June 4, 2020

Steam System Balancing – First Step in Steam Optimization


The first step in steam system optimization. So if we’re talking about optimizing the steam and condensate system, the first step is doing a steam balance program. What is steam balancing? Well, it’s a one or two-page drawing. It provides key information on the steam system.
It’s an efficient way to gain knowledge. Steam generation, steam distribution, condensate recovery systems, the processes which your clients or the end-user. Steam balance is always the first step in any steam system optimization and steam management program.
This is always the first step. What are the expected end results of a steam balance program? Really, it’s a dashboard for the steam and condensate system. The thing is, is that if I put you in a car from the East Coast of the United States and told you to go to the West Coast of the United States, no dashboard, no GPS, would you get there? Eventually, yes.
It might be very painful. What is steam balances … Is this here, is our dashboard. It gives us this information for us to drive the steam system efficiently. It also gives us the information to drive the system and increase the steam system’s thermal cycle efficiency, and that is a very critical benchmark.
So, every plant needs to know, or achieve, the highest steam system thermal cycle efficiency possible. And the only way you’re going to be able to do that is to have a steam balance. Why are steam balances not accomplished? A high percentage of the time, it’s fragmented. You have the boiler plant, the utility operation sitting over on one side, end-users process in their own management side, steam distribution, whoever … Somebody gets that that doesn’t want that. And the condensate recovery, oh, by the way, you have condensate recovery. So, it’s very fragmented.
The library may contain multiple CAD prints. It’s not uncommon for us to go through 70 CAD prints before we finally come up with the steam balance diagram. It takes time and effort. The other thing that’s created over the years by many different engineers using different formats, AutoCAD, SolidWorks, AutoCAD pin ID. And then the plants do not keep their CAD prints up to date, so then we have to field verify to make sure the prints are up to date.
So, it becomes a very tedious task to do, but the payback is tremendous. Developing and implementing a steam balance. Yeah. A steam generation, distribution, end-user requirements, and condensate recovery can be extremely challenging goal in any industrial plant operation because we have different sources of steam, different producers, we might be buying steam, we might be using heat recovery boilers.
The other thing that end users require different pressures, different flows. All this comes in, and then we might throw in steam turbine operation for electric generation or drive units for processes, and that becomes a critical role for the steam balance because, the thing is, we don’t want steam going through a pressure letdown station and losing all that mechanical energy. So, and it’s not a one-time thing. A steam balance is always a continuous program.
This here happens to be a very large facility, and this is a very simple print of a very complex system. We have heat recovery boilers up here, utility boilers. The thing is, is the process here was discharging the condensate into these tanks and they were using a huge quantity of air-cooled condensers to condense down the flash theme. We’re losing all the thermal energy from the flash and just heating up the air, which there is no use for.
Therefore, we looked at these condensate tanks here, and this is just a partial print and bringing the condensate and the flashback to the deaerator operation. First-year savings, 25 million per year. I always put that in there, but the currency was rupiah. The real savings was 1.7 million US dollars, converted.
The implementation cost was 1.3 million. My point is, they didn’t know how to balance the system out until we did this balance and found that we could re-route piping back to the deaerator and achieve the savings. So, it was very, very critical to have a steam balance.
Another example, this happened to be a very large food processing plant. We identified these processes here that could operate with a higher pressure condensate return system. Therefore, we could send high-pressure condensate and flash steam back to the deaerator. Now, the deaerator was going to be replaced for a number of other reasons. Therefore, we just upgraded the deaerator to a higher pressure operation.
First-year savings, $285,120 a year. Implementation cost was $430,500. Ended up with a 1.5-year payback. So, the balance cost, just for this here, the balance cost was roughly $28,000 US dollars, and you can see it paid for itself. But, it took time to get into the plant, to understand the dynamics of the system.
This here was a very large facility, and this is only a partial print. The steam balance started off with this here. The current steam balance was a hand-drawn 8.5 by 11 drawing on a piece of paper, and basically ended up going into this drawing here. What we’re looking for is vents to atmosphere, which are a few other ones are not shown here, and eliminating that venting of the steam, which is … Venting steam is the biggest loss in any steaming condensate system. Just can’t afford to vent steam to the atmosphere today.
Therefore, the savings was $895,520. The thing is, is they consume the steam that’s being vented to atmosphere. They had no use for low-pressure steam. However, we implemented a steam absorption unit, and we put in about 2,000 tons of steam absorption, which consumed the flash steam or the excessive steam that was being vented to the atmosphere.
Had a 2.2-year payback, but the plan was budget to put in electric chiller units anyway, so we shared the cost with that. It still ended up with 2.2-year payback, but my point is, is that, again, couldn’t understand the dynamics of the system unless we did this steam balance.
Without a steam balance. We have a low steam system thermal cycle efficiency, or we don’t even know what our steam system thermal cycle efficiency is. We have energy losses. Basically, we’re out here allowing steam to vent to atmosphere, heating up the birds as they fly by. Energy loss emissions go into safety. Understanding where the safety valves are placed in the steam system is very critical. Process performance.
Understanding how to correct low steam quality of balance gives us the ability to identify where we need to improve the steam quality. End result of a steam balance. Simple. Better understanding of the steam and condensate system. Ability to set a road map for changes that improve the system. Production optimization. Opportunity, of course, and increased reliability and improved energy efficiency. And with that, we reduce the emissions. And of course, increase the steam system thermal cycle efficiency.
Here is our website. Please come to our website. There are 64 different subjects, steam balancing only being one of them, and we continue weekly to update and add to our library content, either on technical papers or video presentations like this here, articles that we publish in major trade magazines. So, all information on our website is generic, and there’s no vendor information.
Partnerships, short-term. Steam and engineering assessments, balance and reliability and training, of course, and long-term. Full engineering support. Here is my contact information. If you have any questions or we can be of assistance, please contact us. Have a great day.