# Steam Systems Basics, Challenges and Troubleshooting

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Steam Systems Basics, Challenges and Troubleshooting
John Cilyo Senior Account Executive Spirax Sarco Inc. For Steve Jalowiec, PE, CHFM

Steam Systems & Chaos Theory
In mathematics, chaos theory describes the behavior of certain dynamic systems – that is, systems whose states evolve with time – that may exhibit dynamics that are highly sensitive to initial conditions (popularly referred to as the butterfly effect). As a result of this sensitivity, which manifests itself as an exponential growth of perturbations in the initial conditions, the behavior of chaotic systems appears to be random. This happens even though these systems are deterministic, meaning that their future dynamics are fully defined by their initial conditions with no random elements involved. This behavior is known as deterministic chaos, or simply chaos.

Steam Systems & the 2nd Law
Second Law of Thermodynamics The entropy of an isolated system not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium. In a simple manner, the second law states "energy systems have a tendency to increase their entropy rather than decrease it." This can also be stated as "heat can spontaneously flow from a higher-temperature region to a lower-temperature region, but not the other way around." (Heat can flow from cold to hot, but not spontaneously—- for example, when a refrigerator expends electrical power.) A way of thinking about the second law for non-scientists is to consider entropy as a measure of disorder. So, for example, a broken cup has less order (more entropy) than an intact one, and it is more difficult to repair a broken cup (reducing its entropy) than to break an intact one (increasing its entropy). Likewise, solid crystals, the most organized form of matter, have very low entropy values; and gases, which are very disorganized, have high entropy values.

Basic Steam System

Another view of a Steam System

Steam System Basics Boiler Design
Water Tube, smaller steam space, need to be run closer to design pressure Fire Tube, large steam chest, can be run a lower than design pressure. Definitions "Carryover" means that you have a problem with the TDS (total dissolved solids). You need to properly define the PPM values needed. Fire tube boilers have a normal TDS of 3000 ppm, while water tube designs need 2000 ppm. Everyone uses the 3000 ppm value regardless of boiler type and that is their first mistake. "Priming" is a mechanical condition caused by too great of a takeoff velocity (50 to 100fpm).This is corrected mechanically. Testing With the boiler running, take a condensate sample from a drip pocket on the main header. If you see a high TDS value (say 2000 PPM), you have a carryover issue. If your value is 5 ppm or is immeasurable, you have priming. Remember, steam has no TDS!

Steam systems have many end uses in hospitals; radiators, heat exchangers, humidification but probably none as critical as Steam Sterilizers

Deliver good quality steam to heating, humidification and process equipment. Operate the system safely. Get maximum efficiency from heating equipment - energy \$\$\$ Maintain the system at a reasonable cost.

Steam Has Another Objective In Mind! (Challenges)
Condenses anywhere and everywhere it can. Happily fills the system with air, in the worst possible locations. Carries entrained water, gases, chemicals and dirt into every nook and cranny. Will slow down and stop flowing as soon as differential pressure is lost.

Test/maintain steam traps routinely. Clean strainers! Clean and maintain regulators/control valves Routine maintenance of condensate pumps. Keep an ear open for excess pipe-line water-hammer & correct the root-cause. Watch for repeat instances of valve wire-draw & correct root-cause (wet steam, valve sizing) Recognize that water hammer in heat exchangers and heating coils is correctable.

All it takes is money and manpower! Anyone here have enough of both?
Challenges No problem – right? All it takes is money and manpower! Anyone here have enough of both? But there is help: Boiler Water Treatment Company Steam Specialty Companies Steam Consultants Some of these can help for free, some will cost.

Steam System Challenges
Remember Steam Systems are dynamic systems Never Steady State Loads coming on and off Sterilizers Heating coils Steam Absorption Chillers Manual Building Heat (Old fashion radiators) System Sizing Sized for steady state or instantaneous loads (sterilizers)

Steam System Troubleshooting
Myths My boilers never carry over, prime, etc. The water level is always steady in the gauge glass. I don’t need trap maintenance, failed traps will become apparent on their own. (The water hammer will tell me about a bad trap.) Boiler water treatment is a scam. Boiler blow-down wastes energy and water.

Steam System Troubleshooting
Steam System Chemistry Feed Water Quality Softener Deaerator Dissolved O2 and non-condensable gases Chemical Treatment Totaled Dissolved Solids (TDS) Blow down Continuous Surface Bottom Blow Down

Typical Steam System Chemistry
(May vary with chemical supplier and boiler manufacturer) Test Typical Limits Low/Hi Softener Feedwater Boiler Condensate Return Deaerator pH See chart > 8.5 8.3 – 9.4 Sulfite % So2 (Higher in lay-up) 30/60 XX Alkalinity P 200/400 Alkalinity M 250/500 Silica Monitor trends < 150 mg/L Conductivity 3000/3500 Calcium < 0.3/FW Iron < 0.1/FW Copper < 0.05/FW Primary Treatment Chem. Per mfg Dissolved O2 7 ppb

Typical Boiler Water Treatment Test Report (partial)
Courtesy of Barclay Water Management, Inc.

Steam System Troubleshooting
Water Level Control Sight glass levels are not reliable Variable feed versus on/off Steam Flow Metering & Data Data is invaluable for system troubleshooting You cannot manage what you cannot measure” Lord Kelvin

Why is proper condensate drainage important?

Water hammer! Result of a drip trap being removed, that was draining a 100 psig line, before a valve

Steam System Troubleshooting
Steam Traps Properly located Drip Legs properly sized Trap Selection and sizing Steam Trap Testing & Maintenance

Steam System Troubleshooting
Steam Traps Main Header Main header drip legs are full size Other drip legs are properly sized Drips located 300’ or less and any change of elevation Drip stations located ahead of automatic valves Steam traps are properly sized Steam traps are working and maintained Missing insulation heat goes to cold another consequence of the 2nd law thermodynamics!

Ineffective vs Proper Drain Points
Steam Flow Condensate Cross Section Correct  Incorrect  Full Diameter Pocket Steam Trap Set Steam Flow Cross Section Steam Trap Set

Steam System Troubleshooting
Steam Trap Testing Visual * Temperature ** Ultrasonic *** Continuous monitoring systems **** conductivity

Steam System Troubleshooting
Belts & suspenders Steam separators & filters Dry Steam Wet Steam Condensate Outlet

Steam Conditioning Dry Steam saves energy
Example: Process requires 4,645,000 Btu’s / hr Available: 30 psig 274oF @ 100% Dry (saturated) steam supplies 929 Btu / lb.  process requires 5,000 lb/hr. @ 90% Dryness Fraction, steam supplies 836 Btu/lb.  process now requires 5556 lb /hr. A 11% Increase @ 80% Dryness Fraction, steam supplies 743 Btu/lb  process now requires 6251 lb /hr. A 25% increase

Steam System Troubleshooting

Steam System Troubleshooting Now what do I do
If you suddenly have problems What has changed? Go back to basics Start at the boiler plant and work your way out into the system Left Hand Analysis

Courtesy of Walt Graham Thermo Diagnostics, Co, LLC

Now what do I do Steam Trap Repairs Steam Trap Survey & Assessment
Steam Trap Maintenance Program Boiler Water Treatment Modification Steam Conditioning Equipment Separators Filters Repair damaged insulation Steam Metering (for troubleshooting)

Thank you! Questions or Comments Special Thanks to
John Cilyo, Spirax Sarco William Wethey, Barclay Water Management Contact Information Steve Jalowiec, PE, CHFM Waterbury Hospital, 64 Robbins Street, Waterbury CT Work Cell

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