Most industrial facilities require some form of steam heating or steam utilization for process activities. Many industrial complexes rely on steam systems to supply all or a portion of their power demands. Therefore, steam system assessments are a main point of focus for many companies. A steam system assessment typically requires investigations in three primary areas:
Steam generation efficiency
Resource utilization effectiveness
Distribution system losses
These areas are investigated through the use of field measurements coupled with sophisticated and powerful software. Most of the investigations completed are based in thermodynamics and physics. These investigations incorporate operational economics as well as implementation costs to allow informed operational decisions to be made.
In the Steam generation efficiency category of the assessment the boiler is investigated and the goal is to obtain the optimum practical steam generation efficiency. Typical boiler efficiency will be determined by boiler exhaust gas analysis. Existing steam flow meters and fuel flow meters will be incorporated in the analysis if they are in place. Typically, the major avenue of loss associated with boiler operation is energy carried from the system with the flue gas exiting the boiler. Therefore, significant attention will be given to this investigation. Flue gas heat recovery and excess air control are major components associated with this investigation. Other areas incorporated into the steam generation efficiency investigation are boiler blowdown management, water quality issues, and heat transfer losses from the boiler surface.
Resource utilization effectiveness is a very broad category encompassing fuel selection, combined heat and power systems, steam system balancing and steam end users. These investigation areas can have significant impact on the economics of a facility. Facilities capable of utilizing multiple fuels can realize significant savings as a result of fuel price differences as well as efficiency differences. The assessment investigates the potential opportunities and impacts of fuel selection.
Also incorporated in the resource utilization effectiveness assessment are combined heat and power (cogeneration) applications. Combining generation of the site’s thermal energy supply with the electrical supply can result in major increases in overall cost effectiveness. In steam systems this generally involves steam turbines in the form of mechanical drives or electric generator drives. However, combustion turbines also play a significant role in industry today. This portion of the assessment will determine the effectiveness of these components as well as their economic impact.
Steam end use equipment is targeted to determine if steam is the most appropriate resource for a specific application. Management activities are also targeted to reduce steam demands.
Steam distribution system losses can be a major source of loss in a system. Several focus areas are incorporated in this category:
Steam trap failures
Heat transfer loss through insulation
Recovery system considerations
Reduction of steam use
These areas are fundamental in the field of energy management and generally result in attractive economics when savings opportunities are identified.
Additionally, during the assessment best practices are identified and emphasized. A best practice is defined as an activity that exhibits the fundamental principles of energy management. A best practice must also be widely applicable and based in sound, fundamental principles. Identification and emphasis of best practices serves as an excellent vehicle for communicating successful energy management practices.