Hydroelectric turbines of the future

16/06/2016 - posté dans HYDRO

As a partner of the main plant operators and manufacturers in the world, PXL SEALS has chosen to organise a work group dedicated to sealing and guiding systems within PSPC Innov’Hydro (Structuring Project connected to the Competitiveness Hub). This project specifically brings together GE Renewable (former Alstom Hydro), EDF and other competent players in the hydroelectric sector.

Discover the objective of PSPC Innov'hydro, its goals and the position occupied by PXL SEALS in this ambitious project.

Hydroelectricity represents the first market for renewable energy as it provides 16% of the worldwide electricity production and is about to undergo a considerable expansion in emerging markets in order to meet the growing demand for electricity.

In Europe, hydroelectric plants are facing a fundamental change in their mode of operation. Hydraulic equipment consists of high-technology components, which must satisfy increasingly stringent requirements in terms of flexibility, performance and endurance.

The increasing share of intermittent renewable energy, such as wind and solar energy, has revolutionised the mode of operation: it has become necessary to balance the intermittent nature of renewable energy production and therefore to find compensatory methods in order to ensure the stability of the electricity grid.

Hydroelectricity is the ideal solution: the fluctuations of solar and wind power production, for example, can be compensated by the particularly responsive commissioning of hydroelectric plants. They are the only currently available method for storing significant amounts of energy thanks to pumping-based energy transfer stations, which include a lower tank and upper tank connected by a hydroelectric generating set.

New developments concerning the flexibility and storage capacities of dams has significantly impacted the wear of hydro-mechanical equipment: the frequency of maintenance operations has been multiplied and the service life has been reduced.

The project

Innov'Hydro, a project conducted by GE Renewable (Alstom Hydro) and Edf, supported by the BPI and involving many specialised companies, including PXL SEALS, aims to meet new challenges for new-generation hydroelectric plants in order to increase the flexibility of the production while minimising the negative effects of new modes of operation. This feat is made possible by the development of a new advanced control and adaptive monitoring system.

The Structuring Project for Competitiveness (PSPC), Innov'Hydro, combines a range of enhanced skills to contribute to the development of turbines of the future, including PXL SEALS.

Sealing and guiding systems

The project consists of 7 packages addressing topics ranging from management to experimentation, as well as modes of operation, interactions and sealing.

Each topic is addressed in a work group: the "Sealing and guiding systems" package is managed by PXL SEALS. This work group aims to:

  • Develop a protocol for predicting the behaviour and service life of sealing solutions.

  • Develop new intelligent sealing and guiding solutions.

Design new turbines with wider operating ranges, which meet the predictive maintenance challenge in order to reduce the number of shutdowns for maintenance purposes: this is the objective of the project.

All equipment will be connected and there will exist a real man / machine interaction to identify risks in order to solve them as quickly as possible before the problem occurs.

The second step is to prevent recurring problems by identifying signals or indicators.

Predicting the behaviour and service life of the seals

In addition to the management of the Sealing and Guiding System package, PXL SEALS is currently focusing on the development of new guiding sealing solutions for predicting the behaviour and service life of the seals.

The sealing system is a major component: in fact, the machine can be stopped due to some cases of damaged seals. The challenge therefore involves accurately knowing the service life of the seal in order to be able to warn the teams a few months before its malfunction and to organise the maintenance or replacement of the seals.

The manufacturers generally predict the service life according to the input data and material. We are attempting to develop a predictive system that is based on input data and operating condition variations.

How are the measurements to be made?

There are several solutions for measuring the conditions:

-   Either the measurements are made directly via the leaktightness of the seal (seal wear, degradation) by using technologies such as electronic systems integrated into the elastomers,

-   or they are measured upstream when the seal is fitted, in terms of pressure or section variation for example: these data will then be used to assess the deterioration or improvement of its service life.

The most efficient equipment will be defined in relation to this study, with the ultimate goal of warning dam operators about potential damage.

These studies will also provide ultra accurate data concerning the calculation of the service life of the seals in order to eventually ensure that the seals operate correctly.


Due to its presence in Europe, Brazil, the United States, Canada, India and China, PXL SEALS is a world specialist in relation to seals dedicated to renewable energy applications and, in our case, mainly electricity produced with water and wind.

PXL SEALS offers a range of services from expertise to installation, including the design, manufacture and distribution of sealing systems.

PXL SEALS has 25 employees including 4 engineers and 6 technicians and generates a turnover of  €3 MK of which over 40% concerns exports.

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