Long gone are the days when one would use piston-pushing steam engines to make tea, coffee, or even boil water. Replacing the centuries old steam engines, steam turbines have earned a very special place in the lives of an average American since the 1880s.
Supporting electricity generation practices throughout the United States, steam turbines are integrated into dozens of central station power plants and are commonly used for combined heat and power (CHP) throughout the region.
What Are Steam Turbines?
Steam turbines work in a typical manner. They force a high pressure stream through multiple sets of blades and generate energy in doing so.
In simpler terms, a steam turbine works by heating water to very high temperatures, until it converts into steam. The steam produced in the process is used to rotate the blades of the turbine and produce rotational or mechanical energy.
Typically, a steam turbine is linked to a generator. Once the rotational energy is produced, it is used to generate electricity through the generator attached.
Steam turbines offer high levels of efficiency when it comes to power generation and are heavily used in different industries. Taking this into consideration, it is important for individuals to look into power generation training
geared towards understanding the mechanics of this technology.
Different Sources of Energy That a Steam Turbine Is Compatible With
While steam turbines offer a quick and efficient way to produce power, they require a thermal energy source to operate. The following are different sources of energy that can drive a steam turbine:
- Fossil Fuels/Natural Gas
Applications of Steam Turbines
Steam turbines are a part of various industries, from medium to large scale, and include dozens of institutional applications.
- Chemical Industry: Providing heat and electricity to drive different processes in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, steam turbines are integrated in the process of producing power.
- Waste Plants: Steam turbines help generate the power needed to harness energy from wastes.
- Oil & Gas: Used as a pump drive or a compressor, steam turbines support dozens of operations in the oil and gas industry.
- Sugar Mills: Offering high levels of efficiency and sustainable operations, steam turbines are used to produce green carbon-dioxide energy from bagasse.
Some of the most popular applications of a steam turbine in different industries include the following:
1. Combined Heat and Power
Steam turbines are an essential component of most CHP systems. They support combined heat and power systems that are used to power industrial processes, under conditions where waste fuels are available for the boiler to safely utilize. When used for CHPs, the steam emitted by the steam turbine can be used directly.
Steam turbine powered CHPs are typically found in paper mills, where there is an abundance of waste fuels ranging from black liquor to hog fuel, each equally successfully in powering the boiler.
They can also be found in chemical plants that make excessive use of steam turbines; followed by their use of metals.
2. Driving Mechanical Equipment
Steam turbines are a far more efficient alternative to electrical power. Especially when it comes to driving different equipment like air compressors, boiler feed water pumps, refrigerator chillers, etc.
3. District Heating & Cooling Systems
Different institutions throughout different cities rely on district cooling and heating systems. These systems usually have a steam turbine placed between the boiler and the distribution system or placed as a replacement for a pressure reduction station.
It is to be noted that, more often, boilers are capable of producing moderate-pressure steam while the distribution requires low pressure steam. Bridging this gap between the two, a steam turbine generates energy using the high pressure steam and emits low pressure steam into the distribution system.
4. Combined Cycle Power Plants
Steam turbines allow power plants to generate power using a gas turbine and utilize gas and heat produced in the process to generate steam that, in turn, produces additional power. Combined cycle power plants
supported by steam turbines are capable of producing or accomplishing electric generation efficiencies extending beyond the 50-percent mark and are used in large industrial applications.
Most of the electricity throughout the United States is produced with the help of steam turbine engines. Offering higher efficiencies, low costs, and a positive impact on the environment, steam turbines have become a integral part of several American industries.