Current state-of-the-art coal-fired supercritical steam power plants operate with high-pressure turbine inlet steam temperatures close to 600°C. The best of the recently developed and commercialized advanced 9-12Cr martensitic-ferritic steels may allow prolonged use at temperatures to about 620°C, but such steels are probably close to their inherent upper temperature limit. Further increase in the temperature capability of advanced steam turbines will certainly require the use of Ni-based superalloys and system redesign, as seen in the European programs that are pioneering advanced power plants capable of operating with 700°C steam. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has recently undertaken a concerted effort to qualify ultra-supercritical boiler tubing and piping alloys for 720/760°C steam for increased efficiency and reduced emissions. It is, therefore, necessary to develop the corresponding USC steam turbine, also capable of reliable operation at such conditions. This paper summarizes a preliminary assessment made by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) of materials needed for ultra-supercritical (USC) steam turbines, balancing both technical and business considerations. These efforts have addressed an expanded portfolio of alloys, that includes austenitic stainless steels and alloys, in addition to various Ni-based superalloys for critical turbine components. Preliminary input from utilities indicates that cost-effective improvements in performance and efficiency that do not sacrifice durability and reliability are prime considerations for any advanced steam turbine technology.

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