Fuel transportation and handling systems

Issue 4 and Volume 99.

Fuel transportation and handling systems

Introduction by R. C. Rittenhouse, Managing Editor

They seem mundane, but fuel handling systems sustain power plant operations. They are the lifeline long after fuel choices are made. Power plant experiences reveal how

Fuel management dominates conversations wherever power generation executives gather. Availability, transportation, costs and choices of fuel (if the latter option exists) guide the discussions, but fuel handling system reliability dictates plant operating results. More on that later.

Focusing on the fuels question, not merely a fascinating exercise, is necessary to preserve power plant health and life expectancy. Evidence of fuel management?s importance is reflected in the makeup of several major industry conferences.

Notable among these is the 1994 EPRI Fuel Supply Seminar. Held in Chicago last October, it recognized the changing world of fuel management and its role as a key component in the increasingly competitive power generation industry. As the program suggests, attendees could concentrate on key areas, such as costs, for one fuel or all fuels during the three-day event. Naturally, the demands of environmental protection gained major attention here, especially in coal and oil scenarios. Proceedings of the seminar were being prepared at this writing. Included will be reports such as OThe Role of Fuels and Corporate PerformanceO by Carlyle W. Sulzer, United Power Association, and Jeremy Platt, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) project manager?s OInnovative Fuel Management?Organizational Impacts.O

A companion piece to the upcoming proceedings is a report titled OCompetitive Positioning: The Changing Role of Utility Fuels ManagementO prepared for EPRI by Resource Dynamics Corp. as TR-104550, Project 2369-12, Final Report, Sept. 1994.

One month before the fuel supply seminar, top managers concerned with coal-fired plants converged on Chicago. They attended the Third Annual Clean Coal Conference that was sponsored by the Department of Energy and The Center for Energy & Economic Development. Again, fuel management of the highest order was the focus.

POWER-GEN Americas ?94, the largest single event in the power generation industry, found executives endlessly discussing fuels. One of several session papers related to the subject was OFuel Supply Strategy in a Changing MarketplaceO by Phillip G. Lookadoo of Reid & Priest.

Where does natural gas fit in?

Supplies, costs and other components of fuel management play major roles where power plants consider natural gas as a fuel. Gas is in a growth mode in the power generation industry and is seen by the gas industry as a major market. However, gas industry spokesmen make one cogent point. There has been only a limited understanding of the interface between the two industries.

To gain a broader understanding of the situation, the Gas Research Institute (GRI) sponsored a major study. Energy Ventures Analysis Inc. did the research. The report is titled ONatural Gas Pipeline Engineering and Operations for Power Generation LoadO and was due to be published at this writing. Although the report targets the interests of pipeline companies, it can provide revealing information for power plant operators. Contact GRI at 8600 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue, Suite 1100, Chicago, Ill. 60631-3562 for more information.

Also available from GRI is the 1995 Edition of the OGRI Baseline Projection of U. S. Energy Supply and DemandO from the Baseline/Gas Resource Analytical Center, published August 1994.

Another EPRI report, OGas Demands for Power Generation?Scenarios to 2010,O was summarized during the 1994 Fuel Supply Seminar. OThe study indicates dramatic growth in gas demands for power generation under virtually all circumstances. Load growth is the critical factor in determining gas-fired generation,O according to the project manager. In any event, L. R. Kavanaugh, Tenneco Power, asked, OCan Natural Gas Pipelines Service the Future Power Generation Market?O in his POWER-GEN Americas ?94 paper. He answers the question asked by many others when he concludes ONatural gas will continue to play a role in power generation and pipeline capability will be there through either existing facilities or mainline expansions.O

As for the cost of natural gas, some gas advocates declare that prices will drop in the future. Other individuals see gas prices rising manyfold. Such varied opinions may be influenced by individual views of pricing. Some people believe that pricing is not complicated. Experts dispute that. They say that transportation complicates all pricing.

A GRI Baseline Projection of U.S. Energy Supply and Demand to 2010 projects the weighted average acquisition price of gas supply in 1993 dollars. The projected average lower-48 (states) wellhead price for the year 2000 is $2.53 mmBtu. That converts to approximately $3.18 mmBtu in year 2000 dollars.

A study by Energy Ventures Analysis (EVA), Arlington, Va., for the Center for Energy and Economic Development shows a slightly different picture for gas prices. According to Eugene Trisko of EVA, because of increased power plant demand for gas, Othe price premium for natural gas relative to coal will begin to rise. As a result, coal will be the economic choice for new utility power generation.O

Seven natural gas price forecasts indicate an average wellhead price of $3.50 mmBtu by 2010, which is a 67 percent increase in constant dollars over 1993 prices. Trisko said that a major uncertainty about gas prices is oil prices. Today?s relatively low oil prices could jump anytime. Trisko sees natural gas reserves at 163 tons per cubic foot (approximately nine years of consumption at 1993 rates). Recoverable coal reserves can supply the demand for 265 years at current production levels. EVA?s study is available from the National Coal Association, 1130 17th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036-4677, Phone (202) 463-2625.

Fuel handling: The subject at hand

Fuel choices, transportation and costs are the domain of fuel management. Power plant fuel handling systems must accommodate those influences. Meanwhile, such systems need continual attention and their development, redesign and upgrade, whether startling or evolutionary, is worthy of attention. Of course, active preventive maintenance must be added to the mix to keep power plants operating.

Gas handling system improvements, for example, evolved over many years and few users find much to say about them. However, a GRI-sponsored research project that developed more accurate, cost effective metering equipment caught gas users? attention. Precision Measurement Inc. produced the energy meter under the project. This unit quantifies energy flow rate in a single, direct measurement. Projected cost for the meter is $25,000 installed on a 6-inch line, which is approximately 30 percent less than the traditional system that uses an orifice meter run and a gas chromatograph. Accuracy is +0.5 percent.

Oil handling equipment suffers the same relative anonymity as gas systems. Users simply describe their system as an oil tank, containment area with berm, unloading pumps and truck/rail delivery. However, Chuck Dene, EPRI project manager, explained that the main concerns of power plant fuel staffs include long-term storage of fuel oil and the aging of storage tanks. As an example, Part 1 of this Power Engineering special feature covers Tenaska?s fuel oil quality assurance program.

Not to be overlooked is the value of on-site blending of fuel oils. Power plants can reduce costs by buying lower cost, high sulfur fuels and blending them with low sulfur oils. These advantages are emphasized in an EPRI and Fuel Oils Users Support Group study that investigated in-line blending equipment for residual oil storage sites.

No report on fuel would be complete without addressing innovations in coal handling systems. An unusual design approach in a new clam-shell coal barge unloader for the Logan power plant and TVA?s experience with rolldumpers are presented in the final two sections of this special feature. END


Enright, M.P., and Lange, H.B., OIn-Line Blending of Residual Fuel Oils?Technology Evaluation and Preliminary Guidelines,O Electric Power Research Institute interim report, April 1994.

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Natural gas piping serves Duquesne Light Co.?s Cheswick Station, which also burns coal. Photograph courtesy of Gas Research Institute.