Increasing Condenser Capacity without Adding Tubes to Support a Station Uprate

Welch, W.C., Harpster, T.J., & Harpster, J.W.

“Increasing Condenser Capacity without Adding Tubes to Support a Station Uprate” ASME 2010 Power Conference, Chicago, IL, July 13-July 15, 2010.


A station uprate provides an economical opportunity to improve the generation capacity of a power plant if all the major system components are able to handle the effects of increased generation. The magnitude of uprate from increased steam generation will be limited by the maximum capacity of the weakest link in the cycle, which for many plants is the condenser. The condensers on many units are already pushed to their limit. This is especially true if a cooling tower is employed, where the condenser inlet cooling water temperatures are high on high wet-bulb temperature days. This condition forces many units to throttle down load to prevent excursions above the backpressure limits on their turbines. For condensers limited by the present duty, however, the options have been historically limited to rebundling the whole condenser with a larger surface area design and perhaps changing the tube material to a material with a higher heat transfer coefficient. Recently, a very low cost option has been demonstrated that should be considered by any plant looking to increase condenser duty or prevent station power reductions. Advances in the proper management of steam, condensate and noncondensable flows have permitted an upgrade for almost all vintage condensers, unlocking inactive surface area without a bundle replacement or complete redesign.

This paper reports the results of a condenser retrofit effort, with emphasis on an upgrade applied to a load limited condenser concurrent with a major reduction in its operating backpressure. The performance of the condenser is presented before and after the upgrade showing significant backpressure reduction and heat transfer improvement accompanied by exceptional condensate chemistry results. It will be shown that 30% of the effective condenser surface area (or similarly, an additional 30% average heat transfer coefficient) was unlocked by activating the previously idle surface area.

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