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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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Discovery ChalleNGe Academy Visits Nationwide Boiler

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Located in Lathrop, CA, the Discovery ChalleNGe Academy is a Community High School run by the California National Guard in partnership with the San Joaquin County Office of Education. Part of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program (NGYCP), the Academy was founded in 1993 to assist students in enhancing life skills, education levels, and employment potential.  This military-style program houses, feeds, and educates 16 to 18-year-old young adults that were unable to complete high school due to varying unfortunate circumstances. The program allows students to earn 65 High School credits while developing leadership, job, and academic skills, while improving self-esteem, pride, and confidence.  


With the school year coming to an end and graduation quickly approaching, The Academy set up a trip for a group of students working to complete their high school credits, and Nationwide Boiler was honored to participate. The goal of this field trip was to educate the graduating class on the many different education, trade, and career opportunities available to them once they step out into the real world.

The first stop of the day was San Jose State University, where they toured the campus and the new $130M recreation center. After experiencing lunch like a college student in the Student Union, they headed north to Nationwide’s shop in Fremont. Upon arrival, the students congregated on the patio to hear a warm welcome from President & CEO, Larry Day, and Vice President, Michele Tomas. The group was then taken on a tour of our 26,000 sq. ft. shop, where day-to-day activities include; boiler maintenance, welding, painting, electrical work, fabrication, equipment assembling, and other technical skills.

Nationwide Boiler’s Shop & Service Managers, Andrew Horne and Michael Rosmando, educated the students on the basics of a boiler system, and walked them through the different trade skills and career opportunities available not just here at Nationwide, but from other companies in similar and varying industries. Many of the students were interested in welding, electrical, and accounting careers. Who knows… we may have just met future Nationwide employees!

At Nationwide Boiler, we feel strongly about training and educating our youth so that we are able to successfully sustain our business and industry for future generations, and we are happy to have had the opportunity to be a part of this inspiring program. Thank you to Todd Robinson and the NGYCP for providing young adults with an opportunity that will help them secure their futures.

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Boiler Basics 101: Superheat vs. Saturated Steam

Playing off our last topic, some might argue that there is another boiler type, or classification, to consider. In today’s article, we will discuss the difference between saturated and superheated steam boilers, and the applications that they are most commonly used for.

Let’s begin by talking about the science behind these two types of steam. Simply put, when water is heated to its boiling point, it will begin to vaporize and saturated steam is produced. Superheated steam occurs when the water is continually heated to temperatures beyond the boiling point, without any increase in pressure. Also known as dry steam, superheated steam has a much lower density and produces zero condensate.

As with the other types of boilers previously discussed, saturated and superheated steam boilers each have their own unique advantages and disadvantages and are better geared for certain applications over others. Saturated steam has a high density and is an excellent heating source. Commonly utilized in food processing, sterilization, district heating, and pulp & paper processing, saturated steam has the following advantages: 

  • - Produces fast and even heating due to latent heat transfer
  • - The temperature can quickly be established through the control of pressure
  • - Has a high heat transfer coefficient, which requires a smaller heat transfer surface and in turn, allows for reduced initial
  •   equipment costs

Superheated steam is not typically utilized in heat transfer applications. However, due to its dry composition and ability to cool while remaining in the same physical state, it can be extremely versatile and is most commonly utilized in refineries, for generating electricity, and for powering turbines.

Superheated steam is ideal for powering turbines for the following reasons:

  • - The dry steam allows for steam-driven equipment to function effectively and efficiently (while condensate from wet steam
  •   would negatively affect performance of the equipment)
  • - Improves thermal efficiency and work capabilities of turbines
  • - Contains zero condensate, minimizing the risk of corrosion and erosion damage

With a low heat transfer coefficient that is equivalent to that of air, superheated steam has more energy and can work harder than saturated steam, but the heat content is less useful. In addition, boilers that are built to produce superheated steam require more expensive components on the boiler system, in comparison to a saturated steam boiler. Therefore, it is extremely important to do your homework ahead of time to determine which type of steam is best suited for your particular application.

Did you know that Nationwide Boiler maintains a fleet of both saturated and superheated steam boilers for rent and for sale? In fact, we own the World’s Largest 125,000 lb/hr saturated steam mobile boiler, and the World’s Largest 110,000 lb/hr superheated steam mobile boiler!  Visit our website at nationwideboiler.com to learn more.

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Boiler Basics 101: Types of Boilers

When we think about boilers, there are a two types that typically come to mind; firetube, or scotch marine, and watertube boilers. These types of boilers can be classified as hot water, steam, high pressure, and low pressure. In today’s blog post we will be answering the question: what are the basic differences between the different types of boilers?

Although their final function is the same, the main difference between a firetube and watertube boiler is the construction and design of each system. In a firetube boiler, water inside a vessel is surrounded by tubes that contain combustion gases. In other words, the ‘fire’ is inside the tubes, making it a ‘firetube’. Watertube boilers are essentially the opposite in design. Combustion gases surround a series of tubes that contain water, coining the name, watertube.

By definition, high pressure boilers are built to a maximum allowable working pressure (MAWP) above 15 psig, while low pressure boilers are designed for operation at 15 psig or below. Low pressure boilers are most commonly utilized in heating applications and require less maintenance than that of a high pressure unit. Furthermore, firetube boilers can be built for both low and high pressure applications, while watertube boilers are typically built for high pressure needs.

Some may think that firetube and watertube boilers are in the same category as hot water and steam boilers. However, steam and hot water boilers are actually a classification, and can be considered a subcategory to firetube & watertube boilers.

Hot water and steam boilers operate in a very similar manner, but hot water boilers don’t actually produce steam. In reality, a hot water boiler is just a fuel fired hot water heater, in which heat is added to increase the temperature to a level below the boiling point. Hot water boilers are not as powerful as steam boilers, which is why they are more commonly used in heating applications providing hot water at 120 – 220F.

Steam boilers heat water to levels that are above boiling point, in order to produce steam. They are much more powerful and are utilized in more industrial and heavy-commercial applications. Steam boilers can be designed to produce either saturated or superheated steam, which we will discuss further on in a future post.  

Be it a firetube, watertube, hot water, or steam boiler, they are all effective and efficient in their own unique ways. To learn in more detail about the differences between boiler types, visit the section on our website, “What Boiler Is Best For You”.
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