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Finding the Hidden Profits in Steam Generation

The efficient production of steam goes a long way towards reducing energy consumption thereby reducing operating costs. Although the power generation industry is the biggest producer, many other industries allocate a significant portion of their energy consumption to the production of steam. This includes chemical processing, pulp and paper, petroleum refining, primary metals, and food processing.

United States Department of Energy surveys show that minor adjustments in process management can incrementally improve efficiency in commercial and heavy industries. That said, instrumentation plays a pivotal role in the success of key applications throughout the steam generation cycle.

As a consequence, the performance of any level technology relative to instrument induced errors, calibration nuances, and vulnerabilities to process dynamics can have an immediate and adverse impact on fuel consumption. It can also contribute negatively to other aspects of the process, be it makeup water requirements, excessive boiler blowdown, or energy transfer. Unfortunately, these other aspects of the process indirectly contribute to the inefficient use of fuel and hinder production throughput and product quality. Adding to this burden is the potential for damage to expensive hardware resulting in forced outages, unscheduled downtime, and costly maintenance.

It is not an uncommon practice to employ waste heat and/or condensate recovery systems to reduce energy losses and capture valuable condensate. The use of instrumentation technology that cannot adequately or reliably address the control aspects of these processes can inhibit the effectiveness and overall return on investment in these systems. Furthermore, processes where electricity consumption and steam generation represent a disproportionate amount of the fuel cost can be plagued with inefficiencies simply due to a technology’s shortcomings on critical applications. Of course, this depends on the fuel type as well as other factors. Nonetheless, when properly addressed, these areas have an immediate and positive impact on costs.

An overview of the processes involved, along with the unique instrumentation requirements for each component, offers insight into the significance of maintaining proper level control. By identifying key areas in the steam generation cycle where improved level instrumentation has the greatest impact, plant operators take the first step towards lowering costs and increasing efficiency.

Magnetrol® has recently released a new white paper covering not only the most critical application at combined cycle power plants—the steam drum—but also the many opportunities at a variety of plants to improve efficiency in their condensate and waste heat recovery processes. Download the white paper to learn more about a cost-saving steam generation strategy.