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Enhancing BMS Safety with the use of PLC-based Controls

Combustion equipment safety is essential for the daily operation of facilities and safety of plant personnel. Safety protocols and mechanisms in industrial plants have improved drastically in the last century, but incidents still occur far too frequently. Because boiler systems are inherently dangerous, safety must be factored into the design of not just the boiler, but also the burner, combustion control, and the overall operation of the system.


The burner management system (BMS) is just one of many safety devices built into a boiler system, designed to control the combustion process from beginning to end in a safe and reliable manner. It monitors high and low gas pressure, the combustion air fan, combustion air, and water levels, in addition to monitoring safety devices and controlling the sequence of lighting the burner. If any issues arise related to pressure or water level, it will initiate closure of the shut-off valves. To automate these processes, PLC-based controls are often used as a BMS. PLC based BMS gives you much more flexibility, the ability to use analog input signals as limits, limit voting and the versatility to have almost unlimited safety limits.


A Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) is a robust computer utilized for industrial automation. Although a PLC doesn’t physically look like a typical computer, it incorporates the very same technology seen in computers and smart devices that we use every day. The PLC receives information from connected sensors or input devices, processes the data, and triggers outputs based on pre-programmed parameters. It consists of a power supply, a CPU (central processing unit), input and output cards, and communication cards. A programming device (often a laptop computer) is utilized for writing programs into the PLC and HMI (human machine interface) which provides a visual model of the system as a whole.


Compared to traditional technologies, a PLC-based system is easier to troubleshoot, more reliable, more cost-effective, and much more versatile. In addition, PLC-based controls provide added levels of safety for the burner management system and overall operation of your boiler. PLCs are built in compliance with NFPA 85 and SIL2 requirements at minimum and can be configured to meet SIL3 standards as well. Therefore, we are seeing boiler control panels being built or updated to PLC-based systems more than ever.


Pacific Combustion Engineering has extensive knowledge and experience in the design, build, and programming of PLC-based combustion control systems. If you are in the market for an upgrade or brand-new panel that incorporates PLC, give us a call and we will design a system that fits your unique process needs.

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Routine Maintenance Reminders

Routine boiler maintenance is imperative not only for safety, but also to sustain efficiency and reliability of your system. Being proactive rather than reactive is likely to increase the longevity of your boiler as well as help prevent incidents that can result in injuries, damage, or worse. Incorporating routine maintenance into your facilities day-to-day operations will prove its worth with a great deal of short- and long-term benefits.

There are certain maintenance tasks that should be performed daily, and others that should be performed periodically. Below we have provided a list of best practices to follow when putting together your routine boiler maintenance plan.

On a daily basis, you should track and keep a log of the following items:

  • Boiler pressure and temperature
  • Stack temperature, to determine operational efficiency (a well-tuned boiler should have a stack temperature range of 50 – 100 degrees above the steam or water temperature)
  • Gas pressure to the regulator, as well as downstream from it
  • Water quality and pH levels, to ensure you are meeting the recommended levels

Blowdown of the boiler (bottom blow) and water column should also be performed on a daily basis. In addition, you should observe boiler and auxiliary equipment daily to ensure proper operation and that there is no damage, leaks, or unusual behavior. 

On a weekly to monthly basis, it’s important to conduct additional visual inspections and observe the operation of certain components for areas that may need to be addressed. This includes:

  • Gauge glass
  • Fuel supply valves
  • Operating and modulating controls, water level controls
  • Flame scanner & burner flame pattern
  • High- and low-pressure switches, combustion air proving switch
  • Indicating lights and alarms

When it comes to the burner, you should inspect the valves, pilot tube, and diffuser thoroughly for any signs of wear that might call for a repair. Also, be sure to observe the entirety of the boiler system for potential hot spots (an indicator of deteriorated refractory) and again, be sure to keep an eye out for any leaks of fuel, water, or flue gas.

Lastly, there are certain items that should be performed on a semi-annual to annual basis. Many of the tasks below can be checked off during the annual inspection, when the boiler is taken offline:

  • Open access doors and inspect the fireside of the boiler
  • Inspect boiler and tubes for evidence of corrosion; clean tubes and tube sheets thoroughly
  • Examine the refractory for large cracks (greater than 1/8”) and patch as necessary
  • Conduct safety tests on the gas valves
  • Review all electrical connections for tightness, signs of wiring wear
  • Check pump alignment on all base-mount pumps

This is also a good time to fully inspect the auxiliaries that provide fuel, air, water, and chemicals to the boiler. In addition, combustion should be reset periodically with the use of a combustion analyzer, for accurate readings of NOx, CO, and O2.

While the guidelines above provide a good baseline of tasks to perform when it comes to routine maintenance, be sure to consider the boiler manufacturer’s recommendations as well.  

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Boiler Basics 101: Understanding Air Permitting for Boilers in California - SCAQMD and RECLAIM

California is known for having one of the most stringent air emissions standards in the nation. Not only has the state been making environmentally conscious efforts since the 1960’s, it is also the only state that can write its own air pollution related laws and standards. When the Clean Air Act passed, Congress required the Environmental Protection Agency to grant California exemption, since the state was already developing innovative laws and standards to address the state’s major air pollution issues.


As a boiler owner in California, familiarizing yourself with local air laws and regulations can be overwhelming, which is why Nationwide Boiler is here to help. Let’s start with one of the two toughest air districts in the state, the SCAQMD.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) encompasses the Los Angeles County, Orange County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino County  . The SCAQMD implemented the REgional CLean Air Incentives Market (RECLAIM) Program in 1993 to reduce NOx and SOx emissions produced by the region’s facilities. Although the program calls for potentially expensive equipment upgrades or replacements to meet the new guidelines, companies may qualify for trading credits and other incentives through partnerships with local utilities (like SoCalGas).

aaaaaWithin the RECLAIM standards, Rule 1146 outlines specific guidelines for boilers, steam generators, and process heaters that have a heat input of 5 mmBtu/hr or greater, that are utilized in all industrial, institutional, and commercial operations. This rule has changed several times, and at the end of 2018, another revision to the rule was adopted. All Group 1 units (>/= 75MMBTu/hr) as well as Group II units (20 - 75 MMBTu/hr) with an existing permit limit greater than 2 ppm must comply with a 5 ppm NOx limit. In addition, facilities that qualify must be in compliance by 2022 – 2023. The table below outlines all equipment and current limits based on category and heat input.

If your facility falls into the RECLAIM bubble, Nationwide Boiler can assist in bringing your stationary equipment up to current standards to comply with the latest rules and regulations. Our CataStak™ SCR system is proven to reduce NOx emissions to as low as 2.5 ppm on boilers, fired heaters, and other demanding applications. Imagine what we can do for your facility to get you in compliance with RECLAIM!

Stay tuned for part 2, where we will outline specific rules and regulations within the SJVAPCD.

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Building A Culture That Leads To Success

Recent studies show that companies are restructuring their culture, steering away from the competitive work environment with minimal employee recognition, and shifting towards adapting a more team-centric and collaborative working atmosphere.

Nationwide Boiler is proud to say that we have always been a company that encourages team building, and are more than happy to recognize and reward our employees as they excel in their position. In fact, in addition to 5-year length of service awards that are presented at our annual Christmas party, we recognize employees who make a big impact with our ‘Big Kahuna’ award at each quarterly birthday celebration.

IMG_1145.JPGTo encourage camaraderie throughout our company, Nationwide Boiler coordinates multiple events for employees to take part in. This year we have a total of 6 sporting events in the lineup, including soccer, baseball, and college football. The next game we are looking forward to is the Oakland A’s vs. Texas Rangers, and of course, we will be rooting for the A’s! We also coordinate multiple barbeques & dessert socials throughout the year to satisfy our many food lovers and celebrate certain events. Most recently, we held our Independence Day barbeque the week of July 4th. We had grill masters, Larry Day and Michele Tomas, cook up some delicious burgers and hotdogs; while Holly Lepo spoiled us all with her famous and delicious chili, yum! We can’t wait for the next one.

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In addition to being sports enthusiasts and foodies, we also like participating and getting in on the action. We recently hosted a bowling lunch at our local bowling alley, Cloverleaf Family Bowl. The group was split into 8 teams (with fun, creative team names), in a competition to win the title of Nationwide Boiler’s 2019 Bowling Champions. In the end, Team Vapor & Team Combustion went head to head, but Team Vapor came out on top. Congratulations to Tim McBride, Phil Blake, Nic Petty, and Sandy Nevels. Let’s see who will take home the title at our next bowling event! 

Nationwide Boiler is blessed to have a team of hard-working, dedicated individuals, which is why we like to create an environment in which they can come to work excited and motivated. Not only does a team focused and collaborative culture increase motivation, it is also proven to improve productivity, encourage creativity, and build trust between employees. And we are living proof of that.
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