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Boiler Basics 101: Blowdown

Routine maintenance on your boiler is a critical component for proper and efficient boiler operation. One of the main factors to improper maintenance that can also lead to boiler failure is not understanding the concept of blowdown. In this month’s Boiler Basics 101, we will be going over what blowdown is and how it will help improve your boiler’s health.

06 29

When boiler water turns to steam, solids from the water are left behind. The blowdown process involves partially draining the boiler to remove the sludge those solids create. If these are not removed, boiler performance will be reduced and ultimately, it can lead to boiler failure.

Industrial boilers have three types of blowdown procedures:

  • Low Water Cutoff
    This blowdown procedure should take place after every shift. The water column must be kept clean to ensure the water level in the gauge glass accurately represents the water level in the boiler. Regular checks on the boiler verifies that the low water cutoff is operating correctly and cleans it out.
  • Bottom Blowdown
    Bottom blowdown is done by manually opening a set of two valves that drains water out of the bottom of the boiler. The purpose of the bottom blowdown activity is to clean out solids that accumulate at the bottom of a firetube boiler or in the mud drum of a watertube boiler. Solids are pushed through a blowdown separator designed to take water from the boiler during blowdown and reduce it to atmospheric pressure for disposal. During this process, steam is rapidly separated from blowdown water and vented out the top of the blowdown separator. From there, the cooled blowdown solids can be safely removed from the boiler.
  • Continuous Blowdown
    The purpose of the continuous blowdown is to help control the water quality in the boiler; the more impurities and the more chemical treatment required, the greater the amount of blowdown required. It is a procedure facilitated by a pipe entering the upper section of the boiler, typically located in the steam drum of a watertube boiler or the upper steaming portion of a firetube boiler.

The continuous blowdown process is generally automated and does not require much manual interaction, like with bottom blowdown. When operating continuous blowdown, adjust the valve to maintain the recommended boiler water dissolved solids level. This helps control the dissolved solids in boilers that are operated at a steady load.

It is important to consider proper blowdown procedures to keep the water piping clean and the boiler in working condition. If you would like to learn more about the different blowdown procedures, check out ABMA’s article outlining the steps for each type.

Be sure to check out our previous Boiler Basics 101 blogs and stay tuned for the next edition!

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The Most Effective Way to Transfer Heat or Energy

With the COVID-19 pandemic upon us, there has been a lot of talk about essential businesses. What is it that actually deems a business essential? In short, businesses that people rely on in everyday life are essential, while nonessential businesses are generally recreational in nature.

Many consumers may not understand the necessity of steam in everyday life, however, steam plays a major role in many industries including hospitals, food processing, refineries, and pulp and paper manufacturing. Let’s dive into exactly how steam is used in some of these processes.

Hospitals
One of the most obvious groups of essential workers right now are those in a hospital, and steam is utilized extensively in all hospital settings. There are five major uses of steam in a hospital: comfort heating, humidification of air, sterilization of surgical instruments and medical waste, laundry, and food preparation.  

Food Processing
Steam used by food processors commonly falls into two distinct categories: Clean Steam or Utility Steam. Clean Steam, also known as “sanitary” or “culinary” steam, is typically used for direct injection into a product or to clean and sterilize product contact surfaces. Utility Steam, also referred to as “plant” steam, can be used in most applications that do not involve direct contact with food products or the surfaces that the food might contact. It is often utilized to supply energy for heating, cooking, or mechanical work. 

Some other examples of where steam is typically utilized in food processing is the tomato canning process, deodorizing cocoa butter, puffing up cereal, and sanitization of yogurt cups.

Electricity Generation
Most of the electricity generated in the United States is from electric power plants that use a turbine to drive electricity generators, and many of these turbines are driven by steam. Steam turbines use high-pressure steam to rotate the blades of a turbine and create mechanical or rotational energy. As the steam turbine spins, the generator spins and creates electricity.

Pulp & Paper
Steam is used heavily in the production of paper products because energy drives the papermaking process. In fact, it is estimated nationally that steam accounts for approximately 43% of the total energy demand at a paper facility.

Most paper mills have a steam turbine to generate electricity. Steam is also used to cook wood chips and cook fibers for improved sheet strength, to evaporate moisture from pulp, to heat rotating dryer drums to dry the paper stock, and to heat chemicals for other processes. The steam from a boiler is also commonly used in other locations of the mill, like heat exchangers, steam-traced piping, and stock chests. Due to its usefulness, steam is the primary input used to evaporate moisture from a sheet, allowing for desirable and profitable sheet characteristics to be created.

Petroleum Refining
Petroleum refining is an energy-intensive process, with energy accounting for approximately 50% of refining costs. Steam is used in many ways in a refinery and is necessary to keep plants running.  Some uses include:

  •   - Steam turbines for electricity generation and running pumps and compressors.
  •   - Steam tracing and jacketing to keep viscous processes fluid in pipes.
  •   - As a heating source to break up oils and distribute for the manufacturing of different products.
  •   - As a heating source for lube oil systems for large pieces of equipment.
  •   - As a heating source for reboilers.
  •   - Plant cleanup.
  •   - Stripper column injection to aid in stripping separation of different processes.
  •   - Minor leak suppression by use of steam lances.
  •   - Steam flares to aid in complete combustion of processes.

Chemical Processing
Steam also plays a large role in chemical processing and is used as both a process fluid and a utility. Common uses include process heating, power generation, atomization, cleaning and sterilization, moisturization, and humidification. Because it is so versatile, there are some major advantages to using steam in chemical processing:

  • Control. By controlling the pressure of steam, you can control the temperature at which the heat is released. Having good control over the temperature is necessary in a number of chemical processes.
  • Efficiency. Steam is an efficient heat source because it has a high output per mass of utility at a constant temperature.
  • Safety. It is non-flammable, non-toxic, and inert to several process fluids.

Although steam is often hidden from our daily lives, it is the most effective way to transfer heat or energy and offers unique features that you just cannot duplicate with other systems. The simplicity and adaptability of steam makes it a reliable medium and first choice for many processing operations.

Nationwide Boiler takes pride in supporting many essential businesses with a reliable source of steam, whether for temporary or permanent use. As our own Walter Heussmann put it, “The heartbeat of America is driven by steam. The power industry, oil and gas, chemical, hospitals, food and beverage…. We are here to keep America going.”

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Steam: An Essential Utility, and the Rental Boiler Industry

Rental boilers are often overlooked as a necessity for many processing industries. However, in the midst of a crisis, the need for steam becomes much more apparent to the public eye. In the latest podcast episode from Inside the Boiler Room, ABMA President Scott Lynch discusses the rental boiler industry with Larry Day, Nationwide Boiler's President & CEO. Larry shares his insights on the world of rental boilers, which has significant relevance during the COVID-19 crisis with boilers near capacity at many hospitals and food processing facilities.

Larry and Scott discuss an array of topics, including the importance of rental boilers in times of crisis. As Larry stated, "Anytime there is a natural disaster, rental boilers are looked at almost like generators or air compressors. Steam is a utility, and that's where it comes in as an emergency condition. [Many businesses] need that utility to keep running." 

A rental boiler can provide added capacity for increased production needs or it can temporarily replace an existing boiler to keep a plant running. Specific information about the process must be known for the supplier to accurately quote a rental boiler application. This includes:  

  •    (1) Boiler Size / Steam Capacity Requirement (typically in HP or lb/hr)
  •    (2) Operating Pressure
  •    (3) Saturated or Superheated Steam Need (if superheat, what temperature)
  •    (4) Fuel Requirement
  •    (5) Any Auxiliary Equipment Needs
  •    (6) Emissions Requirements

Listen to the podcast now to learn more about rental boiler basics, the evolution of the rental boiler industry, and potential challenges with different technology and maintenance of rental boiler systems. Also, be sure to check out the ABMA’s Guideline for Rental Boilers, developed by members of the ABMA Rental Boiler Group, including Nationwide Boiler Inc.  

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National Board Shares Jurisdiction Regulatory Changes Due to COVID-19

Businesses across the globe are being affected by the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today the National Board posted a supplement to NB-370, The National Board Synopsis of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Laws, Rules and Regulations, which contains temporary changes being made by individual National Board member jurisdictions.

The newly curated webpage provides important and up-to-date policies for installation and inservice inspections, for each jurisdiction that has implemented temporary changes. The database will be updated continually as the crisis evolves.

To learn about regulatory changes in your jurisdiction, visit the National Board website.
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