How Portable Machine Tools Can Help: Steam Turbine

by Josh Biggs in Tech on 26th May 2021

Steam turbines are one of the most utilized causes of power generation that contributes to global electricity production. Generally, natural heat sources such as nuclear, solar, coal, or gas energy are used to heat water and cause steam generation. The machine furthermore pressurizes steam and extracts thermal power generation energy through it. 

The thermal steam-based energy applies pressure to the spinning blades, which produces the power output. Statistically, the projected CAGR of the steam turbine market by 2027 is approximately 2.8%. A major reason for the expected growth in steam turbine usage rate is the effectiveness of its power generation process. To note, the entire process depends on how well turbine components function and their conditions. Therefore, to ensure effective performance for longer, maintaining the parts well is important. In this article, you would learn more extensively about portable machining tools, particularly for steam engine performance. 

How does a steam turbine operate?

In a steam turbine, the mainly used heat source heats would up the water to form steam. The gas passes through the blades, and the pressure causes them to rotate. Here, the hot steam expands and then cools down, exalting the available energy. Thereafter, the continuous rotations of the turbine blades give rise to kinetic energy, which powers the generator. 

Typically, the rotating motion and energy emission from steam turbine services are more suitable for operating electric generators. Generally, steam turbine power plants notice approximately 1800-3600 RPM or repetitions per minute. 

Why is steam turbine maintenance highly necessary?

Steam turbines are responsible for a higher percentage of power generation, and the process is very intense. Typically, the temperature can rise over 500°C, the rotational speed of components crosses 3,000 RPM, and pressure can rise to 4,000 PSI. All of these factors can affect the functionality and quality of the steam turbine components, which can subsequently affect turbine operation. Therefore, proper and regular maintenance is advised.

What type of problems are common in steam turbines?

Particular issues are common in steam turbines, including noisy bearings, very hot bearings, unusual vibrations, governor hunting, and gland leakage. Moreover, there are problems visible in lubrication, such as discoloration in the oil, low oil pressure, and broker lubricator. 

To maintain and fix these issues, power plant operators utilize portable machining tools. To note, particular tools are most effective for managing specific machine types. Therefore, it is safer to conduct this step after careful observation, research, and planning.

Component-by-component maintenance with portable machining tools

The following are the accurate portable machining tools for the different steam turbine components. 

  • Turbine casings- Operators can utilize a 2-axis gantry frame-mounted milling rail to fix the split lines from the turbine casing. Also, the steam sealing faces require quick machining, and the tool that is effective here is a line boring machine. 
  • Couplings, bearings, and shaft journals- Generally, bearings come in different versions, and they support the rotor in the turbine within the turbine-shell housing. In smaller turbines, a common component used is rolling element bearings, while larger machines require multi-pad or journal thrust bearings. Here, a suitable maintenance tool for bearing mounts is a line boring machine, while shaft journals require a journal turbine machine or lathe. 
  • Turbine blade refurbishment- Turbine blades need replacement sometimes due to wearing from extreme conditions. One notable tool for fixing the issues is the pin drill. To note, removing the blades is not an easy task, but it is necessary for proper maintenance checks. Portable machining tools like the bespoke PD760 Pin Drill and BLS760 Blade Saw are useful materials.
  • Supporting systems-It is imperative to maintain the condition of pipe connections to ensure proper steam turbine functioning. Here, power plant directors can use clamshell/split frame pipe cutter tools to replace pipe runs. Another example includes a flange-facing machine, which is helpful for machining the connecting valve, pump, and pipe leaking flanges. In case of any vibrations, it is best to use a portable milling machine. Typically, the vibrations occur due to unsteady pumping or motor mounts. For machining purposes, the 2-axis milling machine is used, which comes affixed atop a gantry. Overall, it is important to maintain the supporting system of a turbine well and regularly after installation. It is important to sure no unwanted vibrations or turbine connection disturbance occurs.

How to maintain

Typically, it is effective to carry our major overhauls every 15 years maximum, and it takes 4-8 weeks to complete them. In contrast, minor overhauls should occur after a few years of interval each and usually takes 2-4 weeks to complete. As for regular checks, it is important to continue them weekly, weekly, and/or daily. 

In particular, regular inspections are necessary for monitoring and analyzing changes in lubrication, steam flow rates, pressure, temperature, speed, pressure, and output.


All in all, it is very important to take proper precautions and maintenance steps to safeguard and enhance the steam turbine machine quality. These components contribute to the mechanical work that the turbine-generated energy performs. Altogether, proper monitoring and maintenance would ensure fewer issues in the system and lower repair costs in the future.

Categories: Tech