Coal, Emissions, O&M

Integration of Ultrasound Tools Promotes Power Plant Health

Issue 3 and Volume 113.

By Ed Sullivan, freelance writer

To efficiently meet rising demand, the power generation industry is increasingly integrating advanced and automated monitoring, control and analytical tools. Fast and pinpoint-accurate, ultrasonic detection, condition-based monitoring and analysis tools enable power plants to better manage equipment and avoid downtime.

Ultrasonic sensor instruments can quickly pinpoint leaks, mechanical defects, arcing and discharges. Ultrasound-based systems can combine data management and analysis with data collection software and ultrasound sensors for condition-based monitoring of critical mechanical equipment.

Ultrasound in Action

A natural complement to vibration analysis and thermographic (infrared) diagnostics, ultrasound is used by power plants as an adjunct to those technologies to locate and verify problems in electrical and mechanical equipment.


Analyzing pump bearings for lubrication and early signs of wear with an ultrasonic detector.
Click here to enlarge image

Ultrasound has been used for many years by the power industry for leak detection. Recent advancements have expanded these applications to include condition-based monitoring of critical equipment, valve and steam trap evaluation and detecting electrical arcing and corona discharge.

At Allegheny Power’s Harrison Power Station in Haywood, W. Va., ultrasound is used by the maintenance team to detect boiler tube leaks in the station’s 650 MW units. The Harrison station has been using ultrasonic devices from Westminster, Md.-based CTRL Systems, an ultrasonic detection and monitoring systems provider, for the past seven years. In addition to using the standard UL101 detector, the Harrison station also uses CTRL’s PowerBeam Long Range Detector.

“I’m using the PowerBeam equipment for partial discharge problems,” says Bill Dearth, station engineer. “You can usually use an RF (radio frequency) monitor (electromagnetic) when you are looking for a partial discharge. With the ultrasonic unit, you aim it in the direction you are getting an RF signal from and it will confirm the RF finding.”

Dearth says that Allegheny Energy corporate officials are considering a beta test that would integrate the ultrasonic devices on a number of other applications at one power station.

“These ultrasonic tools are not yet part of our PDM (predictive maintenance) program,” he said, “but at this point we see a lot of potential for this technology to become an integral part of the program.”

Power generation companies are also considering turnkey delivery of the technology.

Author: Ed Sullivan is a freelance writer based in Hermosa Beach, Calif.