Multidisciplinary engi- neering company M-Tech Industrial recently completed a test programme on the high-temperature test unit for the pebble-bed modular reactor (PBMR) project.
The results of the high-temperature test allow for the development of advanced simulation models of the reactor heat transfer and fluid flow phenomena, says M-Tech CEO Dr Pieter Rousseau.
He says that this allows for more detailed modelling of the plant’s performance under a wide range of operating conditions.
M-Tech has supplied a range of specialist thermal-fluid systems analysis, simulation and engineering design services to the PBMR Company for the PBMR project on a contract basis since 1999.
Rousseau says that the company’s initial involvement was through the original design and supply of the specialist thermal-fluid simulation and analysis software, Flownex, in a competitive bid to model the dynamic behaviour of the main power system of the PBMR as part of the design process. The success of this resulted in more contracts to provide a wider range of specialist engineering services.
M-Tech is also involved in the design of the fuel particle coater facility for the future fuel manufacturing plant and in developing the process heat applications for the PBMR reactor, which is now receiving increased attention.
He explains that Flownex soft- ware is used to model the dynamic behaviour of the reactor and the main power system of the PBMR plant. The company has also designed, constructed and oper- ated a number of nonnuclear facilities, situated on the Potchef-stroom campus of the North West University, to support the development of the PBMR plant.
Rousseau says that all the test facilities designed and built by M-Tech are situated on the campus and the training of undergraduate and postgraduate students is facilitated in parallel with the commercial project development.
“The PBMR is a distinctive project that could contribute to establishing South Africa in the world nuclear market as a strategic supplier of high-temperature gas-cooled reactor technology. The project has already contributed significantly to the development of local engi- neering expertise and manpower, and is set to continue to do so by its engagement of various tertiary education insti- tutions around the country,” says Rousseau.
“International interest in these plants is substantial and it has already been visited by more than 800 delegates from different companies and universities in the US, Europe, Singapore, Japan, China and South Africa,” says Rousseau.
Meanwhile, he notes that the company’s involvement in the project has facilitated the further development of Flownex. The in-house-developed software has a wider relevance not only for PBMR application. It is also successfully used in the design and increased efficiency of coal-fired power plants, water and gas reticulation networks, gas turbine power plants and heat exchanger networks.
M-Tech has released a new generation of the software, Flownex Simulator Environment. This includes extensive new-user interface improvements and integrated plant simulation and design features.
Rousseau points out that the expansion of the software’s capabilities has also resulted in the development of an internationally competitive industrial plant simulator platform funded by the Department of Science and Technology’s partner in facilitating technological innovation, the Innovation Fund.
Besides the company’s involvement in the PBMR project, it has ongoing projects in the energy efficiency and demand-side management (DSM) sector. It also has an established heat pump and air-cooling equipment range that is used in industrial and commercial applications for water heating, as well as mine cooling.
Rousseau says that M-Tech has developed three distinctive energy efficiency and DSM technologies. These projects were funded by State-owned power utility Eskom’s DSM initiative to alleviate the peak load on the national electricity supply grid. The first is in-line water heating technology which has been applied extensively in large DSM projects for sanitary water heating in mine residences.
The company reports that the second technology is a product range of hot water heat pumps that are also used for large-scale sanitary water heating, but with significantly improved energy efficiency benefits when compared with conventional technologies.
The air-cooling unit (ACU) is the third technology, and is a modular ACU used to cool the working environment in underground mining applications. The company says that ACU offers distinct advantages to energy efficiency and also power consumption.
He concludes that M-Tech will continue to supply the PBMR project with its Flownex software for reactor and plant design and increased efficiency, as well as associated engineering consultation services. It also continues to be involved in the development of the process heat applications of the PBMR reactor, such as seawater desalination and hydrogen production. It will also be involved in the detail design and development of the fuel particle coater facility for the future fuel manufacturing plant.