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The Fluid Systems Engineering and Management Blog

by Swagelok Northern California

Technical Webinar Replay: Steam System Reliability with Kelly Paffel

by Jeff Hopkins, on 8/26/15 8:00 AM

If you weren't able to watch it live, here's a second chance to learn from an expert

steam systems
Get access to the webinar replay and download the presentation slides and transcript here »

One of the hallmarks of our classes, seminars and webinars is that we call on industry experts to present the material. For our recent webinar on Steam System Reliability, for instance, we had the expertise of Kelly Paffel, technical manager for Swagelok Energy Advisors. With more than four decades of experience in steam, compressed air systems and power operations, he's recognized worldwide as an authority in industrial steam systems.

If you missed out on hearing Paffel live, we're giving you a second chance by putting the presentation online.

For this webinar, Paffel looked at two main reliability areas: steam leakage and component failure. For those who oversee other compressed gas systems and not steam, while steam and other compressed gasses may act differently within your systems, the ideas presented in this webinar of conserving these gasses and preventing leaks can carry over beyond just steam.  

Steam leakage

Steam leakage is going to hurt any plant in five different ways. First, it's a safety problem. Second, lost steam means lost energy, as much as 19 percent of the energy produced. Third -- and this is one people often forget -- leaking steam is an emissions problem. After all, whatever you are burning to create the steam, you have to burn more of it to compensate for the leak. That means more emissions.

Put all of those together and you get the fourth problem, loss of reliability. That, in turn, creates the fifth problem, interruptions in production.

Paffel examined each of these five areas in detail. He also has some useful approaches for estimating the size of a steam leak. That's always a challenge, because it almost always involves an orifice with an irregular shape. Paffel goes through ways to get a rough idea of what a steam leak will cost over the course of a year.

No matter how big it is when you find it, however, it's a safe bet that the leak will only get worse if it isn't fixed right away.

Ideally, the best way to deal with leaks is preventing them from happening in the first place. What causes steam leaks? Corrosion is a big reason, but not the only one. Poor installation, selecting the wrong components, and poor operation of the steam system can all cause leaks.

Component Failure

When a whole component fails, such as a hose or a valve that gives way, it causes the same kinds of problems, only more immediate.

The most obvious problem with component failure is downtime. But, just as with steam leaks, one problem leads to another. Downtime means lost production. It also means spending maintenance dollars. And, since it means steam is blowing out, you get all the safety and emissions problems associated with a leak.

If a component fails on a tracing system, it means losing temperature because of the lower pressure. Other key areas of component failure are heat transfer tubes, PRV valves, control valves, turbines, condensate pumps and expansion devices.

Make sure every component installed in the steam system is properly rated for the job, Paffel said, and component failure will become a much smaller problem.

The most important thing of all, however, isn't a question of equipment, it's a question of behavior. The most important aspect of improving reliability is change. Don't expect to do things the way they were done 15 years ago, 10 years ago or even five years ago. That includes everything from the engineering specification and system design to standard operating procedures.

No steam system should have more than six leak points a year, Paffel said, and every steam component should last at least six years.

It takes only a few minutes to read this summary. For the full 20-minute webinar, click here. You can hear Paffel and see his slides, and you can keep a transcript for future reference. So don't get steamed by the leaks and component failures in your system.


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