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Feedwater heater


A Feedwater heater is a power plant component used to pre-heat water delivered to a steam generating boiler.[1][2][3] Preheating the feedwater reduces the irreversibilities involved in steam generation and therefore improves the thermodynamic efficiency of the system.[4] This reduces plant operating costs and also helps to avoid thermal shock to the boiler metal when the feedwater is introduced back into the steam cycle.

In a steam power plant (usually modeled as a modified Rankine cycle), feedwater heaters allow the feedwater to be brought up to the saturation temperature very gradually. This minimizes the inevitable irreversibilites associated with heat transfer to the working fluid (water). See the article on the Second Law of Thermodynamics for a further discussion of such irreversibilites.

Cycle discussion and explanation

It should be noted that the energy used to heat the feedwater is usually derived from steam extracted between the stages of the steam turbine. Therefore, the steam that would be used to perform expansion work in the turbine (and therefore generate power) is not utilized for that purpose. The percentage of the total cycle steam mass flow used for the feedwater heater is termed the extraction fraction[4] and must be carefully optimized for maximum power plant efficiency since increasing this fraction causes a decrease in turbine power output.

Feedwater heaters can also be open and closed heat exchangers. An open feedwater heater is merely a direct-contact heat exchanger in which extracted steam is allowed to mix with the feedwater. This kind of heater will normally require a feed pump at both the feed inlet and outlet since the pressure in the heater is between the boiler pressure and the condenser pressure. A deaerator is an open feedwater heater which is specially designed to remove non-condensable gases from the feedwater.

Closed feedwater heaters are typically shell and tube heat exchangers where the feedwater passes throughout the tubes and is heated by turbine extraction steam. These have the advantage of not requiring separate pumps before and after the heater to bring the feedwater up to the pressure of the extracted steam as with an open heater. However, the extracted steam (which is most likely almost fully condensed after heating the feedwater) must then be throttled to the condenser pressure, an isenthalpic process that results in some entropy gain.

Many power plants incorporate a number of feedwater heaters and may use both open and closed components.

Feedwater heaters are used in both fossil- and nuclear-fueled power plants. Smaller versions have also been installed on steam locomotives, portable engines and stationary engines. An economiser serves a similar purpose to a feedwater heater, but is technically different. Instead of using actual cycle steam for heating, it uses the lowest-temperature flue gas from the furnace to heat the water before it enters the boiler proper. This allows for the heat transfer between the furnace and the feedwater to occur across a smaller average temperature gradient (for the steam generator as a whole). System efficiency is therefore further increased.

See also


  1. ^ British Electricity International (1991). Modern Power Station Practice: incorporating modern power system practice, 3rd Edition (12 volume set), Pergamon. ISBN 0-08-040510-X. 
  2. ^ Babcock & Wilcox Co. (2005). Steam: Its Generation and Use, 41st edition. ISBN 0-9634570-0-4. 
  3. ^ Thomas C. Elliott, Kao Chen, Robert Swanekamp (coauthors) (1997). Standard Handbook of Powerplant Engineering, 2nd edition, McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 0-07-019435-1. 
  4. ^ a b Fundamentals of Steam Power by Kenneth Weston, University of Tulsa
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Feedwater_heater". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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