Exhaust gas temperature in coal-fired power plants can reach approximately 120 °C to 140 °C, with the thermal energy accounting for approximately 3% to 8% of the total input energy. Therefore, the heat recovery of exhaust flue gas can improve the thermal efficiency of coal-fired power plants. Currently, the waste heat of flue gas can be recovered by installing an extra heat exchanger, also called low-temperature economizer (LTE), at the end of the boiler flue to heat a part of the condensed water. Extra work can then be obtained by saving the extracted steam and using it to heat the condensed water. However, the temperature of exhaust flue gas is only about 130 °C, which causes the flue gas to heat only the condensed water in the #7 and #8 regenerative heaters. Thus, the energy savings are inconspicuous. This paper proposes a novel flue gas heat recovery system to dramatically increase the temperature of flue gas in the LTE by comprehensive optimization of the air preheater and the LTE. A low-temperature (LT) air preheater can be installed after the LTE in the novel system so that the flue gas can be divided into two parts to heat the air. Simultaneously, the LTE can be installed between the two air preheaters, causing the temperature of flue gas in the LTE to reach above 170 °C. Hence, the temperature of condensed water in the LTE can be increased significantly. In addition, the LTE can replace the high-pressure extracted steam from the turbine, resulting in better energy savings. We also conduct case studies based on a typical 1,000 MW supercritical power generation unit in China. The results indicate better performance of the novel system, with a decrease in exergy loss and improvement in heat transfer characteristics. The reduction in standard coal equivalent of the novel system can reach 3.31g/kWh, nearly 2.4 times that of the system that uses conventional waste heat recovery. Our achievements provide a promising waste heat recovery methods of the utility boiler flue gas.

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