Recent developments like the significant introduction of renewable energy sources to the electricity networks worldwide have led to more frequent and extended operation of fossil power plants in part load conditions. As a result the typical load spectrum of large steam turbines used for electricity generation has changed over the last years and will continue to do so.

A number of papers has already been published on how to optimize the water-steam cycle and the steam turbine from a thermodynamical and aero-dynamical point of view for this new load regime in order to improve the average efficiency. But the changed load regime also poses a challenge for the mechanical design and structural integrity assessment of steam turbines.

Reason for this is that the rated conditions are not necessarily the most challenging boundary conditions and therefore not necessarily a suitable, conservative envelope for all other load cases for mechanical design. Pressures decrease, but steam temperatures in part loads can increase and heat transfer coefficients and the influence of radiation on the component temperatures change.

With an increasing demand for and a wider range of part load operation it for this reason becomes more important than ever to consider these load cases in the mechanical design.

This paper uses a large, double-flow intermediate pressure steam turbine as an example to investigate the impact of extended part load operation on the design. Both an analytical model and finite element calculations are used to compare from a structural integrity point of view a low part-load load case and the rated load case and to evaluate the significance of heat radiation.

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