Optimal Operation of Coal Plant Ash Hoppers

Emerson's Douglas Morris


Author: Douglas Morris

One of the byproducts of a coal plant is fly ash, which is cleaned from flue gas before it reaches the stack in a plant. Most often, this ash is removed using an electrostatic precipitator or ESP. Since this is substance that doesn’t reliably flow out of a collection bin or silo, operating the system can be problematic and the consequences of poor operation are many. An article in Power Engineering, Fly Ash Handling: Challenges and Solutions, does a fantastic job of describing the difficulties with handling ash.

Many of these operational issues are the result of being unable to accurately measure the level and the shape of the ash pile as it collects in a hopper. To optimally operate an ESP, plants need to allow the bins to fill completely, but since they don’t know the exact shape, they empty hoppers before they are full. This frequent unloaded can prematurely wear equipment. This is better than the alternative of damaging a plate by overfilling.

Because of the non-uniform nature of the ash, many of the technologies used cannot provide a complete enough picture of a bin. Using a system that combines accurate level measurements while also providing a real view of the shape within a hopper can provide the certainty that plants need to optimize ESP operations.

Here is a quick, 1:55 YouTube video, Rosemount 5708 3D Solids Scanner for ESP Hoppers, showing how this 3D Solids Scanner technology can help address these ash-handling challenges for coal plant operators.

From Jim: You can connect and interact with other power experts in the Power industry group in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.

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