Science & Research: The safety of concentrated solar power plants

von Dr. Peter Nagel

The current article discusses recent findings from the article entitled ‘Monitoring light-ends in thermal concentrated solar power plants’ [1] where safe operation is discussed in terms of a plant’s responsibilities to ensure a safe environment according to the dangerous substances and explosive atmospheres regulations 2002 as well as to ensure they are complying with their insurer’s requirements. The perspective is from that of the thermal fluid used in the plant.

A heat transfer fluid (HTF) is a fluid used to transfer heat from a heat source to a heat user. In terms of a concentrated solar power (CSP) plant, the source is the sun and the HTF is used to heat water and to generate steam that turns a turbine and creates electricity. The most commonly used HTF in this sector is the eutectic blend of biphenyl-diphenyl oxide (e.g., Dowtherm A, Globaltherm Omnitech and Therminol VP-1; Table 1) [2]. Table 1. Typical physicochemical properties for mineral and biphenyl-diphenyl oxide fluids. Biphenyl-diphenyl oxide BP Transcal N, GlobalthermÒ M, Shell Thermia B Dowtherm A, GlobalthermÒ Omnitech, Therminol VP-1 Viscous clear-yellow liquid with a mild odour Clear-to-light yellow liquid with a geranium-like odour Kinematic viscosity (at 40, 1000C) Boiling point at 1013 mbar

At the International Tribology Conference in Melbourne, Australia A. Jackson surmised that “Deciding whether to choose a synthetic lubricant or a mineral oil is governed by two factors: Can the initially more expensive synthetic save money in the long run or can it provide some key performance characteristic not obtainable with a mineral oil?” [3]. It is perhaps no surprise that eutectic blends of biphenyl-diphenyl oxide are synthetic HTFs and its key attribute is that it can be used up to 400 degrees Celsius, which is significantly higher than a mineral-based HTF which operates to around 320 degrees Celsius ...

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