How electricity is generated through oil

An oil power station turns the chemical energy in oil into electrical energy that can be used in homes and businesses.


The oil (1) is piped into the boiler (2), where it is burned, converting its chemical energy into heat energy. This heats water in pipes coiled around the boiler, turning it into steam. The hot steam expands in the narrow pipes, so when it emerges it is under high pressure.


The pressure drives the steam over the blades of the steam turbine (3), causing it to spin, converting the heat energy released in the boiler into mechanical energy. A shaft connects the steam turbine to the turbine generator (4), so when the turbine spins, so does the generator. The generator uses an electromagnetic field to convert this mechanical energy into electrical energy.


After passing through the turbine, the steam comes into contact with pipes full of cold water. In coastal stations this water is pumped straight from the sea (5). The cold pipes cool the steam so that it condenses back into water. It is then piped back to the boiler, where it can be heated up again, turn into steam again, and keep the turbine turning.


Finally, a transformer converts the electrical energy from the generator to a high voltage. The national grid uses high voltages to transmit electricity efficiently through the power lines (6) to the homes and businesses that need it (7). Here, other transformers reduce the voltage back down to a usable level.


As well as heat, burning oil produces exhaust gases. These are piped from the boiler to the exhaust stack (8), which contains equipment that filters out any particles, before venting into the atmosphere. The stack is built tall so that the exhaust gas plume (9) can disperse before it touches the ground. This ensures that it does not affect the quality of the air around the station.

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