Tue, 14 April, 2020
TWI has been working with a consortium of companies to help commercialise electron beam welding fabrication for the power generation market. The EBManPower project has seen the industrial deployment of a new type of localised vacuum electron beam welding technology, which could revolutionise manufacturing in the power generation sector.
Project partners, Aquasium Technology Ltd has commercialised the local beam welding technology developed initially at TWI which looks to greatly reduce the time and cost of welding thick section structures for use in the nuclear power industry.
79% of electricity is currently generated via thermal processes, with 62% coming from conventional power plants and the remaining 17% being provided by nuclear fission processes. Since thermal power plants make use of a high volume of thick section (>20mm) components, the demand for thick-section steel structures in the power sector is high and continually growing. Offshore wind is another large user of thick-section components, with >1,000 structures (towers and foundations) requiring 1m tonnes of steel per annum to be cost-effectively fabricated.
A cost-effective manufacturing process for these thick section structures is currently limited by welding times, with a typical 40m long, 60mm thick monopile taking ~6,000 hours of ‘arc-on’ welding time.
Faster and cheaper fabrication would help grow revenues and exports while also creating high value jobs manufacturing and low-carbon energy sectors.
While Aquasium Technology has industrialised the design and robust manufacture of the high productivity ‘EBFlow’ system, which can reduce welding times from 6,000 to <200 hours of welding time, there is a need to validate the system within a large-scale fabrication facility to ensure that cost reductions of over 85% can be maintained.
Lead project partner, ship-builders Cammell Laird have been extending their portfolio into the marine and energy sectors, becoming partners in the U-Battery micro modular reactor (MMR) system. The EBFlow system is focussed on a number of specialist pressure vessels and has been deployed at Cammell Laird’s site in Birkenhead where it is being tested to see if it can fabricate MMRs in a cost-effective manner. If achieved successfully, this process will allow for the widespread deployment of new cost-effective nuclear fission solutions to meet low-carbon energy needs within the UK and across the world.
There are a number of real-life benefits to industry to be had from this project, including stimulating the development of electron beam welding as a flexible and efficient manufacturing technology for components for nuclear power plants.
The project aims to reduce the cost for thick-section steel structures for nuclear power plant and offshore wind use as well as to examine the potential in other industrial applications.
Based on the EBFlow system, this new technology is close to providing a market-ready result. However, it first needs to be validated in a real world environment before it can be pushed to market.
The project should enable the UK-based consortium to compete in the power industry plant component supply chain to deliver further opportunities for associated companies.
The EBManPower project is a joint collaboration between, Cammell Laird, Aquasium Technology Ltd and TWI Ltd supported by Grant funding from InnovateUK