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The Fluid Systems Engineering and Management Blog

by Swagelok Northern California

Meet Someone Who Knows Steam Systems Like the Back of His Hand

by Jeff Hopkins, on 1/31/13 12:15 PM

Gary Gleason and Swagelok Energy Advisors help customers through steam system performance evaluations and training 

Steam System Expert
By the time a steam system needs major maintenance, senior staff who knew it best may have retired. Through Swagelok Northern California you can access a team of full-time field engineers, like Gary Gleason, Senior Field Engineer for Swagelok Energy Advisors.

More information 

Meet the expert

Gary Gleason is a senior member of the Association of Energy Engineers and is recognized by AEE as a Certified Energy Manager.  Prior to joining SEA, he founded, built, and sold a company with a strict focus on steam and condensate systems. Now he spends much of the year crisscrossing North America, helping plants get the best performance out of their steam systems. 

Whether on site or at trade shows, Gleason often asks people if they have any problems with their steam systems. "A lot of them roll their eyes and say of course they do," Gleason says. "Many of them think that leaks and other problems are simply par for the course. In reality, a properly designed and maintained steam system should be quiet and clean." 

Listen to your steam system

"If your steam system is making any noise at all, if you hear banging or pinging or a gravelly sound, if pipes are moving, it is saying to you, 'Come fix me!'  " he says. Every component in a steam system affects every other component. So when steam traps are left unchecked, or if valves are allowed to leak, it sets up the potential for more problems elsewhere in the line. If you have heat exchanger bundles or coils that are failing prematurely, the solution could involve other parts of the system. 

One of the most common things that Gleason encounters when walking through a plant is venting flash steam to atmosphere.  Many plants vent steam to atmosphere without realizing how much it is costing them.  The return on investment for capturing flash steam is very high. Capturing it can create immediate energy savings as well as improve the efficiency and safety of the system. 

Set up properly, a steam system can be easy to deal with for a decade or more. Oddly enough, that longevity can sometimes pose a challenge for the newer members of maintenance crews.

In the “old days”, veterans had time to pass along years of acquired knowledge before they retired. In today’s tight economy, companies are running with leaner crews. By the time a steam system needs major maintenance, the senior people who knew it best may have been retired for a couple of years. The people now responsible for maintaining and operating the steam system might hesitate when it comes to tasks outside the normal routine – like condensate removalflash steam recovery, or how to eliminate water hammer.

More and more, they are turning to Gary Gleason and Swagelok Energy Advisors for help. Swagelok Energy Advisors has a core team of full-time field engineers in North America. They’re on the road three out of every four weeks. In a typical year, they conduct 62 steam system reviews and 26 training events and support clients on several large projects.

Independent review by steam system specialists

The team is made up of engineers like Gleason with experience working with steam systems in a variety of industries, such as oil and gas, food, beverage, and dairy, and petrochemical. Altogether they have about a century of hands-on experience. Not only do they know steam, they know how it is applied in various processes. So even if it is a new process, they understand what is going on with the system. Swagelok Energy Advisors won’t just tell you that you need a valve in a particular spot, they’ll explain why.

Onsite customized training

Recently, Swagelok Energy Advisors have delivered more customized training. Courses include the Ten Action Points of a Steam System, Steam Trap Examiner’s Training, and more comprehensive courses ranging from full system review to Boiler Plant Operations.

Unlike general training that is conducted in conference centers, customized training involves coming out to your site. Often the advisors will come out the day before to discuss specific issues, then tailor the next day’s training to address them.

In addition, the field engineers’ recommendations won’t try to squeeze a Swagelok component into a steam configuration if it’s not the best part for the job. In fact, Swagelok Energy Advisors like it best when they can be in on the ground floor, helping customers design systems properly right from the start.

Steam is a stable technology with a lot of history behind it. Swagelok Energy Advisors help keep up that tradition. With targeted training and education, you can improve safety, increase productivity, and keep abreast of the latest fluid system technology.

Learn more about getting assessment and training from steam system experts. More »

Free Consultation

We're offering a special opportunity to those who stop by our booth, #308 at Food Processing Expo 2013, California’s largest food processing show, held at the Sacramento Convention Center next month. On Feb. 5 only, you'll be able to schedule up to 30 minutes of free consultation with Gary Gleason of Swagelok Energy Advisors Inc (SEA).  While SEA can offer the most benefit by walking through a plant for a system performance evaluation, Gleason can still offer a lot of advice in 15-30 minutes at the trade show. Bring in a sketch or photo of your system, and he'll be glad to discuss water hammer, flash steam venting, steam trap issues, water handlers and more.  



Jeff Hopkins - Swagelok Northern California. Contact our team »

Topics:SteamFood ProcessingValves

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