MRO Q&A: Cutting Costs in Boiler Operations

MRO Q&A is a Food Processing series addressing maintenance, repair and operational issues in food plants.

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Q: We have an older facility, and I am looking for ways I can cut costs in my boiler operations. Do you have any suggestions?

A: There are several areas in boiler operations where you may be able to trim costs.

First, make sure they are operating efficiently. Ensure you have the most efficient ignition systems available. On a yearly basis, make sure your burners have been "tuned" with the right air mixture for the fuel you are burning.

Boiler "blow downs" are needed to dispel solids that build up in the boilers. But they also discharge BTUs (British Thermal Units) down the drain.

Extending the frequency of boiler blow downs should be considered. Monitoring your conductivity levels will help determine how long you can go between blow downs. If this is optimized, you may want to route these fluids through a heat exchanger to pre heat the boiler make up water.
Reclaim waste heat from the boiler stack by installing an economizer. It routes boiler make-up water through a coil, which increases its heat content. Waste heat from other processes should be used to preheat boiler make-up water.

Considering a reverse osmosis system for your boiler feed water could add value. This process removes solids from your water which, left untreated, will have to be manipulated inside your boiler through chemicals and ultimately blown down the sewer. This will have a positive effect of cutting your chemical costs.

Many needs for steam are merely for the BTUs needed to heat another substance. Making sure you return the residual condensate back to the boiler as make-up will save you considerable money as the steam has already been treated once, and it is a poor practice to sewer the condensate as a "single pass" system.

If your primary need is just hot water, you may want to consider a direct-fired water heating system. These systems are 95+ percent efficient as compared to the 80-85 percent efficiency of a typical fire tube or water tube boiler. There are many reputable companies that sell these direct-fired water systems.

I applaud you for seeking ways to improve your boiler operations. To many people, the costs of utilities are a fixed expense, but our job is to innovate and optimize processes using all means.

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