What All Stakeholders Should Know About Boiler Maintenance

Industrial Watertube Boiler - Victory Energy
Industrial Watertube Boiler
Courtesy Victory Energy Operations
Steam has been a component of industrial operations for many decades. Today, we enjoy the benefits derived from past experience with countless boiler operating hours and a history of successes and failures. During this time, codes and standards have developed and expanded to bring a high level of safety to boiler operation and minimize their environmental impact.

One aspect of boiler ownership or operation that all stakeholders should understand is proper maintenance. The video below will help property and business owners, maintenance staff, and other interested parties develop a basic knowledge level and understanding of the scope and importance of proper boiler maintenance. It is essential for delivering safe and efficient facility operation.

Watch the video. It's three minutes. A special thanks for video production goes to Victory Energy Operations, a leading single source supplier of custom engineered watertube boilers and package boiler systems, servicing a multitude of markets worldwide.

You can learn more about boiler maintenance from the combustion and steam experts at CTI Controltech. The company provides a full range of maintenance, repair, and engineering services, along with high grade parts, controls, and equipment.

Why Do We Debate Air vs. Electric Powered Valve Actuators?

Rotork Industrial Valve
Industrial Process Control Valve
Courtesy Rotork
Which is better, air or electric? We're talking about valve actuators here. Just for perspective on how original this article might turn out to be, I commanded my friendly Google search engine to look for "air vs. electric actuators". Google always finds something, no matter what you ask, giving the humble user an impression that the big "G" has all the answers....and they truly may. Don't misunderstand me. I am a big Google fan. Someday I might even pay for something that they provide me. Anyway, I was humbled by the avalanche of search returns on my the subject, 17,200,000 articles. That's a large number, even for a Google search. Many of the articles related to industrial machinery automation, not valves. Changing my search to "electric vs pneumatic valve actuator" shaved the returns down to 236K, a more manageable volume.
Dutifully reading the highest ranked articles and following threads in forums, I started to wonder why, like figurative gladiators, we pit these two valve actuator motive power sources against one another. There is not a single winner in this case. One is not universally better, more advantageous, than the other. Both methodologies have instances where they can be used to best advantage. A good recommendation is to not be too influenced by the past, by what your own industrial process control experience may have been. The manufacturers of these products are continuously modifying designs and releasing products with newer technologies and better performance that may eliminate some shortcomings of the past.

Your best course of action is to consider the following:

  • What is the expected useful life of the process? Short term, long term, permanent?
  • Will existing air supply and piping system accommodate the anticipated additional pneumatic valve load, if that type actuator seems otherwise advantageous?
  • Are there sufficient maintenance and technical resources in place to keep either system in top operating condition and successfully deal with operational and repair issues that will arise? Does the current maintenance staff have sufficient knowledge and training to perform needed tasks?
  • Are there rated hazardous zones where valves will be located?
  • What needs to happen to valve position if motive power (air pressure or electricity) fails?
  • What valve positioning requirements are associated with proper control of the process?
  • What interfaces with any existing control systems, if any, need to be accomplished?
Carefully consider these points, add several of you own. Consult with knowledgeable sales engineers that specialize in valve automation. Combine experience and knowledge from a number of sources and a good solution will materialize. 

Got a Boiler? Get This Reference For Your Maintenance Techs.

Clark-Reliance Inspection Guidelines for Water Level Instrumentation
Drum Level Indication Guide
Industrial and commercial boilers, while commonplace in our infrastructure, are serious and potentially dangerous devices that require diligent attention in order to maintain safe operating conditions. Many modern elements of boiler design and the arrangement of their installation sites are responses to past catastrophic failures that we all wish to never recur.

Part of the diligence that keeps steam systems operating safely is periodic inspection of equipment and safety instrumentation. One manufacturer of water level indication instrumentation has compiled the latest ASME code requirements for drum level instrumentation with some additional best practices into a laminated, field hardened, booklet for use by mechanics, engineers, and other stakeholders in safe boiler operation.

Clark-Reliance Corporation, manufacturer of boiler water level instrumentation and controls, offers "Boiler Inspection Guidelines for Drum Level Instrumentation" free of charge to those interested in this aspect of boiler operation safety. Request a free copy below. Get it for your use and knowledge, or for the mechanics or contractors that maintain your boiler and steam system. The publication outlines the code requirements, provides some best practice recommendations, and provides illustrations of some correct and incorrect installation practices. It also presents different types of level indication device technologies and where each can be properly applied.

Get your free copy of the publication and put it to good use by requesting the "Clark-Reliance drum level inspection guide" at the link.

Boiler water level instrumentation handbook
Handbook provides examples of code violations and corrections.

Severe Service Ball Valves Meet Toughest Application Challenges

Industrial ball valve for severe service - section view
Severe Service Ball Valve Section View
Courtesy Mogas Industries
Industrial process control, as a field of endeavor, can expose an engineer to instances where their design input can have very significant impact on the financial prospects of their employer, even the safety and well being of the public residing near company facilities. "Getting things right the first time" is much more than a motivating slogan on a poster tacked to the wall in the corridor outside the engineering department. It is what our society demands of engineers. Fortunately, there are engineers that embrace the role of making sure things go as planned. They work as process engineers and also as designers of the componentry and equipment used to implement complex and potentially dangerous processes.

I have written about the positive and potentially not so positive attributes of ball valves for industrial process control applications. In that recent blog article, I mentioned that ...

"There may be particular ball valve variants that overcome potential shortcomings listed in this article".

Ball valves designed for severe service are an example of a manufacturer specifically designing ball valves to not only overcome some potential shortcomings of the valve type, but to extend the performance ratings into areas that accommodate some of the most demanding applications in the process control field.

What constitutes severe service?

  • Extreme temperatures
  • High pressures
  • Abrasive particulates
  • Acidic products
  • Heavy solids build up
  • Critical plant safety
  • Large pressure differentials
  • Velocity control
  • Noise control

Extended or enhanced features of severe service ball valves include:

  • Floating or trunnion mounted ball design with straight through bore path that protects the sealing surfaces.
  • Wide seat sealing surface with matched ball and seat sets that provide total sealing contact for reliable isolation. The greater sealing contact area withstands minor scratches and abrasions.
  • Independent replaceable seats to minimize repair and maintenance costs.
  • Pressure energized sealing, with seat springs that maintain a constant sealing contact between the ball and seats. Metal seats wipe the ball sealing surface clean during every operation.
  • Blowout proof one piece oversized stem design meets stringent industrial safety standards and withstands maximum working pressures and extreme service torques.
  • Dual-guided stem design employs pressure energized inner stem seals as a thrust bearing and lower stem guide. The valve stem bushing serves as the upper stem guide to eliminate lateral movement of the stem and prevent media migration and fugitive emissions.
  • Greater body wall thickness, with forged body and end connections for longest service life.
  • A heavy duty operator mounting flange, to provide structural support for the valve operator, is machined after attachment to assure precise stem alignment.
Application specific features, such as seat designs, live loaded packing, body gaskets, coatings, liners, purge ports, end connections, and special materials are also available to customize these severe service valves to meet extreme application requirements. The presentation below provides schematic and illustrated examples where severe service valves are applied and provides additional detail about the special features incorporated in the design of severe service ball valves. For all your control or isolation valve projects, whether in the conceptual, planning or implementation stage, consult a valve specialist. Merge your grasp of the process and its requirements with the product knowledge and application experience of a specialist and produce a solidly positive project outcome.