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IFRF in China

From the IFRF Office
Contributed by Philip Sharman
Sheffield, Monday 6th August 2018

With a view to ‘set wheels in motion’ for the establishment of a National Committee of IFRF in China, IFRF Director Philip Sharman spent five days visiting Chinese organisations at the end of July.  This visit – coordinated by IFRF Council Member Professor Yong YAN of North China Electric Power University (NCEPU) and the University of Kent in the UK – was a whistle-stop tour of visits to three leading universities in Beijing and one in Hangzhou (Zhejiang province), and three companies in Beijing, plus a ‘round-table’ meeting to sound-out the interest of forming a ‘Chinese Flame Research Committee’ over the next few months.

Philip was delighted to find a lot of interest in IFRF and an eager group willing to move ahead with establishing an IFRF presence in China.  He was welcomed warmly at every site he visited and was shown an excellent range and scale of world-leading experimental laboratory and pilot-scale plant at the various facilities he visited.  Many new friendships were forged (and a couple of old ones rekindled from Philip’s years as a director at Alstom Power), particularly during the many delicious banquets that the hosts provided:  Philip’s chopstick skills flourished…!

Particular thanks go to Professor Yong YAN and Dr Xiangchen QIAN of NCEPU for the excellent arrangements for the whole visit, and to PhD students Jiali and Qiang for their attentive patience in ensuring that Philip was in the right place at the right time.  Thanks too go to Professors Lijun XU and Zhang CAO of Beihang University, Professor Shuiqing LI and Dr Yi-hua REN of Tsinghua University, Professors Kefa CEN and Hao ZHOU of Zhejiang University, and Ms Qin ZHANG and Mr Ming LIN of Beijing Elandar…, Dr Gengda LI and Zhou LV of China Energy Corporation, and Dr Yuen YE of the Huaneng Clean Energy Research Institute.

Here is a day-by-day synopsis of the visit…

DAY ONE – Wednesday 25th July 2018

Philip visited North China Electric Power University (NCEPU) this morning.  He was delighted to be able to visit this key university researching power generation topics.  After meeting with Prof Yong YAN, he was shown round NCEPU’s combustion research facilities, with presentations from other professors, lecturers, and PhD and Masters students.

The combustion research facilities here at NCEPU are very impressive – there is huge amount of laboratory space in the basement and some excellent equipment for researching a wide range of topics, including measuring mass flow rates of CO2 in pipelines, the use of electrostatic sensing in a range of different applications including measuring particle velocity, concentrations and flows in flames, pneumatic pipelines and CFB dryers, using acoustic sensors for detecting CO2 leakage from stores in CCS schemes and measuring temperatures in biomass silos, developing a single particle impact system, and using laser diagnostics for measuring gas composition in O2 and O2+CO2 stabilised hydrocarbon flames.  Thanks to Ding SHAO, Jiali WU, Shitong WU, Wenbiao ZHANG, Yonghui HU, Miao, Qiang and Huawei LIU (respectively) for demonstrating such knowledge on these topics.  You are all a credit to your university!

This afternoon, Philip visited the combustion research facilities of Beihang University.  Beihang is one of the top universities in China for Engineering and has an excellent research portfolio and combustion research facilities relevant to the aerospace sector.  Philip (and some staff and students from NCEPU who were keen to join the visit!) was hosted by Professor Zhang CAO of Beihang’s Key Laboratory of Precision Opto-Mechatronic Engineering.  Prof CAO demonstrated Beihang’s cutting-edge work on developing various intrusive and non-intrusive detectors, including a tunable diode laser absorption spectroscope (TDLAS) for non-intrusive scanning for H2O, CO2 and NOx in aeroengines, planar laser-induced fluorescence for increasing engine efficiency and reducing NOx emissions, an electrical thermography system that can monitor flames and even measure two-phase CO2 flow in pipelines, and a laser interferometry system capable of measuring temperature distribution in flames independently of pressure (e.g. useful on the Space Station!).  The visit concluded with post-doc Xin XUE giving us a tour of the high-pressure, high-temperature test rigs at Beihang – capable of operating at pressures from 0.003-2.5kPa, and temperatures up to 1450K.  A fascinating visit to end an excellent first day in China!

DAY TWO – Thursday 26th July 2018

This morning, several leading professors from Beihang University, Tsinghua University and North China Electric Power University (NCEPU), together with representatives of Beijing Enlandar Advanced Instrumentation & Control Co., Ltd (’Elandar’), met with Philip to consider establishing a ‘Chinese Flame Research Committee’ to join the eight existing national committees of IFRF from around the world.  Following discussion of each organisation’s research interests and a presentation from Philip on IFRF’s 70-year heritage and plans for the future, a very positive discussion was had, with a clear intention emerging to move ahead with setting-up a Chinese committee in 2019.  Professor Lijun XU, Dean of the School of Instrument Science & Opto-electronic Engineering at Beihang University, Professor Shuiqing LI, Associate Dean of the Department of Energy & Power Engineering at Tsinghua University, Professor Huaichun ZHOU, School of Energy, Power and Mechanical Engineering  and Professor Yong YAN, School of Control & Computer Engineering at NCEPU, and Ms Qin ZHANG and Mr Ming LIN of Elandar took part in the meeting.

After the meeting and an excellent lunch together, Philip left to fly to Hangzhou for meetings and a tour of the combustion research facilities at Zhejiang University tomorrow.

DAY THREE – Friday 27th July 2018

Philip visited Zhejiang University (ZJU) in Hangzhou earlier today.  A meeting with Professors Kefa CEN (Academician, Chinese Academy of Engineering, and Director of the Institute of Thermal Power Engineering of ZJU), Hao ZHOU (Deputy Director), Linghong CHEN, Zhihua WANG, Mingjiang NI, Xuecheng WU and Jinsong ZHOU proved very fruitful, confirming the growing interest in establishing a Chinese Flame Research Committee of IFRF.  There was also a desire to establish an international collaborative partnership between ZJU and the University of Sheffield’s Energy 2050 initiative.

After the meeting, Professor Hao ZHOU and Dr Ning CHU showed Philip around ZJU’s research facilities, including very impressive pilot-scale facilities including CFB (15t/d) and PF (1-2MWth) combustion rigs, CFB pyrolysis/gasification rig (1MWth, 3-6MJ/Nm3), combustion fractional multi-gen test facility (15t/d), ‘T’-fired and down-fired burner test facilities (3.5MWth), single burner test rig (9MWth), oxy-combustion rig and other test furnaces, sintering pots, a large steam generator system, CSP molten salt storage simulation, etc.  The laboratory facilities were equally impressive, demonstrating advanced laser diagnostics (LII, PIV, PDA, HT LIF, etc.), 3-D holography, ‘Rainbow’ measurement techniques and high-speed camera optical methods. 

A new pilot-scale research facility has been opened about 30km from Hangzhou, offering a further 34,500m2 of R&D space, plus lab- and bench-scale facilities, with more building due on this site in 2019.  ZJU certainly have some incredible research facilities, and Professor Hao ZHOU and Philip were exited at the prospect of ZJU becoming a ‘preferred research partner’ of IFRF.   Philip is looking forward to returning to Hangzhou early in 2019 and visiting this new facility.  

DAY FOUR – Saturday 28th July 2018

Philip visited Tsinghua University today as the guest of Professor Shuiqing LI.  A tour of Tsinghua’s combustion research facilities took in a large range of excellent lab- and bench-scale research equipment covering CFB, chemical looping, rotating reactors, down-fired furnace, ESP, FGD, a range of experimental burners (swirl-stabilised, combined swirl-stabilised and spray, flat-flame, diffusion-flame), feed systems for burners and a very interesting range of monitoring and analysis equipment (including RGB colour pyrometry, phase-selective laser-induced breakdown spectrometry – developed at Tsinghua – TDLAS, etc.).  What was very clear throughout the tour was Tsinghua’s very close links with industry:  Subsequent conversations with Professor LI reinforced the importance of industrial collaboration to Tsinghua – fundamental research is very important, but it needs to be aiming to solve real problems faced in industry applications.

Following the tour of facilities, a meeting was held with Dr Gengda LI and Zhou LV of China Energy Corporation (formed recently from the coming together of China Shenhua and China Guodian), and Dr Yuen YE of the Huaneng Clean Energy Research Institute.  It was very interesting to hear about CHN Energy’s successful project to enable the new Hami 2 x 660MWe power plant to combust the high-sodium content Zhundong coal without suffering excessive fouling and slagging (or needing to incur the high cost of coating parts of the boiler), and HCERI’s comprehensive and step-wise approach to cofiring biomass with municipal solid wastes, involving fundamental research, pilot-scale studies, and application to a 300MWe CFB boiler, yielding excellent results.  Philip updated the meeting concerning IFRF’s future plans and there was a positive discussion about future areas of collaboration and knowledge transfer.  The meeting was also attended by Yi-Hua REN and several other Tsinghua researchers, plus a group of staff and students from NCEPU whom Philip met on Wednesday.

In the margins of this meeting, Philip was delighted to renew his acquaintance with Professor Guangxi YUE (whom he had first met when establishing a partnership between Tsinghua University and Alstom Power – of which he was a Technology Director at the time), and also to be introduced to Professor Zhang HAI, also of Tsinghua’s Institute of Thermal Engineering.  A brief visit was also made to the university’s Centre for Combustion Energy, where high-level fundamental research on the chemistry of combustion is undertaken.  This Centre has some very impressive research equipment, including a plasma-assisted combustion flow reactor with time-of-flight mass spectrometry, a molecular beam rig and a flow reactor to GC for looking at pyrolysis of fuels.

All-in-all a fascinating visit to a world-class research university.  Thank you so much for attending this meeting on a Saturday morning during the Summer Holiday time!

DAY FIVE – Sunday 29th July 2018

Today Philip visited the offices of Beijing Enlandar Advanced Instrumentation & Control, meeting with Ms Qin ZHANG (Administration Manager) and two Technical Service Engineers.  Established in 2013, Enlandar is a spin-out from NCEPU and now has around 20 employees, as well as a number of partners involved in production, marketing, etc.

Enlandar’s activities centre on the intelligent control and management of boilers to improve efficiency, reduce emissions and increase safety – objectives that closely align with IFRF’s mission.  To achieve this, Enlandar have developed four products. 

An on-line, non-intrusive, cross-sectional pulverised fuel (PF) measurement system based on electrostatic sensors enables accurate measurement of the concentration, velocity and mass flow distribution of air-fuel two-phase flow in primary air pipes of boilers.  To date some 20 power plants have each been supplied with up to 70 of these units, which are, arguably, the lightest such units available in the world.

A novel PF balancing device and control system comprising PF speed balancing valves and distribution balancing devices enables the data gathered from the above on-line measurement system to regulate the air resistance of primary air pipes so as to ensure an even distribution of PF at the multiple burner nozzles, thereby improving combustion efficiency and reducing emissions of NOx and CO2.

An automatic and intelligent isokinetic sampling device (AIIS-2000) – based on electrostatic cross-correlation velocimetry – can conduct cross-sectional automatic sampling of PF in primary air pipes, enabling calibration of fuel flow concentration and particle size distribution measurement.  To date two power plants have installed six such units each (one per mill).

An online PF particle size measurement system used advanced image processing technology for the real-time monitoring of PF size distribution.  This system overcomes the drawbacks associated with traditional off-line measurement techniques, including the delay in results, laborious and time-consuming process, etc.

Clearly, this innovative and responsive company is beginning to make an impact amongst Chinese boiler operators, and it seems likely that it is only a matter of time before their products find applications outside of China.  Good luck Enlandar!

See photos from our visit to China here. 


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