The ability to bypass steam, around the steam turbine and directly into a steam surface condenser, has been a fundamental aspect of the design of base loaded power plants for many years. The increased dependence on natural gas, and the subsequent increase in the number of combined cycle plants, has provided additional challenges for the condenser designer, and also the plant operator, with respect to safely accommodating steam bypass.

However, the steam bypass requirements for modern combined cycle power plants differ significantly from those of traditionally base loaded plants, like fossil and nuclear. Higher cycle frequencies for steam bypass, faster start-ups, as well as increases in bypass steam temperatures and pressures, have all impacted the design criteria for the condenser. Indeed, for modern combined cycle plants, the bypass steam conditions are often higher than normal operation, such that the bypass requirements can very well dictate the overall design of the condenser. This, in turn, has resulted in an increase in the reported instances of operational problems, tube failures, condenser damage and plant shutdowns due to steam bypass related issues.

Recorded issues and reported failures experienced by combined cycle power plants during steam bypass, have been traced to causes such as transient conditions during commissioning, faster start-ups, the poor design and location of steam bypass headers internal to the condenser, over-heating due to curtain spray deficiencies, excessive tube vibration and tube failures. Many of these issues are based on an inherent lack of understanding of the impact of the rigors of steam bypass on condenser internals. Furthermore, operation of steam bypass outside of the generally accepted design parameters often compounds these problems.

This paper consolidates the learning and advances in the design of turbine bypass systems for steam surface condensers from the past 20, or so, years. It includes current design guidelines, as well as safe operational limitations, and general considerations for minimizing potential damage when operating steam bypass on a modern combined cycle power plant.

Included is a Case Study of how an existing fossil power plant that was repowered, along with the existing steam surface condenser that was modified to accept the bypass steam, experienced excessive erosion and damage during the past 10+ years of operation. The condenser was recently reviewed once again, and additional modifications were implemented to take advantage of current improvements in steam bypass design. This drastically reduced further erosion and improved the condenser availability, reliability and longevity; thereby improving the plant efficiency.

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