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Leak detection

A coal-fired power station in South Wales is set to become the first in the UK to benefit from a sophisticated leak detection system with the potential to significantly reduce maintenance and repair costs.

Developed by specialist engineering company, the Greenbank Group, the advanced boiler leak detection system combines tried and tested technology with state-of-the art analytical equipment. It can detect and locate tiny leaks in the hundreds of metres of the steam tubing that form an integral part of a power station boiler.

Greenbank’s unique system has already proved successful in a number of recently commissioned plants in Germany, including the €2.2 billion RWE Neurath Power Station which has the most advanced lignite-fired boilers in the world.

Charles Conroy, Managing Director of Derbyshire-based Greenbank, explained: “While the actual ultrasonic detectors used in the system have been around for many years, the way they are now being used systematically to monitor the entire boiler is quite revolutionary.

“The externally fitted sensors detect minute differences in the sounds emitted by the boiler. Between 20 and 50 are typically installed on each boiler whereas in older systems there are far fewer sensors, and each would operate independently of the others.

“Greenbank’s sophisticated system constantly processes information from all the sensors and provides engineers with an immediate alert should a leak be detected.”

Tube failures appear in the form of splits, bending, bulging, cracking, erosion and rupture, which can often cause damage to adjacent plant. As well as leading to costly and time-consuming repairs there are significant safety risks if the leaks are left undetected.

Such failures are a common phenomenon in generating plants, causing unscheduled shutdowns that can result in heavy revenue losses for plant owners.

As well as alerting engineers to any leaks, the integrated system can also help them quickly identify the location of the fault, speeding up repairs.

“Although the use of our system is now widespread in Germany, the Welsh plant will be the first in the UK to benefit,” Charles added. “We are seeing a lot of interest from other power generation companies across the country and expect to install the system in several more stations later this year.”

Suitable for use in gas, oil, biomass, black or brown coal power stations, the GA200® Series BSLD system is also able to monitor long-term trends in boiler performance and reduces the need for manual inspections. It is also capable of screening out other background noise to improve accuracy and can compare audio signals it picks up against previous alerts.

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