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THE JOURNAL OF ENERGY

AND DEVELOPMENT

Jack A. Fuller and Matthew C. Robinson,

“Fluidized Bed Industry Benchmarking:


A Five-Year Review,”
Volume 41, Number 1

Copyright 2016
FLUIDIZED BED INDUSTRY BENCHMARKING:
A FIVE-YEAR REVIEW

Jack A. Fuller and Matthew C. Robinson*

Introduction

G iven the current world energy climate, strong focuses on greenhouse gas
reduction and increased efficiency, the ability of coal to maintain its market
presence (around half of the United States energy production market in 2013)1
depends on continuous improvement. One of the most important advances in
coal-burning technology is the implementation of fluidized bed combustion
(FBC). With support from the U.S. Department of Energy, successful commer-
cialization of FBC boilers has been seen across the country over the last couple of
decades.2

*Jack A. Fuller, Professor of Decision Analysis and Operations Management, College of


Business and Economics, West Virginia University (Morgantown), earned an undergraduate degree
in electrical engineering from Iowa State University, a master’s in business administration from the
University of Iowa, and a Ph.D. in the same field from the University of Arkansas. Earlier, the author
held teaching and administrative positions at California State University, Los Angeles, University of
Oklahoma, and University of Northern Iowa and has served as a consultant for the U.S. Department
of Energy, Ashland Coal, Inc., and West Virginia Re-Refining, Ltd., among others. His articles have
appeared in The Journal of Energy Resources Technology, The Journal of Energy Engineering, The
Business Review, The Journal of Business and Economics Research, The Energy Journal, and
Energy Studies Review, as a sampling.
Matthew C. Robinson, a Research Assistant Professor at West Virginia University, earned both
his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering, also from that institution. The author’s
primary research interests are in internal combustion engines, free piston engines, advanced
modeling and simulation, and dynamic energy systems. Dr. Robinson’s publications have appeared
in The Journal of Energy and Development, SAE International Journal of Engines, and ASME
Journal of Gas Turbines and Power, among others, and has current work under review for
publication in Applied Energy.

The Journal of Energy and Development, Vol. 41, Nos. 1 and 2


Copyright Ó 2016 by the International Research Center for Energy and Economic Development
(ICEED). All rights reserved.
119
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Since the conception of FBC in the 1970s, modeling and experimentation have
played key roles in advancing and adapting the technology. The central advantage
is the ability of the boilers to very effectively burn cheap, low-grade fuels. This
is achieved as hot air is injected into a burning base of material. This base is
thus highly turbulent and lends to excellent heat transfer and flame propagation
throughout the base mixture. The use of fuel additives has also led to relatively
low harmful emissions such as particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxide (NOx),
sulfur dioxide (SO2), and carbon monoxide (CO).3 The success of FBC boilers has
led to market penetration in power generation, steam generation, and cogeneration
applications.4
In an effort to continuously improve the FBC industry, a broad, survey-based
benchmark study has been at work since just before the year 2000. This study
involves many participants, particularly, members of the Council of Industrial
Boiler Owners (CIBO) and certain faculty at West Virginia University (WVU).
Each year, a voluntary survey is sent to plant owners. The survey is designed to
collect information including the size of the plant, number of boilers, boiler
emissions, and manager/employee data. Usable sets of data from plant owner
participants have ranged from as many as 35 (around one-third of the industry
represented) in year 2000 to as few as 16 in 2010.5
Benchmarking in industry has proven to be a valuable practice. The process
relies on data taken from similar industry members used to identify best practices
and insight into superior performance.6 In practice, benchmarking is most ef-
fective when applied to many industry members and over the course of many
years.

Notable FBC Benchmarks

In most recent years, 2007–2011, the benchmark surveys have mostly been
aimed at gathering information regarding plant size in terms of heat and power
output, fuel use, employees, outages, and emissions. The size of a plant is rep-
resented in the number of boilers, reported boiler efficiency rates, and gross and
net heat rates in British thermal units per gross kilowatt hour (Btu/kWh). The fuel
use is characterized by the type of fuel, which may include coal, gob (waste coal
products), wood, biomass, and petcoke, as well as the calcium to sulfur (Ca/S)
ratio of the fuel. This ratio directly correlates to sulfur-related emissions and the
desulfurization ability of a boiler.7 The number of full-time staff and management
are normalized for plants in terms of power (megawatt-hour, MWh) produced.
Plant outages are described by percent of time available and then broken down by
boiler type, forced or unforced, and reason for outage. The number of man-days of
lost time accidents is also recorded for participating plants. Emissions information
deals with fly ash, bottom ash, and, more recently, mercury emissions.
FLUIDIZED BED INDUSTRY BENCHMARKING 121

Previous Studies

Recent survey data are available for years 2007–2010. For each of these years,
similar benchmark studies were performed, thus providing valuable performance
trend information. The following is a brief summary of these studies.
Year 2007 Data: The results of the survey and analysis representing operation
year 2007 were published in 2011.8 Twenty-two survey responses were received
and from these responses: the average total gross boiler heat rate was 11,619 Btu/
kWh, the average total net boiler heat rate was 13,333 Btu/kWh, the average boiler
efficiency was 86 percent, the average Ca/S ratio per boiler was 3.5, and the av-
erage number of man-days of lost time accidents was 4.1.
Year 2008 Data: The results of the survey and analysis representing operation
year 2008 were also published in 2011.9 Twenty-one survey responses were re-
ceived and from these responses: the average total gross boiler heat rate was
11,072 Btu/kWh, the average total net boiler heat rate was 12,267 Btu/kWh, the
average boiler efficiency was 85 percent, the Ca/S ratio per boiler was 2.8, and the
average number of man-days of lost time accidents was 5.0.
Year 2009 Data: The results of the survey and analysis representing operation
year 2009 are currently being published.10 Eighteen survey responses were received
and from these responses: the average total gross boiler heat rate was 11,019 Btu/
kWh, the average total net boiler heat rate was 13,149 Btu/kWh, the average boiler
efficiency was 87 percent, the average Ca/S ratio per boiler was 2.6, and the average
number of man-days of lost time accidents was 18.
Year 2010 Data: The results of the survey and analysis representing operation
year 2010 are summarized here, and they can be reviewed more extensively in
a recent publication.11 Sixteen survey responses were received and from these re-
sponses: the average total gross boiler heat rate was 11,885 Btu/kWh, the average
total net boiler heat rate was 13,149 Btu/kWh, the average boiler efficiency was 85
percent, the average Ca/S ratio per boiler was 2.5, and the average number of man-
days of lost time accidents was 10.

This Study — Year 2011 Data

As in previous studies, plant information was gathered via survey. Members of


CIBO and industry FBC boiler operators received the survey and completion of
the assessment was voluntary. As a result of the survey, data similar to recent
studies were collected from 16 participants. Of these responders, eight plants
operated at or below 70 MW of net power while eight plants operated above.
These 16 plants represented 30 individual fluidized bed boilers. Primary fuel
sources included coal (seven respondents), gob (four), culm (two), petcoke (two),
122 THE JOURNAL OF ENERGY AND DEVELOPMENT

and biomass (one). Half of the plants made use of a secondary fuel including seed corn,
biomass, tire-derived fuel (TDF), wood, paper sludge, and/or natural gas. The survey
results are quickly summarized in table 1. [Editor’s Note: All figures follow the text.]
Boiler Performance: In table 1, three sections are given on a per boiler basis,
total gross boiler heat rate, and total net boiler heat rate. Of the respondents at or
below 70 MW, the average total gross boiler heat rate was 11,719 Btu/kWh while
the average of those above 70 MW was 10,154 Btu/kWh, bringing the overall
average to 10,780 Btu/kWh. The average total net boiler heat rate of those at or
below 70 MW was 13,357 Btu/kWh with the average of those above 70 MW was
12,172 Btu/kWh, bringing the overall average to 12,646 Btu/kWh. The average
boiler efficiency was the same 83 percent for all three categories.
Plant Operation: For the 2011 data year, full-time staff was broken down into
two categories: operations and maintenance. On average, there was 0.31 full-time
operations staff per gross MW of plant capacity. The reported minimum and
maximum values were 0.00 and 1.03, respectively. On average, there were 0.19
full-time maintenance staff per gross MW of plant capacity. The reported mini-
mum and maximum values were 0.05 and 0.63, respectively. The average number
of full-time management per gross MW of capacity was 0.10 with responses
ranging between 0.02 and 0.19. The average number of man-days of lost time
accidents during operational year 2011 was nine. This is misleading, however, as
12 plants reported zero days of lost time, two plants reported high values of 23 and
107, and two plants did not respond to the survey question.
Overall, boilers were available 92 percent of operation time. This is the highest
reported value of the last five years. If boiler availability is broken down by fuel
type, coal-fired boilers were available the least at 91 percent while petcoke-fueled
and biomass-fueled boilers were available the most at 95 percent of the time. Of
the outage hours that did occur, an overall 26 percent of those hours were forced
with an overall 93 percent of the outage hours being boiler related. This is dis-
played in greater detail in table 2.
Environmental Impact: From the 30 boilers represented, the overall average
Ca/S ratio was 3.00 with a minimum value of 1.25 and a maximum of 6.25. The
overall average amount of fly ash used for beneficial purposes was 54 percent per
boiler ranging from 0 percent to 100 percent. The overall average amount of bottom
ash used for beneficial purposes was 72 percent per boiler, again ranging from
0 percent to 100 percent. Overall, 62 percent of respondents find air toxic emissions
information available and 77 percent find mercury emissions information available.
Boiler O/M Concerns: As in previous years, owners were asked to rate their
concerns for the next operational year on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most
concerning. During the year 2011, the highest three concerns for the 2012 oper-
ation year were boiler pressure parts, boiler backpass parts, and boiler combustion
FLUIDIZED BED INDUSTRY BENCHMARKING 123

parts. These concerns were all rated on average between 6.5 and 7.5 out of 10. The
full spectrum of responses for 2012 concerns can be seen in figure 1. [Editor’s
Note: All figures follow the text.]

Comparisons to Past Years

The true purpose of benchmark studies is to identify superior performance


trends and consistent weaknesses within an industry. Comparing year 2011 data to
past years is useful in this process. Unfortunately, the nature of the survey makes it
difficult to compile data from older years. For recent years, however, the available
data can be seen in table 3.
From the limited amount of data available in the comparison table, it is difficult
to draw hard conclusions; however, a few observations can be made. Starting with
a peak in the number of survey respondents in 2007, the amount of survey data
have steadily fallen. Since 2006, the average gross boiler heat rate has decreased
while the net heat rate has shown no specific trend. This has been matched by
a general decrease in average boiler efficiency and average employment rate of the
plants. More on the positive side, the average percent of time available for plants
submitting survey data has been maintained over the past years, and the percent of
outage hours that are forced has decreased. Seeing this in the data may only be
related to the respective groups of survey respondents or possibly improvements in
plant operation or boiler technologies.
It is possible that these improvements can be seen if the data are expanded
further to represent the types of technologies behind the scenes. Figures 2 and 3
show that plant availability has improved over past years and that plants operating
on gob fuels are the most available. Added to the list of fuel types for the 2011 data
analysis are petcoke and biomass. Boilers utilizing these types of fuel were suc-
cessful in being the most available during 2011.
Outage hours are divided between forced and unforced (planned). Looking at
the percent of forced outage hours provides insight into the nature and seri-
ousness of the outages. Figures 4 and 5 break the forced outages of 2011 down
by boiler age and fuel type, respectively, and compare them to past years of
operation. Looking at these figures, forced outage hours as a percent of total
outage hours were higher in 2011 than in 2010, but lower than the running
average. For 2011, more modern boilers had a higher percentage of forced
outage hours and this is consistent with the higher percentages attained by gob,
culm, petcoke, and biomass boilers as these are likely to be newer in operation.
Taking this a step further and re-examining figure 2, since 2005 newer boilers
(post-1990) have allowed for a plant availability of two percentage points
higher than older boilers (pre-1990). This is only a general statement as it was
124 THE JOURNAL OF ENERGY AND DEVELOPMENT

clearly not the case in 2009 and in other years (including 2011) the difference is
negligible.
Moving on, outage hours can be broken down by causes. Figures 6 through 8
focus on boiler-related outage hours. From figure 6, two observations are clear;
boiler-related causes dominate with an average of about 86 percent of total outage
hours. Also, boiler-related outages are consistently planned for rather than forced.
Figure 7 breaks boiler-related outages down by boiler age and figure 8 breaks them
down by fuel used. From 2005 to 2008 newer boilers performed worse than older
boilers in terms of causing outages. This has changed over the past three years
(2009–2011) as boiler-related outages as a percent of total outage hours has been
higher for older boilers. Consistency is evident when looking at boiler-related
outages by fuel type. From 2005 to 2008, coal-fired boilers caused a lower percent
of outages than gob-fueled boilers. Over the past three years, however, this
percentage has been higher than gob-fueled boilers. In 2011, newly considered
petcoke- and biomass-fueled boilers caused a relatively high number of outage
hours. This may be due to a lack of reliability of newer technology or, as may be
the case with any of the data being presented, could be due to a small amount of
data available for analysis. Finally, figure 9 demonstrates the causes of forced
outages in greater detail by more specific causes. This gives a better understanding
of the true causes of outages and may lead to improvements in components and
technology to prevent system malfunctions and breakdowns. In 2011, nearly 40
percent of forced outage hours were caused by malfunctioning combustion pres-
sure parts, followed by backpass pressure parts at just over 20 percent. This sig-
nificantly lends to the greatest concern for 2012 operation of pressure parts shown
in figure 1.

Conclusions

Given the current world energy situation and need for improvements and in-
novations in energy production technology, an annual benchmark study offers
a useful tool in keeping the fluidized bed industry relevant and competitive. The
2011 study and analysis, whose data are presented here, continue this effort.
Moving forward, efforts should be put into increasing the number of survey re-
spondents and available data. Of those that have responded, improvements in
pressure parts offer the greatest possibility of progress as they continue to cause
the majority of forced outages. Beyond this, as the use of petcoke, biomass, and
other various fuels continues to become more prominent, this benchmark study
may provide insight into points of improvement for their use.
FLUIDIZED BED INDUSTRY BENCHMARKING 125

Table 1
SUMMARY OF 2011 BENCHMARK RESULTS

Benchmark Overall Average

1 Total gross boiler heat rate [BTU/gross kWh] (per boiler) 10,780
2 Total net boiler heat rate [BTU/gross kWh] (per boiler) 12,646
3 Boiler efficiency percent (per boiler) 83%
4 Calcium/Sulfur ratio (per boiler) 3.0
5 Percent of fly ash used for beneficial purposes (per boiler) 54%
7 Percent of bottom ash used for beneficial purposes (per boiler) 72%
10 Can you comply with Boiler MACT? 54%
11 Availability of mercury (Hg) emissions information 77%
12 Number of full-time staff per gross MW capacity 0.5
13 Number of full-time management per gross MW capacity 0.1
14 Man-days of lost time accidents in 2011 9
15 Percent of time boiler/plant available -
16 Percent of outage hours that were forced -
17 Percent of outage hours that were boiler related -

Table 2
a
SUMMARY OF 2011 BENCHMARK DATA

Group
Bench- Time Gob & Petcoke & Pre- Post-
mark Period Overall Coal Gob Culm Biomass 1990 1990

2011 92% 91% NA 94% 95% 92% 92%


15 2005 – 2010 90% 89% 95% NA NA 89% 91%

2011 26% 10% NA 57% 40% 9% 43%


16 2005 – 2010 33% 28% 34% NA NA 34% 32%

2011 93% 93% NA 91% 100% 97% 89%


17 2005 – 2010 87% 89% 88% NA NA 84% 89%

a
Gob = low-grade/waster coal products; culm = waste coal; and NA = not available.
126 THE JOURNAL OF ENERGY AND DEVELOPMENT

Table 3
DATA SUMMARY INCLUDING RECENT SURVEY YEARS, 2006–2011

Benchmark 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011

Number of respondents 13 22 21 18 16 16
Total gross boiler heat rate
[BTU/gross kWh] 12,007 11,619 11,072 11,019 11,885 10,780
Total net boiler heat rate
[BTU/gross kWh] 12,943 13,333 12,267 13,149 13,149 13,357
Boiler efficiency percent NA 86% 85% 87% 85% 83%
Calcium/Sulfur ratio (per boiler) 2.8 3.5 2.8 2.6 2.5 3.0
Full-time staff per million MWh NA 0.62 0.59 0.71 0.78 0.50
Full-time management per million MWh NA 0.16 0.11 0.13 0.14 0.10
Man-days of lost time accidents NA 4.1 5.0 18.0 10.0 9.0
Percent of time boiler/plant available 91% 91% 91% 89% 90% 92%
Percent of outage hours that were forced 32% 40% 40% 38% 20% 26%
Percent of outage hours that were
boiler related 84% 91% 90% 83% 90% 93%
Figure 1
BOILER O/M CONCERNS FOR YEAR 2012 OPERATION
(Year 2012 concern priority with high = 10 and low = 1)
FLUIDIZED BED INDUSTRY BENCHMARKING
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Figure 2
PERCENT OF TIME PLANT AVAILABLE BY AGE OF BOILER, 2005–2011

Figure 3
PERCENT OF TIME PLANT AVAILABLE BY FUEL TYPE, 2005–2011
FLUIDIZED BED INDUSTRY BENCHMARKING 129

Figure 4
PERCENT OF OUTAGE HOURS THAT WERE FORCED BY AGE OF BOILER, 2005–2011

Figure 5
PERCENT OF OUTAGE HOURS THAT WERE FORCED BY FUEL TYPE, 2005–2011
130 THE JOURNAL OF ENERGY AND DEVELOPMENT

Figure 6
PERCENT OF OUTAGE HOURS THAT WERE BOILER RELATED, 2005–2011

Figure 7
PERCENT OF OUTAGE HOURS THAT WERE BOILER RELATED BY AGE OF BOILER,
2005–2011
FLUIDIZED BED INDUSTRY BENCHMARKING 131

Figure 8
PERCENT OF OUTAGE HOURS THAT WERE BOILER RELATED BY FUEL TYPE,
2005–2011
132

Figure 9
FORCED OUTAGE CAUSES IN 2011
(As a percent of forced outage hours)
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FLUIDIZED BED INDUSTRY BENCHMARKING 133

NOTES
1
U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Annual Energy Outlook 2013 Early Release
Overview (Washington, D.C.: EIA, December 2012).
2
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Fluidized Bed Technology – Overview (Washington, D.C.:
DOE, February 2009).
3
A. J. Minchener, “Fluidized Bed Combustion Systems for Power,” Proceedings of the In-
stitution of Mechanical Engineers, Part A, Journal of Power and Energy, vol. 217, no. 1 (2003), pp.
9–18.
4
J. Koornneef, M. Junginger, and A. Faaij, “Development of Fluidized Bed Combustion – An
Overview of Trends, Performance and Cost,” Progress in Energy and Combustion Science, vol. 33,
no. 1 (2007), pp. 19–55.
5
J. Fuller and M. Robinson, “Realizing Performance and Emissions Goals through Bench-
marking the Fluidized Bed Industry,” The Journal of Energy and Development, vol. 39, no. 2
(2014), pp. 265–78.
6
O. Adebanjo, A. Abbas, and R. Mann, “An Investigation of the Adoption and Implementation
of Benchmarking,” International Journal of Operations and Production Management, vol. 30,
no. 11 (2010), pp. 1140–169.
7
J. A. Fuller and L. S. Ayre, “Benchmarking the North American Fluidized Bed Industry,” West
Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, 2011.
8
J. A. Fuller and L. S. Ayre, “The Efficiency and Performance of Atmospheric Fluidized Bed
Combustion Plants,” The Journal of Energy and Development, vol. 34, no. 1 (2011), pp. 111–20.
9
J. A. Fuller and L. S. Ayre, “Performance Enhancements for the Reduced Environmental
Impact of Atmospheric Fluidized Bed Combustion Plants,” The Journal of Energy and Develop-
ment, vol. 34, no. 2 (2011), pp. 253–63.
10
J. A. Fuller and L. S. Ayre, “Benchmarking the North American Fluidized Bed Industry.”
11
J. Fuller and M. Robinson, “Realizing Performance and Emissions Goals through Bench-
marking the Fluidized Bed Industry.”