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There’s No Debate: It Pays to Take Control of Your Heat Rate

In this election year, two hot-button issues have been energy efficiency and cost control. Politicians on a local and national level have argued over the challenges these topics present in today’s business climate.

However, one point that’s not debatable is the potential savings a power plant can realize by improving efficiency. Taking control of your heat rate can help you use energy more efficiently, minimize fuel costs and improve your bottom line.

Here’s fact that underscores the point very clearly: Improving heat rate by merely 1% can generate $500,000 in annual savings for a 500-megawatt power plant. (A 1% improvement in heat rate is worth $500,000 in annual fuel cost savings based on: Fuel cost of $1.25/million Btu, Capacity factor of 85% and Boiler efficiency of 88%.)

Two Causes of Heat Rate Inefficiency and Fuel Cost Acceleration

Fuel expenditures are often the largest production expense for power plants. For most power plant operators, these expenditures account for 70% to 80% of production costs.

It’s also important to note that as a plant ages it becomes even less efficient. Most power plants have a life expectancy of 30 to 40 years, and many plants are at or reaching their operational longevity.

In addition, older plants often use outdated level technologies that cannot achieve a performance level sufficient to manage controllable losses due to instrument-induced errors.

Here are two causes of heat rate inefficiency that can be overcome.

1. Mechanical or electronic drift due to aging instrumentation, moving parts or intrinsic design. Torque tube/displacer technology requires calibration between shutdowns to achieve reasonable accuracy and prevent nuisance deviation alarms between multiple level transmitters. In addition, this technology may take too long to respond to rapid level changes due to dampening effects that are fundamental to its principle of operation.

2. Measurement technology that is vulnerable to process conditions.
Shifts in specific gravity and the dielectric constant of media related to variations in process pressure and temperature affect the accuracy of differential pressure, magnetostrictive, RF capacitance and torque tube/displacer technologies. As a result, these technologies cannot provide accurate level from startup to operational temperatures without applying external correction factors – or can only deliver the specified accuracy at operational temperatures. To compound the issue, calibrations performed on these technologies during a shutdown often require adjustment when the process reaches operating temperature to maintain acceptable control and prevent unnecessary deviation alarms.

The bottom line is that aging level instrumentation combined with instrument-induced errors negatively impacts heat rate and fuel costs.

Proven Technologies for Heat Rate Reduction Efforts

Power plant operators that want to reduce their heat rate should consider highly accurate level control solutions needed to satisfy the most complex applications.

Magnetrol® provides a full array of innovative and reliable level measurement solutions, including the industry-leading guided wave radar:

Eclipse® 706 Guided Wave Radar Transmitter

Why Choose It: Leading edge level transmitter designed to provide measurement performance well beyond that of many of the more traditional technologies.

Key Benefits:

  • Complete proactive diagnostics with automated waveform capture
  • Available with DTMs and allows for HART or Foundation FieldbusTM installations
  • Accurately measures from the bottom to the top of the probe for small ranges without a dead zone or transition zone
  • Superior signal-to-noise ratio

MAGNETROL provides effective solutions to help make all of your level applications – including feedwater heaters, condenser hotwells, deaerators, cooling towers, air heaters and compressed/instrument air – as efficient as possible.

More Information

For more information about managing heat rate and controllable losses, visit