Using flowmeters to drive steam gen & condensate recovery ROI

June 6, 2016

How modern flow measurement technology can provide a one to two-year ROI in energy savings within steam generation and condensate recovery applications.

Technology investments in industrial process environments are generally contingent on a quantifiable return on investment within a given period of time. Here we will consider how modern flow measurement technology can be employed to provide a one to two-year return on investment in energy savings within steam generation and condensate recovery applications.

The Energy Efficiency Opportunity

Purchased fuel and electricity consumption are areas where any improvements in efficiency drop directly to a company’s bottom line. It makes sense that having the ability to monitor the end-use location of fuel throughout a facility, as well as the consumption specifics for individual applications — predominately the boiler — can offer insight into potential areas for improvement.

A similar statement can be made for electricity consumption; whereby reductions can be realized by simply identifying where the energy is being lost. In the energy management arena, the ability to better monitor combustion air, fuel gas flow, and compressed air can help identify losses that over short periods of time can affect a plant’s profitability.

The two key phrases when discussing instrumentation in energy management applications are "cost effective" and "return on investment." Without question, any situation can be resolved if enough financial resources are thrown in its direction. However, the idea is to realize the benefit in the shortest timeframe possible at the most reasonable cost. Thermal dispersion mass flow meters are particularly cost effective and well suited for a range of energy management scenarios, including the following:

Combustion Air Flow Measurement

Combustion air flow measurement to a boiler is important to maintain a stoichiometric ratio with the amount of fuel being supplied. Too little air flow can result in incomplete combustion along with additional carbon monoxide or pollutants depending on the fuel being burned. On the other hand, too much air flow can cool the furnace and waste heat out of the stack. The repeatability of the air measurement is essential to obtaining the most efficient air-fuel ratio (AFR). Modern thermal dispersion flow meters excel in air-flow measurement applications.

Fuel Gas Flow

Measuring fuel gas flow (natural gas or propane) usage to individual combustion sources compared to the output (steam/hot water) can help optimize boiler efficiency and better manage energy consumption. Knowing individual boiler performance may also assist in optimizing operating efficiency. Lowering fuel consumption is one of the easiest methods to reduce cost and improve profits, and thermal dispersion flow meters can provide crucial insights that enable fuel efficiency.

Compressed Air

A key role in energy and facilities management is making compressed-air systems more reliable and efficient. Valuable resources are wasted when a leak goes unnoticed or cannot be easily isolated.

The Department of Energy estimates that 20 percent to 30 percent of compressor air output goes to leaks accounting for thousands of dollars in electrical consumption and wasted air. More extreme cases are the purchase cost of additional/larger compressors to fulfill unnecessary compressed-air needs. The first step to reducing utility costs is to measure usage. Thermal dispersion flow measurement technology can be used in branch lines for determining consumption in different sections of the plant or as a relative indication of leakage in compressed-air scenarios.

Process Optimization Through Instrumentation

Although plausible, it is rare to identify a single source of inefficiency within steam generation and condensate recovery systems. More often than not, it is small incremental opportunities for improvement across various aspects of the steam-generation cycle, condensate recovery system, and waste heat recovery process that ultimately equate to substantial savings. While we focused on the use of thermal dispersion mass flow meters here, there are other opportunities for leveraging technology to improve process efficiency in steam gen and condensate recovery. For example:

  • Reduced water consumption, treatment, discharge and inventory management;
  • Improved boiler/steam drum control – energy savings and steam quality
  • Reduced fuel consumption – waste heat recovery
  • Hardware protection & maintenance – pumps and pump seals

Oftentimes, the hidden maintenance costs and inefficiencies associated with a technology’s vulnerabilities (sustained operation in high pressure and temperature steam environments; chemical exposure; errors due to the complexity of the measurement itself and subsequent calibration requirements) are overshadowed by the day-to-day operation of these processes.

Regardless of the scale of an operation – commercial power generation or small scale boiler system, leveraging the inherent attributes of an instrument’s fundamental technology in both the short-term (engineering, upfront cost, installation and commissioning) and long-term (maintenance, day-to-day practicality and energy management) present simple and cost-effective approaches to maximizing the return on investment in the system itself.

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This content is sponsored by Magnetrol International. Sponsored content is authorized by the client and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Process Flow Network editorial team.

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