Modern large steam turbines for power generation are required to operate much more flexibly than ever before, due to the increasing use of intermittent renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. This has posed great challenges to the design of LP steam turbine exhaust systems, which are critical to recovering the leaving energy that is otherwise lost. In previous studies, the design had been focused on the exhaust diffuser with or without the collector. Although the interaction between the last stage and the exhaust hood has been identified for a long time, little attention has been paid to the last stage blading in the exhaust system’s design process, when the machine frequently operates at part-load conditions.
This study focuses on the design of LP exhaust systems considering both the last stage and the exhaust diffuser, over a wide operating range. A 1/10th scale air test rig was built to validate the CFD tool for flow conditions representative of an actual machine at part-load conditions, characterised by highly swirling flows entering the diffuser. A numerical parametric study was performed to investigate the effect of both the diffuser geometry variation and restaggering the last stage rotor blades.
Restaggering the rotor blades was found to be an effective way to control the level of leaving energy, as well as the flow conditions at the diffuser inlet, which influence the diffuser’s capability to recover the leaving energy. The benefits from diffuser resizing and rotor blade restaggering were shown to be relatively independent of each other, which suggests the two components can be designed separately. Last, the potentials of performance improvement by considering both the last stage rotor restaggering and the diffuser resizing were demonstrated by an exemplary design, which predicted an increase in the last stage power output of at least 1.5% for a typical 1000MW plant that mostly operates at part-load conditions.