

[1] Diaz-Tous, I. A., Murray, S.M., Bartz, J.A.,


Poe, G.G., and Fox, K.: Header-type Feedwater Heater Retrofits for Improved Cycling
Fossil Power Plants in the United States EPRI
Project Update, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1990.

Figure 13. Connection of nipples to the header.

[2] Valenti, M.: Feedwater Heaters with Longer


Life Spans, American Society of Mechanical
Engineers, 1997.
[3] Youssef, M.: Header-type Feedwater Heaters
as Retrofits for Cycling Units, Power Gen Europe, 1993.
[4] KOPEC: Next Generation Thermal Power
Plant, Report on HP Feedwater Heater Type,
2006.

Figure 14. Tube-plugging device for header-type heaters.

high feedwater mass flow makes it necessary


for construction reasons to arrange double
the number of U-type heaters in two parallel
pipe trains. Header-type heaters, in contrast,
reach a service life of over 40 years thanks to

VGB PowerTech 10/2007

[5] Podhorsky, M., Hegner, W.: Schden an


Hochdruckvorwrmern infolge Werkstoffermdung, BWK Heft 11/1987.

their excellent thermoelasticity and can be arranged in one train with low investment cost
for piping, valves and building.

[6] Podhorsky, M.: Die rechnerischen Schwerpunkte bei der Konstruktion und der festigkeitsmigen Auslegung einer Vorwrmerstrecke, VGB Heft 1/1984.

Header-type heaters allow a much more flexible mode of operation of the plant with hig-

[7] EPRI: Feedwater Heater Survey, Report No.


GS-7417, 1991.


Sonderdruck MS 136e:Sonderdruck E&M Wirkungsgrad-Schrittmacher

25.10.2007

18:24 Uhr

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