An organ transplant for a steam turbine

It’s termed a retrofit, but the coming upgrade at Loy Yang B power station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley is more like a complete organ transplant for a body that’s otherwise got plenty of life left in it.

The power station’s two existing Hitachi steam turbines will be retrofitted by GE and, says Mark Benjamin from GE Power Services, “to all intents and purposes turned into GE turbines”.

Explains Benjamin, “The outer casing of each turbine will remain; we’ll open it up, take the heart out and put in a new heart … we call it a retrofit, but it’s more of a technology transformation to state of the art.”

Loy Yang B
The steam turbines at Victoria’s Loy Yang B power station will be retrofitted with GE’s state-of-the-art blading technology.

Once it’s done, the station’s capacity will increase to 1,140MW and its coal consumption will reduce by about 5% for every MW generated. The Loy Yang B upgrades are part of long-time GE customer Engie’s Greenhouse Intensity Improvement Project.

With more than a century of steam-turbine building experience under its belt, GE’s ongoing investment in advancing turbine technology has made it a market leader among power-generation customers that want to improve the efficiency and flexibility of their plants, as well as extend their life. Benjamin says GE’s state-of-the-art blading technology is key to the turbines’ fuel efficiency, and is making these retrofit projects increasingly popular with utility-scale steam plants.

“We’ve done more than 1,000 retrofits globally,” says Benjamin. “About two-thirds were GE technology to start with, and the other third were other OEMs, but all had the benefit of the transformation to GE’s latest steam-turbine technology.  We’ve done numerous turbines of the design type that Hitachi used at Loy Yang, but the Loy Yang B project will be the first globally on Hitachi steam turbines of this size.”

Said Anders Maltesen, general manager for the Asia-Pacific region for GE’s Power Services at the time of the public announcement of the Loy Yang B retrofit: “The project reflects the global energy sector’s recognition of GE’s capabilities to service power-generation equipment from other manufacturers.”

Loy Yang B is Victoria’s newest and most efficient coal-fired power station, generating about 17 per cent of the state’s energy needs. The first of its two turbine units came online in 1993, the second in 1996. Power stations generally operate on an expected life of four decades, with a major overhaul and upgrade at around the halfway mark of that span, depending on how the original equipment is operating.

These projects are not for the shortsighted. Benjamin says GE and Loy Yang B have been discussing GE’s retrofit capability since 2005, and in 2012 were granted access to do complete measurements of the units. “Once you’ve got those measurements, we fit within the casing and turn a Hitachi turbine into a GE turbine … you’re ripping out everything that’s inside. It’s replaced with GE technology.”

Around May 2019, the first of the turbines will go offline for about 55 days for the high-tech transplant; the second will be replaced one year after that, with a scheduled 45 days offline.

Once complete, the Loy Yang B project will bring GE’s installed base of power capacity in Australia to more than 15GW, and there’s plenty more energy to come.

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