The integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) is the most environmentally friendly coal-fired power generation technology that offers near zero green house gas emissions. This technology has higher thermal efficiency compared to conventional coal-fired power generation plants and uses up to 50% less water. This work involves the optimization of IGCC power plants by applying process integration techniques to maximize the use of energy available within the plant. The basis of this project was the theoretical investigations which showed that optimally designed and operated IGCC plants can achieve overall thermal efficiencies in the regions of 60%. None of the current operating IGCC plants approach this overall thermal efficiency, with the largest capacity plant attaining 47%. A common characteristic in most of these IGCC plants is that an appreciable amount of energy available within the system is lost to the environment through cold utility, and through plant irreversibility to a smaller extent. This work focuses on the recovery of energy, that is traditionally lost as cold utility, through application of proven process integration techniques. The methodology developed comprises of two primary energy optimization techniques, i.e. pinch analysis and the contact economizer system. The idea behind using pinch analysis was to target for the maximum steam flowrate, which will in turn improve the power output of the steam turbine. An increase in the steam turbine power output should result in an increase in the overall thermal efficiency of the plant. The contact economizer system is responsible for the recovery of low potential heat from the gas turbine exhaust en route to the stack to heat up the boiler feed water (BFW). It was proven in this work that a higher BFW enthalpy results in a higher overall efficiency of the plant. A case study on the Elcogas plant illustrated that the developed method is capable of increasing the gross efficiency from 47% to 55%. This increase in efficiency, however, comes at an expense of increased heat exchange area required to exchange the extra heat that was not utilized in the preliminary design.
Dissertation (MEng)--University of Pretoria, 2011.