China Electric Power Industry Forum draws industry leaders to Shenzen

Generation, transmission opportunities scrutinized by world business experts

Ann Chambers

Assistant Editor

For the best opportunities in electricity today, all roads lead to China, and in April, industry leaders from around the globe traveled to Shenzen for a panoramic view of the many business avenues and challenges. The Second Power Engineering International China Electric Power Industry Forum, focusing on the nation`s growing electric power generation industry, surveyed both the present and future profiles of the local electrical industries.

“By the year 2000, it is expected that the hydro-installed capacity will reach 80,000 MW, thermal over 155,000 MW, nuclear 5,000 MW–240,000 MW total volume,” Sun Qinming, China Mechanical Engineering Society, told the gathering. “From 1990-2000, the capacity will increase 110,000 MW.”

In China, there are 52 thermal power generation equipment plants, 56 electric generator factories, 184 electric repair and construction factories, 35 electric quality testing centers, 45 electric quality inspection institutes, 148 thermal electricity construction engineering companies and 64 hydro-electric power construction enterprises. “These well-equipped teams have completed and are building 2,027 thermal power stations and 3,951 hydro power plants,” Qinming said.

Six plants of more than 1,000 MW are under construction in the country now: Yuanbaoshan Mine-Mouth Thermal Plant in Neimeng, Waigao Bridge Power Station in Shanghai, Gezhouba Hydro Plant in Hubei, Three Gorges Hydro Electric Power Project in Hubei, Daya Gulf Nuclear Power Station in Quangdong and Qinshan Nuclear Power Station.

Gorgeous Gorges

Touted as the “greatest hydraulic engineering in the world today,” the Three Gorges project, designed to harness the power of the Yangtze River (Figure 1), officially started Dec. 14, 1994. The Yangtze is the largest river in China, stretching 6,300 km long, with a yearly mean flow of 960 billion cubic meters (m3). The project consists of a dam crossing the river, tail-water building, hydraulic power station and navigation building. The concrete dam will be 185 meters (m) high at the top and 2,309 m long. Water storage will be 175 m with a total reservoir volume of 39.3 billion m3, according to Peng Qiyou, China Three Gorges Engineering Development Co. director. Qiyou`s company is contractor for Three Gorges and “fully responsible for the construction and management of the project.”

The power station and a workshop will be located on either side of the overflow section, which is in the center of the dam. Unit capacity will be 700 MW, total installed capacity will be 18,200 MW and annual electricity generation will be 74.7 trillion watt hours

The navigation building, composed of a two-lane, five-class sluice gate and a single-lane, one-stage vertical ship elevator, will be in the left bank. The designed pass ability is 50 million tons.

The project is divided into three phases, with an estimated total construction time of 17 years. There are currently 16 construction companies on site with approximately 150,000 workers. After 11 years of construction, the navigation building and the first units should begin to generate electric power.

The project is expected to cost (US)$17.5 billion and to bring “great benefits in flood control, power generation, navigation and water supply.”

Efforts are under way to raise the necessary capital, including a fee on existing electric generation, diversion of all profits from the Gezhouba Hydroelectric Power Station and loan agreements with the state development bank. Another upcoming source is electricity income from the project itself after generation begins in 2003.

“It is also necessary to introduce foreign capital and advanced technology and equipment,” Qiyou said. “We welcome all people to support and take part in the Three Gorges project.”

Clean coal

China is heavily reliant on its ample supply of coal as a fuel for electric power generation, but like many other areas of the world, environmental concerns are clouding the horizon for this easily available, economical fuel. Thomas P. Crowley of AES China Generating Co.–a newly-formed subsidiary of AES Corp., a leading Circulating Fluidized Bed (CFB) developing company–told conference attendees of CFB`s bright future in China.

AES Corp. has three CFB plants running in the United States and two more under construction, also in the United States.

“CFB is not a completely new technology in China. With the encouragement of the central government there are several small manufacturers using foreign technical assistance to produce 6-, 12- and 25-MW CFB boilers. However, in looking into the operation of these boilers we have found that, for a variety of local reasons, they are seldom being operated as CFB boilers,” Crowley said. “The very small size of the boilers makes them economically difficult to operate in a market that is increasingly driven by cost considerations. A more economical size is the 220 tons-an-hour boiler, provided by foreign manufacturers and currently being introduced in several areas of China.”

The facilities generally have three of the 220-ton units, with two boilers providing steam to two 50-MW steam turbines and the other boiler providing steam for district heating. Crowley would like to see CFB plants used in similar projects in the future.

AES China is working to develop a CFB power plant in Hangzhou City and a 200-MW CFB plant to replace an aging plant in Southwestern China.

“We believe … all power plants, whether CFB or conventional coal boilers, will have to meet increasingly stronger emissions standards and emissions enforcement by the government authorities,” Crowley said. “Thus the capital cost of a new CFB plant will have to be measured against the new cost of a `fully scrubbed` conventional power plant.”

He said a 100- or 200-MW CFB plant will require imported equipment and operating technology for the boilers; but the turbines, generators and switchgear can be manufactured in China, bringing the overall price close to domestic standards.

The export credit agencies of several countries are willing to loan money to finance the export of CFB equipment to China, at a much lower cost than current Chinese loans, which can also reduce the expense.

“We are convinced that by introducing the latest generation of large CFB power plants, China can have both the clean air its people deserve and the low-cost, reliable power they are asking for,” Crowley said.

More coal

Competition to supply equipment for power projects at Dandong and Dalian in Liaoning Province and at Heze and Liaocheng in Shangdong came to a close in the early months of 1995, with Babcock Energy of the United Kingdom emerging as the winner with its coal-fired boiler technology.

Babcock will design and supply eight large-capacity, pulverized-coal-fired boilers for these projects. The boilers will fire a range of anthracite and semi-anthracite coals (Figure 2). J.E. Jesson, Babcock chief engineer, discussed operating experiences with both bituminous coal and low-volatile coals and detailed some resultant design features for the forum audience.

“A number of factors are responsible for selecting the most appropriate fuel preparation and firing system for utility boilers. These include the moisture, ash and volatile contents of the raw coal to be used,” Jesson said. “The ash analysis and fusion temperatures are responsible for other aspects of the boiler design. These include the furnace dimensions, surface pitching and soot-blower allocation, as well as the capacity of the furnace ash removal system and that of the electrostatic precipitator and the flyash handling and disposal systems.”

There is no clear correlation between age and ash content, which Jesson said depends more on the conditions under which the woody mater was laid down and the mining methods used. He noted a “strong trend” to very high moisture content for lignites, brown coals and peats, which are the youngest coals. The type of coal to be used as fuel and its particular attributes must be considered before boiler selection, as these are major factors in determining the firing systems needed for the plant.

Quality control

The market is moving toward larger power plants and their associated “economies of scale” as China scrambles to meet the electricity demand of its growing manufacturing and industrial components.

“With a tendency toward large and super-large projects in hydroelectric power construction, high temperature, high voltage and large capacity in thermal power, the rigid requirement for quality is needed in electric equipment,” Qinming said. She is a standing council member of the NonDestructive Testing Institute (NDTI) of the China Mechanical Engineering Society. “If explosion and electricity interruption occurs in plants, it would cause a lot of losses in other industries and the local residents` lives,” she said. “So quality control of equipment is crucial to the safety and efficiency of power stations in the long term. Moreover, this control must be carried out through the process of manufacturing, installing and operating. Here, NDTI is brought in.”

NDTI technology is evolving, and there are many options available. Conventional methods include radiographic, ultrasonic, magnetic particle, penetrant and eddy current testing. New methods include laser holography, microwave and acoustic emission. Qinming predicted growing use of on-site NDTI as the technology becomes more familiar and more available throughout the country.

Making choices

To ease the strained power supply situation and meet peak-load requirements, gas-turbine units are being used more widely, especially in the coastal and more economically developed parts of China, according to Huang Zonghan, Central Southern China Electric Power Design Institute senior engineer. “The gas-turbine power plant has the advantages of short construction period, quick start-up and shutdown, high efficiency, easy peak-loading, and small occupied land, so that it finds favor in the eyes of people concerned,” he said.

According to a forecast by GEC-Alsthom and other gas-turbine manufacturers, gas-steam combined-cycle power plants will make up 28 percent of the total installed capacity through 2002, of which 35 percent will be integrated, gasified, combined-cycle plants; 14 percent will be coal-fired plants; 6 percent will be nuclear; and 17 percent will be hydro or other power.

“This means that the gas-steam combined-cycle turbogenerator units will make up more than 60 percent of the installed capacity of all the power plants. Therefore, it merits serious attention to improve the design of the gas-turbine power plants and to summarize the past experiences and lessons in their design,” Zonghan said. He recommends careful study of both technical and economic characteristics of main plant equipment before purchase to ensure optimum results, with final selection to be determined by total efficiency while factoring in price. He also noted that units with capacity below 35 MW are not suited for gas-turbine power plants.

Pumped storage

Pumped-storage generating capacity is forecast to reach 7,000 to 8,000 MW by the year 2000, accounting for 2.5 percent of the total power generating capacity in China. Pumped-storage hydropower stations (PSHS) are being built in Shisanlin, Tianhuangping and Guangdong.

Many areas of China are short on power during peak times, but have surplus power during off-peak times, making them prime candidates for PSHS. PSHS can complement thermal, nuclear and hydro facilities by offering peak regulation and valley compensation.

“The problem of peak regulation is very serious now and will become more serious as electricity consumption grows,” said Lin Zhiben, Anhui Electric Power Bureau chief engineer.

In the East China Power Network (ECPN)–which includes Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui and Shanghai–maximum electricity consumption reached 21,700 MW in 1994, with a difference between peak and off-peak load of 7,500 MW. Most generating units in Shanghai and Jiangsu are coal-fired. Zhejiang has more hydropower generation than its neighbors; however, Anhui has few hydropower resources.

Zhiben noted several sites that are developing PSHS, including: Xianghongdian 80-MW PSHS in Zhejiang; Xianghongdian 80-MW PSHS, which is under construction in Anhui; Longyashan project with capacity of 440 to 600 MW, which is awaiting government approval; Tongbei project in Zhejiang and Xiangshuijian in Anhui, which are both 1,000 MW in design stages.

Anhui, an area with minimal hydropower resources, falls below the national average level of 25 percent pumped-storage generating capacity. The East China Power Network has conducted feasibility studies, identifying more than 20 suitable sites in the area that could generate up to 20,000 MW.

“While raising the proportion of hydropower, coordinating nuclear power construction, it is necessary to build some large-scale PSHS so as to analyze the problem of peak regulation and raise security and economy of the power network,” Zhiben said. “PSHS is an important part of power planning. The implementation of a peak-valley price system in many provinces and cities offers better conditions to build pumped-storage hydropower stations.”

Zhejiang network

The Zhejiang provincial power grid is part of the East China Network, located on the lower part of the Yangtze River. The Zhejiang grid has 5,260 MW, with 640 MW of hydro-power, 4,320 MW of coal-fired power and 300 MW of nuclear power. Zhejiang Province Power Corp. is an independent accounting entity, trying out a commercial management scheme.

“In order to further enlarge the right of power companies to operate on their own, to promote the power generation and distribution companies, to establish gradually the mechanism of independent accounting assuming some responsibility for their profits and operating on their own, we have put into trial operation a commercial management mode in the inner management of our network,” said Fei Pian, Zhejiang Province Electric Power Bureau chief engineer.

A model power market and a network management accounting center were established for network power exchange. The profits of the province corporation, generation and distribution companies “coexist,” creating management rivalry between the power generation and distribution companies.

Pian said many problems face his grid, which has an incomplete 500-kV network system and generation and transmission needs that are outpacing construction. He said management is working to develop thermal, hydro and nuclear power simultaneously. PSHS is also being constructed. Zhejiang is working to have 5,000 MW of new installed capacity by the year 2000. The 500-kV transmission grid should be completed by then as well.

“The government and people of Zhejiang province are very active in building power,” Pian said. “And many foreign investors are impressed with the future in Zhejiang and also have high enthusiasm to build power in Zhejiang, and we will adhere to the principle of multi-channel, multi-mode fund raising to build power and speed up the development of power and industry.”

Zhejiang province has 11 regions, 66 counties and an area of 1,800 sq. km. The population is 43 million. The gross national product for the province has increased 13.3 percent annually between 1978 and 1998, one of the highest rates in the country. By 1992, Zhejiang had become the sixth-strongest economy of the 30 Chinese provinces.

“We have begun studying programs to improve the security levels of power system operation and will consider importing foreign advanced technology and equipment in order to make remarkable progress in the safe, high-quality and economic operation of Zhejiang grid,” Pian said.

Central China

The four provinces of Central China are working to develop a 30-year plan, following the national economic strategy. This region plans 23,000 MW of new thermal power between 1995 and 2000, 26,200 MW are expected between 2001 and 2010, and another 3,960 are foreseen for the decade between 2011 and 2020.

The power stations being constructed between now and the year 2000 will use 300-MW units except for five 600-MW units which will be put into operation in the years 1998, 1999 and 2000, according to Zhou Dianbang, Central China Electric Power Group Co. chief engineer. Dianbang said his company is working to import more supercritical 600-MW units for the years following the turn of the century, looking to increase to 1,000-MW units gradually.

“It is estimated that by year 2010, the coal-consuming ratio will be under 340 g/kWhr, and the total installed capacity (including hydropower) will be 105,300 MW,” he said. “The whole network`s strength will be raised, and efficiency data will be close to that of advanced countries.”

National coordination

Several national research centers of engi- neering technology for traditional industries–supported by institutes and universities in their fields–have been approved, according to Tang Shen Hua, Ministry of Electric Power Automation Institute vice chief engineer. One of these is the National Engineering Technology of Electric Power Automation Research Center (EPARC), founded in 1992. EPARC is building an emulation test laboratory, estimating it will take three years to build and equip the laboratory.

“Physical and digital imitation devices make it more reliable to test the electric power equipment,” Hua said. The center has imported a set of real-time digital emulator and periphery devices from Canada. These will allow testing of new products and research testing of complex processes in power systems.

The main task of the National Research Center of Engineering Technology is to make systematic use of scientific advancements to develop new technology and products for enterprises, he said.

EPARC is working to bring new, improved products to the local marketplace through its research with a goal of becoming the “center of the Chinese electric power automation industry.”

Into the future

There can be no doubt that China is a hot spot for the electrical development industries, and there seems to be room enough for interested parties from around the world to find a niche. China is eager to add capacity through almost any fuel or modern technology available. As the demand for electricity continues to outpace the frantic efforts of builders, government and private interests are coming together to welcome the technology and investments of foreign companies whose domestic markets have stagnated. It`s a mutually beneficial trend that seems to be continuing and that should make the Third Annual China Electric Power Industry Forum, planned April 23 through April 26, 1996 in Wuhan, even more lively than the 1995 event.

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Figure 2. Coals are subject to aging processes during their formation that progressively reduce the volatile, fixed carbon ratio. This ratio was used to sequence the coals shown. For this figure, the dry and ash-free ortion (the combustible part of coal) has been set the same for all examles.

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A chance for delegates from China to meet with visitors from many other lands.