A Proactive Steam Plan
Steam leakage will cost you a lot of money this year. Since a process facility typically has hundreds of steam traps throughout it. Even a small fraction of failed traps could squander thousands of dollars a year.
Example: A hundred-dollar trap could waste $50 a week. How many traps do you have leaking now? And where could the dollars associated with labor to find, test and repair be better used? Plus any parts consumed?
A refining facility who uses a lot of steam took the time to analyze their steam usage. They formed a "steam team" to identify and troubleshoot their system from the boiler through to the point of use and back.
By eliminating inefficiencies they were able to save millions of dollars a year TAX FREE, saving their budgets and adding to their profitability through lower operating and maintenance costs. About half the savings were realized by eliminating lost steam through leaks in ½" tubing and tracing components and the other half saved in costs associated with maintenance costs and labor. The ROI on this project was a few short months.
Here's what they focused on and what they learned.
Eliminate threaded connections
- because the act as a spiral leak path, steam will find the path of least resistance and leak over time
- because TFE tape or thread sealants tend to break apart and enter the flow stream then clog small orifices like in a steam trap causing failures
Standardize on a Class VI leak tight ball valve on supply and return headers
- Eliminate stem leakage with live loaded packings
- Conventional packing does not stand up as well as a live loaded packing
- Every year too much maintenance time is wasted repacking gate valves
- Use ball valves instead of gate valves
- ¼-turn actuation vs. a gate valve with several turns and more packing wear to open
- directional handle allows operator to safely know if valve is open or closed vs. gauging how many stem threads are exposed with a gate valve
Replace copper lines with stainless steel
- Copper corrosion and scale run downstream filling and clogging traps
- Stainless steel resisted splits and tube expansion from freeze ups and thaws at a higher rate than copper tracer tubing
Upgrade trap test stations
- Trap test stations allow:
- isolation of traps for inspection
- the ability to purge system safely upon start up or shut down
- visual inspection to ensure trap performance with no special skill or instruments required
- for elimination of potential leak paths, piping stress, footprint
Institute a visual trap testing program
- Keep traps removing water, air and other non-condensable gasses to improve steam quality
- Anyone can check to ensure a trap is properly functioning this directly affects processes
- Lowers maintenance and operating costs
Of course, your savings are relevant to the size and what shape your steam system is in. However, these focal points are a good proactive approach to lower costs in most steam systems.