How to Prepare for Steam Season
Steam system maintenance and operation is most effective when in proactive mode as opposed to reactive mode. It is much easier to make repairs and take corrective action before the tracer lines begin to freeze. Additionally, your maintenance staff will be much happier making repairs in warmer weather than in the dead of winter.
The winterization process at industrial facilities should prepare the plant’s steam tracing for the frigid temperatures ahead. Part of the preparation has to include starting the systems up, and starting them safely. It is important to remember that a large number of incidents in the steam world occur when the systems are started up. This is increasingly important if the start-up procedures are not properly considered, followed or current. It is critical to have a start up procedure that brings the steam system to operating conditions safely. At a minimum the procedure should be a written outline of:
- the steps to complete the start up
- how the steam team will communicate
- the number of people needed
- safety and personnel protective equipment required
Once the system is up and running it is important to walk the system to make sure there are no obvious issues like leaks or water hammer. The colder weather will put a heavier load on the steam system and all of its components. It is crucial for the steam to be at its highest quality level and the boiler be running as efficiently as possible to minimize any steam quality issues and maximize system reliability.
The tracing lines are the components that most people think of when discussing winterization, and it is imperative that they be running at maximum effectiveness to minimize down time due to freeze ups.
- Ensure that the system has started up correctly, and that the lines are not plugged or leaking.
- Keep the tracers to 100 foot maximums
- Insulate the jumpers between the supply and return headers and the process piping
- Make sure the trap test stations are running correctly
These procedures will go a long way to reducing the number of freeze-up related issues during the winter season.