4 ways to minimize steam costs: Part II

Operating and maintaining a reliable steam system can have significant cost impact on a plant's annual budget.

By Ven V. Venkatesan

In Part I of this column, I addressed steam cost optimization opportunities, mostly regarding steam generation, as well as the need for maintaining a reliable condensate return system. More opportunities exist in other parts of the system, in particular, the large network of pipelines, valves and other fittings that are possible sources of heat energy loss. In addition, the steam distribution system requires devices to collect condensate, keep steam dry and control its flow and required pressure level. If these devices aren’t designed and maintained properly, the energy loss could be substantial.

A steam distribution system collects steam from boilers, waste heat boilers and steam turbine exhausts. In multiple-pressure-header steam systems, the lower-pressure-level headers automatically collect steam from the higher-pressure headers through letdown valves. As steam travels through various pressure-level pipelines to the point of use, it loses some of its heat and energy content, resulting in condensate formation.

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