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Sulzer automated weld repair keeps biomass plant running

Biomass is the sustainable fuel solution that’s growing in popularity with the power generation industry. However, regular, rapid and reliable maintenance is key to ensuring these types of facilities run smoothly. So when the boiler walls at Lisahally Biomass combined heat and power (CHP) plant, in Northern Ireland, began to erode, they called in Sulzer and their automated weld overlay technology to extend the service life of their boiler.

The fuels used to operate biomass power plants cause corrosion and erosive wear in boilers. In fact, biomass can release contaminants, such as alkali metals, chlorine, sulphur and other corrosive chemicals, when burned. As a result, regular maintenance is fundamental to maximise the lifespan and reliability of equipment in these power stations, as well as ensure plant availability, performance and efficiency.

In an effort to increase the durability of its essential assets, maintenance planners at Lisahally Biomass CHP Plant wanted to repair the boiler walls with a long-lasting solution that could be completed with minimal disruption.

Sulzer service package

The plant, located in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, was built and is operated by Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor A/S (BWSC), one of the world’s leading medium-sized commercial-scale power plant providers. The facility uses recycled wood as the main feedstock to generate six megawatts of heat (MWth) and 18.2 megawatts of power (MWe), 15.8 MWe of which is then used to power 30,000 local homes and businesses.

The key piece of equipment at Lisahally plant is the two-pass biomass grate boiler, which generates high-temperature, high-pressure steam by combusting the wood-based material fed to its furnace. The steam is then transferred to a turbine, coupled with a generator to produce electricity. Waste steam is condensed into water and fed back into the boiler via a closed-loop system.

As corrosion and erosion were affecting the integrity of Lisahally Power Station’s heat exchange system, plant managers contacted Sulzer to conduct the necessary repair work. The company’s Tower Field Service group is a leading provider of specialised field services with over 40 years of experience in tower, drum and vessel maintenance.

“The tendering process was very competitive and Sulzer stood out from the competition, as it offered an outstanding service package. The company was selected on the basis of its ability to deliver cost-effective and high-quality solutions for boilers,” explains Sean Hegarty, BWSC Plant Manager at Lisahally Power Station.

CladFuse advanced automated welding solution

As an economical and sustainable alternative to replacing the existing structures within the boiler, Sulzer and BWSC decided to cover the damaged membrane walls with layers of Inconel 625 to repair and protect the membrane wall. This is an austenitic nickel-chromium-based superalloy that is particularly resistant to corrosion and oxidation, even in harsh environments with elevated temperatures, such as in furnaces. The additional Inconel layer would enable the boiler to efficiently maintain high steam pressure whilst protecting the surfaces from future corrosion and erosion.

The homogeneous deposition of Inconel onto the corroded and eroded surfaces was carried out onsite by automated weld overlay. Using its expertise in this process Sulzer has developed an advanced automated technology, CladFuse, to perform highly accurate welding operations for structures such as boilers, furnaces, vessels and towers.

CladFuse uses a carriage that travels along a laser-levelled track system fixed to the wall that needs repairing. On the carriage, a robotic index arm moves the welding torch and the oscillator in order to create weld Inconel beads with an overlap of approximately 50% between adjacent weld beads. All the weld overlay process parameters, for example, carriage speed or bead thickness, are controlled by a programmable logic controller (PLC). Operators can communicate with it and adjust the parameters manually using a human-machine interface (HMI).

Cost-effective and high-quality repairs

In addition to offering a cost-effective and high-quality method to repair damaged metal surfaces, the solution developed by Sulzer is extremely fast. This was particularly important for managers and operators at Lisahally Power Station, who needed the welding to be completed by the end of a scheduled outage for regular maintenance activities.

Sean Hegarty said: “Sulzer’s experts set up a number of measures and controls to ensure we could carry on conducting planned maintenance activities along the steam path. The project was challenging and Sulzer’s knowledge and expertise provided a great and outstanding execution. We are extremely happy with the outcome.”

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