Ten Week Student Summer Placement

James Stevens, Nottingham University

During the ten week summer vacation placement I was based within the central engineering and technical department of a major UK power generation company. I worked alongside two established power plant chemistry specialists, with one acting as my mentor by assisting me throughout the placement. My principle task whilst on placement was to write a report reviewing water and steam cycle chemistry within possible new build nuclear power plants. This involved a literature search using both the internet and in house library resources. I started the report with almost no knowledge of the nuclear power plant designs in question and no detailed knowledge of how water chemistry is used within power plant cooling systems. Initially, this made the report very challenging. However, I quickly gained a further understanding of water treatment technology, the basic nuclear power plant system designs and how fossil power plant chemistry compares with nuclear power plant chemistry.

I also carried out several other tasks, including:

  • Technology tracking of recent fossil fuel power plant water chemistry advances.
  • Analysis of online chemistry data from a variety of coal and gas fired plants. This analysis comprised of obtaining an overview of the plant water chemistry cycle, downloading the data from the logging system, creating graphs and tables to represent the pertinent information in an easy to see form and generating a report to summarise my findings.
  • Scanning electron microscope (SEM) analysis of turbine blade deposits.

I found the nuclear review particularly enjoyable, as it was previously an area that I was unfamiliar with. The research I carried out not only gave me a better understanding of the nuclear power industry, but it also helped me to put the fossil power plant water chemistry, learnt elsewhere, into a better perspective.

The skills that I have learnt whilst in my placement will definitely benefit me in the future. I feel that there has been a significant improvement in my report writing ability and I have increased my knowledge of Excel and its use in data manipulation. Both of these skills will hopefully be beneficial both during my final year project at university, as well as further on into my career. During my placement, I have realised that the role of chemistry within many industries is significantly more extensive than I previously thought. This has led to me considering a career within industries that I previously thought lacked opportunities for chemists.

I would like to thank both the sponsoring company and BIAPWS for the opportunity that I have been given. I feel that the experience it has given me will serve me well in the future and may possibly lead to me pursuing a career within the industry.

Summer Intern 2007 Report

by Rochelle Green 3rd Year Chemical Engineering Undergraduate Imperial College London

In summer 2007, I was given the opportunity to participate in a 12-week BIAPWS Award research project with Thames Power Services at Barking Power Station in Dagenham, Essex. Through this project I was able to gain valuable experience of working on a 'real-world' problem within the power industry, an industry which previously I had limited knowledge of. My time at Barking enabled me to learn a significant amount about the systems, processes and environmental considerations involved in power generation. It also allowed me to appreciate the importance of water and steam system chemistry control in enabling these plants to operate successfully. Following its completion I am now pursuing a career within the power industry. I would thoroughly recommend the BIAPWS Award to any undergraduate student doing a science or engineering degree and seeking industrial experience.

The Project

Barking Power Station is a combined cycle power station. Corrosion control issues had previously been experienced within Barking Power Station's closed circuit cooling water systems. These systems are used to supply cooling water to the power station's auxiliary equipment. Past application of chemical biocides to the system had subsequently led to serious corrosion related problems within the system coolers. I was asked to investigate the past issues involving corrosion and fouling in the closed circuit cooling water systems and look at possible methods of preventing their reoccurrence.

Through extensive research on the system, operation methods, corrosion and prevention techniques I was able to carry out an analysis of the corrosion problems and issues experienced. I was also able to make feasible recommendations for the station's existing system and propose design improvements for a future development. I compiled a project report and presented my findings and recommendation to the station managers, engineers and chemists. I also made a second presentation to the BIAPWS committee.

My Experience

The scale and complexity of power generation systems was initially quite daunting. However, I benefited from close supervision and also support from my colleagues. Their knowledge and guidance allowed me to gain better understanding of the system processes and to rapidly obtain the resources I required to complete the project.

I consider this project an achievement from which I have benefited a great deal. Not only did I gain confidence in my ability to apply the analytical skills gained on my course to a real problem but I also managed to substantially improve my technical communication and presentation skills. I feel this project has opened a window for me into career opportunities within the power generation industry.

Peter Clark at Centrica SHB Power Station

Project Report - "Can Degassing Technology Enable Reduced Power Station Start-up Times?"

The BIAPWS 2009 Undergraduate Award was co-sponsored by Centrica Energy and took place at their flagship power station, the 1260MW SHB Gas-fired Power Station near Grimsby on the South bank of the Humber Estuary. This is one of the largest gas-fired power stations in the country and is split into two phases; Phase I and II. Phase I was completed in 1997 and Phase II in 1999.

I was given a project to deduce if it is possible to reduce the time taken during a power station start-up. This primarily involved using a Degassing technique to boil off carbon dioxide therefore giving a more accurate measurement of conductivity of the high pressure steam entering the Steam turbine. As a side-along project, I experimented with different degassers to determine in the long-run which degasser would be best as an investment.

At the time of my placement there was a full outage on 'Phase II' of the Centrica SHB site, this was highly convenient as I could monitor fully a Gas/Steam Turbine cold start using the degasser equipment on loan. I designed a multiplex system that allowed the inlet to the degasser be switched instantaneously from one sample stream to another. This was highly important as a flowrate had to be established through the equipment to keep the degassing boiler switched on. Switching the samples through the multiplex kept the flowrate above the minimum specification of the equipment.

During the construction of the multiplex system by C&I technicians, I had chance to test the flexibility and reliability of the unit by switching samples and reducing flowrates in the Phase I samples lab. Once the multiplex system was constructed, the Degasser unit was plumbed into the system; as the gas turbines were fired up, results started pouring in!

For the duration of the project I was supervised by the station chemist (the Centrica representative to BIAPWS); we took the equipment to Brigg power station to obtain results for a two-shifting power station as SHB is predominantly a base-load station so start-ups were hard to come-by! Again the results proved conclusive as they showed a definite time saving could be made in start-ups. 

This placement presented to me by BIAPWS and Centrica has not only given me the opportunity to gain and further my knowledge of the power industry but I have specialised in a subject I had no understanding of prior to the placement. Throughout the project I have learnt skills in analytical power plant chemistry, instrumental design and have gained an understanding of how different areas of expertise all fit together to enable the station to run efficiently. I would conclusively say that the most valuable asset I have gained from this placement is the practical experience of working on-site on a power station and gaining an idea of the career opportunities present within the power industry. 

Many thanks to BIAPWS, Centrica Energy and all my colleagues at SHB Power Station for giving me the opportunity of this placement and helping me throughout the period.

Outturn Report from Joe Hook at E.ON Engineering

Through the sponsorship of both E.ON Engineering and BIAPWS, I was given the opportunity to spend time at E.ON's Power Technology Centre at Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station participating in a 10 week BIAPWS Award Project. Those 10 weeks proved to be an invaluable opportunity to develop and apply my "university-learnt" skills to the "real-life" world of work.

With a growing interest in the power industry driven by my increasing awareness of current and developing environmental issues, it was particularly opportune that I should find myself placed with the Sustainable Energy team working on technologies at the forefront of research and development. Equally, however, as my work was not based solely within this group I was able to discover at first hand the wide variety of disciplines, subjects and expertise required within the power industry. Most importantly, this project has increased my understanding of the importance of the work being carried out within this sector, both for the present and the foreseeable future.

As legislation governing the limits of power station emissions becomes more stringent, increasingly efficient and effective pollution control-and-capture technologies are required to ensure compliance. Pollution control is therefore a topic of great interest within the energy industry. During my placement at E.ON, I worked on a small number of projects based around Sulphur Dioxide removal and the Post Combustion Capture of Carbon Dioxide from the flue gas of coal fired power plant. My main task was to create a computerised numerical model to simulate a CO2 capture plant, using a Monoethanolamine (MEA) liquor, combined with an SO2 polisher employing aqueous reagent solutions. Designing this model required considerable research and detailed analysis of the available technologies and the underlying chemical and physical processes occurring at each point of each system. An essential step in the development of the project was the evaluation of the technical proposals and accompanying process flow designs of various manufacturers. This was necessary in order to enable both the construction of an accurate model and to assess critically the competing technologies. Throughout the project I was involved in regular team meetings to discuss my progress, any problems encountered and future work requirements. One outcome of my detailed research was that I was in a position to inform and update my supervisors regarding certain specific subject matters. As a result of this, and following the early completion of my Carbon Capture Model, I was requested to write a number of reports to be published on the E.ON Engineering library database. These reports ranged from summary documents detailing current legislation and environmental controls, to a technology progress report describing the current situation of CO2 capture techniques and comparing the advantages / disadvantages of two competing technologies.

I have always believed an informed and knowledgeable member of staff should be considered a valuable asset to any company. As such, much of my time was spent trying to ensure that I knew everything I needed with respect to my subject area. The guidance and advice received from colleagues was invaluable in helping me improve key skills such as verbal communication, writing styles, research techniques and the presentation of findings and conclusions. As a result, my learning curve over the 10 week period was phenomenal. This project has helped me appreciate the diversity of disciplines required within the power industry and has identified career paths that I would have otherwise been unaware of. Thank you to both E.ON and BIAPWS.


BIAPWS Award 2010

Angela Bradbury at Serco's Materials and Component Research Laboratory (MCRL) at Risley

Through co-sponsorship by BIAPWS and Serco Technical Consulting Services (TCS), I undertook a placement within the Materials and Component Research Laboratory (MCRL) at Risley in 2010. As I am studying Materials Science (as part of the Natural Sciences Tripos at Cambridge University), I enjoyed the opportunity to apply my theoretical knowledge to a commercial application. In addition, my time at Serco enabled me to develop invaluable skills including writing reports, statistical analysis, presenting data and working in a team.

The performance of austenitic stainless steels exposed to pressurized water reactor (PWR) primary coolant conditions has generally been good. Nevertheless, there have been some occurrences of stress corrosion cracking (SCC), particularly in coastal nuclear plants and marine propulsion systems where the presence of saline deposits is an ever constant threat. This has prompted concerns for safety, system availability and whole-life costs - concerns not only affecting existing operational systems, but also important for optimising design and fabrication in future developments.

There is extensive evidence in the open literature that the surface condition of engineering alloys, including the degree of surface roughness, the level of residual stress and surface hardness or phase transformation due to local cold work, can influence their susceptibility to environmentally assisted cracking (EAC). Serco, in collaboration with the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), have undertaken a unique approach to this topic, combining their expertise and facilities for near-surface characterisation of mechanical and material properties and for stress corrosion evaluation. My task was to write a report bringing together the relevant work during last few years. This comprised a summary of the established knowledge, a literature review of externally published work and findings of recent internal projects (both completed and ongoing).

There was a particular focus on one project at Serco, which investigates the low-temperature SCC of unsensitised 304L specimens after milling, grinding and dressing. As I was involved in producing the final report which was due to be finished at the end of September, part of my work was to analyse the results of the SCC testing. I was asked to present my analysis at a meeting with the scientists we have been collaborating with at NPL, including a discussion relating the results to the work done at NPL. It was gratifying to be so involved in developing the understanding of a topic which affects real-life systems, and I also gained experience of presenting to experts and fielding their questions about my work.

To widen my understanding of current practices actually employed in industry, I undertook visits to Rolls-Royce and Rugeley Power Station, where I learnt about machining, inspection and repair processes from site engineers. In order to provide recommendations for industry, I also reviewed potential surface modification techniques and non-destructive evaluation of surface characteristics.

The project has allowed me to meet people working in a wide range of roles including technical consultants, engineers, and expert scientists, and has helped me understand how I might fit into a company such as Serco. I have thoroughly enjoyed the responsibility I have been given, whilst knowing that I could always ask for help when I needed it. I would like to thank BIAPWS and Serco for my sponsorship, and in particular Kevin Mottershead, my line manager and an excellent mentor.