Is the Thermoflow suite just heat balance software?
No, the suite is a comprehensive plant design and simulation expert system, comprising nine modules, which taken together go far beyond the intended scope and capability of heat balance software.
What’s the difference between “heat balance software” and Thermoflow’s suite?
It’s the difference between simulation and creation.
Heat balance programs simulate a network of components defined by the user. Dedicated expert modules within Thermoflow’s suite create the network for a new plant design based on the user’s needs.
Some heat balance programs can simulate components based on their physical design. Thermoflow’s suite creates physical designs, in addition to simulating them.
What are the main advantages of Thermoflow’s suite over “heat balance software”?
Commonly available “heat balance software” programs are network solvers into which the user inputs network configuration and component characteristics. They require the user to know, a priori, the network configuration, its logic, and how to impose and debug it by writing code or scripts. They require the user to know initial values of key flows and pressures, and where to impose them without under- or over-specifying the network. They require the user modelling physical components to know, a priori, their physical design details or performance characteristics. These generic tools can work well for modelling existing plants for which these inputs are already known; provided their user is highly skilled and has plenty of time to focus on a single model. However, no matter how skilled the user is, these programs are not practically useful to create new designs, because it is unrealistic with them to try many configurations, different permutations and combinations of technical parameters, consider the effect of design variations on performance, cost and economics, and find optimal solutions, all within a reasonable time frame.
Thermoflow’s suite, by contrast, is a comprehensive plant design, preliminary engineering, and economic analysis platform. By automating and seamlessly combining network and component design with preliminary engineering, cost estimation and economics, it allows evaluation of hundreds of design options to reach an optimum outcome within a reasonable time frame. The suite goes so far beyond “heat balance software” that it cannot be placed in the same category.
If all I want is a heat balance program, does Thermoflow offer one?
Yes, THERMOFLEX without the PEACE module is a heat balance program which compares favorably in functionality and license price with any other heat balance software on the market. It represents roughly 10% of Thermoflow’s comprehensive suite in terms of intended scope and capability.
Is THERMOFLEX easier to use than other heat balance programs?
THERMOFLEX is easier to use than other heat balance programs because it does not require the user to supply initial values or write code or scripts to get a successful working model. The program has a unique approach: a default hierarchy of pressure and flow dictators will automatically create a solution for a new design of any common type of power or cogeneration plant. Additionally, THERMOFLEX includes a family of “Logical Components” that help the user to implement sophisticated network control logic without the necessity to write code or scripts.
Is THERMOFLEX as versatile as other heat balance programs?
Yes. Its unique logical automation, which makes it very user friendly, does not inhibit flexibility. The user may still write scripts to override our models or change the network control logic to any extent desired. The component models we supply can be replaced by simpler user-defined curves for known equipment, just like other heat balance programs.
What are the advantages of including the optional PEACE module with THERMOFLEX?
Adding PEACE to THERMOFLEX imbues it with a level of built-in design knowledge for plant components, similar to what is contained within Thermoflow’s dedicated expert programs. This allows THERMOFLEX/PEACE to create, either automatically or based on the user’s inputs, the physical design of many major equipment and BOP items.
The basic THERMOFLEX uses simplified thermodynamic models of components. For example, a heat exchanger within a HRSG is “sized” by calculating its “UA” in design mode; and at off-design mode it is “simulated” by scaling its “UA” with mass-flows and other thermodynamic parameters. This is the method used in other, generic heat balance programs.
The optional PEACE module provides access to additional, more sophisticated engineered components, similar to those found within Thermoflow’s dedicated expert programs. So for the example just cited, of a heat exchanger within a HRSG, the engineered PEACE heat exchanger will be sized in design mode by selecting its materials and fin geometry based on the temperatures, pressures, and flue gas composition it will encounter; and by finding all its physical attributes such as its number of tubes, tube rows, flow passes, dimensions and weight. All these selections can be left to the program’s automatic built-in knowledge base, or controlled by the user if desired. In off-design mode, the calculation based on a physical component is more accurate as it takes into account the full heat transfer details that cannot be included in the simpler scaling-rules method common in other heat balance programs. Additionally, the PEACE module estimates the overall dimensions, weights, and cost of each item of major equipment or BOP, and also estimates the cost and cash-flow analysis of the plant as a whole.
What’s the difference between THERMOFLEX/PEACE and other heat balance programs?
The PEACE components in THERMOFLEX include design creation knowledge, similar to what is available at the component level in Thermoflow’s dedicated expert programs. This allows THERMOFLEX/PEACE to rapidly and automatically create the physical designs for major equipment and BOP; as well as their cost estimates, including labor and material costs associated with their installation. Additionally, the PEACE module allows including all plant costs that are not related to the heat balance, such as site work, civil, electrical, tankage, buildings, fire-fighting equipment, etc. These additional features of THERMOFLEX/PEACE go beyond mere heat balance software. Finally, the use of detailed physical models for off-design calculations gives more accurate results than possible with heat balance programs which rely on scaling rules for off-design.
Why does Thermoflow have separate dedicated expert programs for creating combined cycles and conventional steam plant designs?
GT PRO and STEAM PRO incorporate a logical design creation philosophy for their respective plant categories, and this is entirely different for combined cycles than for conventional steam cycles. The types of equipment used and inputs you assume to design them differ between a combined cycle and a conventional steam plant. By focusing on the category of plant you are designing, we help you to create an efficient plant. We apply knowledge-based procedures to automatically derive configuration details and secondary inputs to suit your primary inputs and selections. We help you by cross-checking and validating your inputs. GT PRO and STEAM PRO provide a framework that guides you through the plant creation process, so you can quickly and efficiently obtain professional, optimized designs.
Why are GT MASTER and STEAM MASTER separate modules from GT PRO and STEAM PRO?
When designing a new plant using the dedicated expert programs (GT PRO or STEAM PRO), your inputs describe what you are trying to achieve and your high level technical selections, and the program guides you to develop the configuration and designs the custom equipment for you. When simulating a fixed plant (GT MASTER or STEAM MASTER), the inputs are its physical hardware and its control actions, triggered by various parameters reaching their set-points. The types of inputs and the philosophy of creating, organizing, and checking them are very different between the design creation “PRO” process and the plant simulation “MASTER” process.
Why four modules (GT PRO, GT MASTER, STEAM PRO, STEAM MASTER) to perform tasks that can be done with THERMOFLEX alone?
Each of the four expert programs contains a vast array of built-in knowledge, specific to the plant category, and different for design creation “PRO” vs simulation “MASTER”. To cover all practical scenarios, GT PRO & GT MASTER each have over 4,000 inputs; STEAM PRO & STEAM MASTER each have over 3,500 inputs. For one expert program to cover both plant categories, both design creation and simulation, and with an equal level of built-in knowledge, guidance, automation, detail and flexibility, it would have had over 15,000 inputs and a labyrinthine structure. This would severely challenge its organization and orderly flow of logic, rendering it hard to develop, use, describe, or maintain.
By contrast, a general purpose program like THERMOFLEX relies on the user, rather than the program, to supply the overall scheme, the configuration details, the component selections, the network design and off-design control logic, and a host of critical minutae. This allows a single program to perform all the required tasks for any plant category and configuration, but places additional demands on the user’s own knowledge and expertise. Even users who possess the requisite knowledge and expertise will spend much more time with a general purpose program than with the dedicated expert programs to achieve similar results.
How flexible are the dedicated expert programs?
GT PRO & GT MASTER are highly flexible. They cover a vast variety of configuration permutations and combinations which encompass any practical combined cycle configuration. Likewise, STEAM PRO and STEAM MASTER cover almost every practical conventional steam plant design and feature. Each of these four programs has over 3,500 inputs, providing extensive flexibility and covering myriad details. Additionally, the dedicated expert programs allow users to write their own scripts, if desired, to modify or extend the programs’ built-in logic and features.
The principal limitation on flexibility is that these programs focus on their unique, dedicated tasks: GT PRO & GT MASTER are gas turbine combined cycle & cogeneration programs and cannot model a conventional steam power plant. STEAM PRO & STEAM MASTER are conventional steam power plant programs and cannot model a combined cycle. All focus on the power plant itself and do not extend beyond it into complex steam networks such as found in refineries, paper mills, and various industrial plants; and such facilities should be modelled with THERMOFLEX.
How easy is creating a plant with the dedicated expert programs?
Despite having thousands of inputs for configuration and design details, the programs are very easy to use. Their structure, built-in knowledge, and expert logic guide you through the configuration and input process in a logical, orderly fashion. You will frequently create professional plant designs in GT PRO or STEAM PRO by editing fewer than 20 inputs from their defaults or automatically-generated values. Vast flexibility and detail are available when you need them, but do not intrude when you need professional results quickly and easily. We have invested 140,000 hours of experienced talent in building up the expert knowledge in PDE/GT PRO/GT MASTER/PEACE; and 90,000 hours in STEAM PRO/STEAM MASTER/RE-MASTER/PEACE; so that you can design and optimize a new plant in hours, not months.
Are the component models similar in different Thermoflow programs?
There is considerable commonality. For example, whether you create a municipal solid waste boiler in STEAM PRO/PEACE or THERMOFLEX/PEACE, you will obtain the same physical design and cost estimate if you use the same inputs. Likewise, a HRSG physical design and cost estimate created in GT PRO/PEACE will be the same as one created in THERMOFLEX/PEACE if inputs are the same. Ditto for any major component, such as a gasifier, a CO2 capture system, a desalination train, an air-cooled condenser, a cooling tower, a pipe, etc.
How integrated are the various programs within Thermoflow’s Suite?
GT PRO & GT MASTER function as a seamless pair. So do STEAM PRO & STEAM MASTER.
Any design created in PDE can be imported into GT PRO/GT MASTER or THERMOFLEX/PEACE. Any GT PRO, GT MASTER, or STEAM PRO file can be imported into THERMOFLEX/PEACE. Thus, the system selection, design, and optimization can be accomplished rapidly and conveniently using the power and knowledge of the dedicated expert programs; and the resulting plant imported into THERMOFLEX/PEACE for final refinement.
THERMOFLEX can subsume, within its network, models built and run in a dedicated expert program. For example, a district heating system can be built and run within THERMOFLEX, with the heating steam coming from, and its condensate returning to, a GT MASTER combined cycle running as a sub-model within THERMOFLEX. Basically, the entire GT MASTER combined cycle in this example is treated by THERMOFLEX as one massive icon within its network.
I need to model gas turbine combined cycles & cogeneration plants, should I use THERMOFLEX or GT PRO/GT MASTER?
You can use either. Our recommendation depends on whether your primary interest is in new designs/feasibility studies, or modelling existing plants.
If you just want to model existing plants, or ones which have already been designed by others, you will already have before you their heat and mass balance and equipment characteristics; and we recommend THERMOFLEX. If you want to create a new design, and examine many permutations and combinations of possible configurations and equipment, then GT PRO/GT MASTER are far more effective than any other tool. Whichever you choose, adding the PEACE module provides additional engineering details, accuracy, and cost and financial results. Since it is impossible to optimize a new plant’s design without considering cost and economics, the PEACE module is necessary for optimization of a new design.
Other factors to consider are the time you can commit and your own experience. For designing new plants, THERMOFLEX requires significantly more time and expertise than GT PRO/GT MASTER. This should not imply that THERMOFLEX is difficult to use. If you have successfully used other general purpose heat balance software, and are comfortable with the required time and expertise; you are likely to find THERMOFLEX quite user-friendly by comparison, besides being more comprehensive, flexible, and robust.
I mainly work on gas turbine combined cycles & cogeneration plants, is there any reason to have the combination GT PRO/GT MASTER/THERMOFLEX/PEACE ?
Yes, most of Thermoflow’s large customers have this combination. For creating and optimizing new plant designs, there is no better tool than GT PRO/GT MASTER/PEACE. For modelling existing plants, THERMOFLEX is more effective because it allows modelling any idiosyncrasy or uncommon feature of the as-built plant; besides its ability to model other plant categories and general energy networks.
I only do big-picture feasibility studies on gas turbine plants, which program(s) should I use?
If you just want to generate and assess plant concepts for your project, focused on the very big picture, PDE alone may satisfy your needs. To delve into greater detail and have additional control on the plant designs you create, you will need GT PRO, and many engineers will use GT PRO on its own for this type of work. If you also wish to assess plant cost and economics and optimize your design, then you will need the GT PRO + PEACE combination. If you also wish to study detailed off-design calculations and annual operating cycle modelling, then you should add GT MASTER.
I mainly work on utility-scale conventional steam power plants, is there any reason to have the combination STEAM PRO/STEAM MASTER/THERMOFLEX/PEACE ?
Yes. For creating and optimizing new plant designs, there is no better tool than STEAM PRO/STEAM MASTER/PEACE. For modelling existing plants, THERMOFLEX is more effective because it allows modelling any idiosyncrasy or unique feature of the as-built plant; besides modelling other plant categories and general energy networks.
Is there additional guidance on selecting programs for my type of work?
We’d be happy to discuss your application and recommend the best tools for you. This table offers general guidance, but a verbal discussion or web-based demonstration with us may be most effective.
Why no PDE equivalent for conventional steam plants?
Gas turbine plants have a wide array of schemes: a simple stand-alone GT, a GT/HRSG for cogeneration, a non-condensing combined cycle for cogeneration, and condensing combined cycles, with and without reheat, and with or without process steam or water extraction for cogeneration. For a given set of requirements, especially with cogeneration, the variety of possible solutions and configurations can be very broad, and PDE was developed to automate the process of screening and identifying suitable schemes.
Conventional steam power plant cycles have a common overall scheme. The wealth of configuration details within this scheme, and the knowledge and guidance to define them, are encompassed within STEAM PRO. This makes a program like PDE unnecessary for conventional steam power plants.