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Keeping it Safe - Gas Trains


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Maintenance budgets are among the first to be cut when companies need to decrease costs. Unfortunately, this means that critical equipment, such as the safety of combustion equipment, may be overlooked, specifically the testing of fuel trains.

Gas trains regulate the amount and the pressure of gas to the boiler's burners and are used to eliminate gas from entering the combustion chamber. This is achieved through a series of shut-off valves that are specifically designed to close when the combustion process occurs (through safety shutoff and blocking valves). Gas trains also include a series of pressure switches that prevent gas under pressure from entering the burner. If anything should go wrong, shutdown would occur immediately.

As crucial as gas trains are for the safety of the boiler, many facilities are unable to perform the preventive maintenance and testing work on the equipment as should be necessary to help decrease combustion incidents from occurring. John Puskar (Combustion Safety Inc.) has developed the following strategies that can help any facility to be proactive in the maintenance of fuel trains and combustion equipment. Overall, the goal of any safety program is to improve the reliability and life of boiler related equipment. These guidelines not only help to achieve those goals, but more importantly they help lead to fewer unplanned outages and improve the overall safety of plant personnel.

1. Most of the explosions and fire incidents, by far, have historically been due to human error. All of the safeties and interlock equipment in the world won't help if you attempt to bypass or jumper-out safety controls. There is no possible substitute for proper training. Training has to include mock upset and hazard recognition drills. Your site needs training even if you will have contractors doing preventive maintenance work.

2. Start-up and shutdown are your biggest risks. You need clearly written procedures that everyone understands and agrees with so that consistent, safe practices are in place with every shift and every employee.

3. Make sure that you do regular and complete interlock and fuel train valve tightness testing. Jurisdictional inspectors, even where they are mandated to be around, cannot be at your facility every day. Combustion equipment safety testing needs to be part of your organization's culture regardless of what it costs and what the perceived hurdles are. You should comply with code requirements for testing even if they are not enforceable in your area.

4. Create corporate guidelines for third party combustion equipment reviews and commissioning for newly acquired equipment or for major upgrades. Now that you see how little review and attention combustion equipment may receive from the time it's specified to when its really operating, you may want a dedicated professional review of the process.

5. Upgrade equipment for safety's sake. Do not wait for a problem and let attorneys dictate when this happens.
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Rental Boiler Considerations - Save Time, Save Money and Minimize Risks

Companies require rental equipment for several reasons. By understanding the rental process and following the guidelines below, it is possible that the result will be both cost-effective and technically successful.

Steam Requirements - Up front planning is the most important stage when renting equipment. First, the maximum potential steam load needed must be calculated. Your steam requirement is expressed in either boiler horsepower (hp) or lb/hr (one boiler horsepower is equal to 34.5 lb/hr steam at 212°F).

Accessible Location - A location must be selected that is easily accessible for the delivery and setting of heavy machinery and one which has easy access to the building or equipment in which the steam will be required.

Utility Connections & Supply - Fuel, water and electric power connections must be easy to access and are of sufficient size to meet the needs of the rental unit. Typically, rental boilers fire natural gas, No. 2 oil, or heated No. 6 fuel. It is also important to make sure that there is sufficient fuel capacity to supply any existing units and a temporary boiler.

Equipment Supplier - When evaluating a supplier of rental equipment it is important to know if the company is a full-time, dedicated rental company with the experience, equipment and capabilities you require. In addition, the location of the company's equipment is important, helping to minimize transportation costs and travel time. It is also important to determine if the company provides start-up and installation services.
Here at Nationwide, we have boilers located throughout the United States and our service department is available 24 hours a day for technical support.

Reputable rental companies will provide complete drawings and equipment specifications in considerable detail. Such items include the total capacity and operating characteristics of the boiler, water treatment needs and requirements, emissions requirements, weather protection, performance testing, and ASME code requirements.

Proposal Evaluation - When evaluating a proposal, normal factors including payment terms, change-of-scope clauses, liability coverage, and transportation costs need to be addressed. A well written proposal should address the rate and term on the rental unit, freight costs, time and travel charges for technicians, and should specify appropriate responsibility for installation and removal costs. You should also get the warranty statement for the rental equipment.

Operating Permits - Before installation of the equipment can occur, it is necessary to arrange for any operating permits required from regulatory agencies. This includes special permits that may be required in those areas where emission limits are strictly controlled. Areas in California including the San Joaquin Valley and the South Coast require sub-10 ppm NOx requirements.

Nationwide Boiler took the lead in equipping our units with Low NOx burners and SCR systems (the CataStak). Users facing 5 ppm NOx can rest assure that we have an immediate solution.

Maintenance - To ensure continuous, safe, and trouble free performance of the unit, there are a number of regular checks and maintenance tasks which must be performed. It is important that a log sheet be kept on site for the recording of every routine check and maintenance items completed. Daily checks include an examination of all safety devices, followed by an inspection of the low-water cutoff during every shift. The entire system should also be checked for leaks and corrected immediately. The flame pattern of the burner must also be inspected to make sure the combustion devices are working efficiently. Moreover, proper boiler performance is highly dependent on following the proper feedwater treatment and correct blowdown techniques. Failure to maintain proper water chemistry is a major cause of damage to rental boilers and the single biggest rehabilitation expense.

Return Shipment - Lastly, there are certain steps that must be taken to ensure safe return of a unit to the rental company's facility. It is the responsibility of the user to have plant or local boiler shop personnel disconnect equipment after use, which includes draining and flushing all boiler lines with clean water to help minimize any chance of corrosion. A final check of the condition of the boiler should be properly documented, recorded and sent to the rental company once the equipment is shipped.

As long as you plan in advance, budget accordingly, verify connection sizes, address permitting issues, properly train operators, frequently monitor the feedwater quality, and take responsibility in maintaining the equipment once it is installed, you can be confident that the risks associated with renting equipment will be minimized and that your project will be a success.
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