Power generation is the process of converting / transforming primary energy sources (e.g. oil, natural gas, and hydro) into easy-to-use and easy-to-transport energy (secondary energy), e.g. electricity. For that purpose, there are several methods of generating electricity available such as power plants. The processing and refinement of primary energy sources relies on refineries.

Power Plants

Electricity is generated in power plants, whereby mechanical energy is transformed into electricity by a generator. These generators are driven by kinetic energy (wind and hydro) or thermal energy sources (e.g. geothermal energy, nuclear power, chemical energy).

Almost all power generation plants use turbines to drive their generators. Turbines are commonly driven by burning gas, wind, steam or water. Especially when water and/or steam is used, a continuous monitoring of the water-steam-circuit is crucial for a safe plant operation.

Schematic view of a power plant using steam

3D application scheme of water treatment in chemical industry
3D application scheme of water treatment in chemical industry

Why is it important to monitor water in power generation industry?

The most common reason for a plant shutdown is the pollution of the water-steam-cicuit by e.g. corrosion, sedimentation and biological growth. Therefore, several international authorities have defined guidelines for recommended measurement ranges of a variety of parameters.

In order to be able to take countermeasures quickly in the case of an impact load (caused, for example, by a leakage) the results of the monitoring system have to be available fast. Hence, laboratory monitoring is not recommended due to the time consuming analysis methods. Online analyzers, however, deliver results within minutes making it possible to redirect contaminated water streams into buffer tanks for example, in order to avoid pollution of the downstream water-circuit or penalties by authorities. Generally any disruption within the plant can lead to costly shutdowns and of course a stop in production which is to be prevented.

With its Quick-series LAR Process Analysers delivers the appropriate analyzer for any cooling and/or process water analysis challenge within power plants. The use of LAR's online measurement technique offers operators enormous saving potentials and production security.

Water in industry

In 2010, 38103 million cubic meters of water were used in industrial processes in Germany. Thereof, 57% were used for electricity and gas generation. Thus, pure and ultrapure water, e. g. boiler feed water, condensate return, and cooling water in particular, represent the largest amount of the total water use.

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Water Management in Refineries

As in other industries, water is used as a raw, auxiliary and/or operating material in a variety of processes. Water management and adequate monitoring are necessary for an efficient and trouble-free production. Impurities or faults in the process lead to deposition and corrosion, the formation of transformation products within the water cycle (e.g. Disinfection By-Products) or to product losses and contamination of the water cycle. Therefore, the continuous monitoring of various water streams is of special importance.

Explosive gasses, vapours and/or mist are often present in industrial plants of the upstream / exploitation sector and any spark could cause an explosion. Nevertheless, online water analyzers need to be installed as close as possible to the process to ensure fast analyses. For this reason, special precautions must be taken.

Normally, the installation of analyzers is made in Ex-proof certified containers that meet the requirements of the respective Ex zone. However, the construction of such a container is expensive and in most cases, the access to these shelters is limited due to special safety precautions. Stand-alone analyzers that are directly equipped with Ex-proof housings remedy the situation.

In accordance with international regulations and standards (EN 60079-2:2011-11 and IEC 600079-2), LAR offers a wide range of tailor-made protective housings for their online water analyzers.

Raw Water

To meet the demand of water, the industry uses raw water from springs, surface water or drinking water sources. Depending on the application, the water must have a specific quality. Under certain circumstances treatment of the water must take place. In order to determine the quality of raw water and to protect the water system against contamination continuous monitoring is indispensable. As monitoring parameters the TOC (total organic carbon), COD (chemical oxygen demand), and toxicity are used.

Depending on the raw water source the measuring technique has to deal with different challenges. In contrast to surface water, water from springs and drinking water are almost pure. Therefore, the measurement technique must be specialized to low measurement ranges. When surface water from rivers and lakes is used animal and plant residues (organic material) such as algae, bacteria or shells can be present, whereby the measurement technique has to deal with organic particles and when sea water is used, high salt concentrations have to be dealt with.

Treated Water

Depending on the purpose for which the water is drawn, the raw water must be pretreated to boiler feed water, cooling water or pure water. For this, sand and activated carbon filter, desalination and decalcification facilities as well as reverse osmosis are used. After the pretreatment the water is monitored for impurities to protect the downstream water system and/or to ensure a high quality production.

For continuous monitoring application-specific analyzers for the measurement of pure water with low particle density are recommended.


Boiler feed water is used for the operation of boiler plants. In general, the treated water is supplied to a steam generator. A portion of the steam produced therein drives a turbine and thus generates electricity. The other portion is used for heating processes. During the heat transfer the steam produced cools down and condenses.

Pollution and interferences in water-steam cycles are responsible for nearly 50% of all unwanted downtimes in power plants. The main reasons here are corrosion and deposits. Depending on the type of power plant, circuit design and the materials used, the water chemistry can vary. Moreover, the water sample has a high temperature. As a consequence, online analyzers used within this application have to align to the measurement tasks of the boiler feed water application. Otherwise, contamination is detected too late or not at all.

3D application scheme of process control in industrial plants
3D application scheme of process control in industrial plants

Industrial Waste Water

Generally, waste water is characterized by suspended and dissolved pollutants. In contrast to municipal waste water, industrial waste water has a more complex water matrix. It may contain chemicals that are highly toxic. Such water requires a more intensive treatment than municipal waste water. Therefore, the difficulties associated with industrial waste water are enormous. Whether adhesive properties, high and fluctuating loads or diverse water matrices, industrial waste water treatment plants must be adapted to specific water compositions in order to optimally perform the cleaning process. For an efficient monitoring, the measurement technique must be adjusted to the specific challenges of difficult water samples.

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Related News for Power Generation

Total Organic Carbon analysers are commonly used to measure the level of organic contamination in water. Online TOC analysers installed in refineries and petrochemical plants are located right in the middle of the process facilities.


LAR's analyzer QuickTOCeffluent is an online TOC analyzer especially designed for water with a low-particle density at the plant’s effluent.


LAR's online total organic carbon analyser determines the TOC in less than three minutes and thus, allows the operators to take fast countermeasures in case of water pollution.