Edmonton Valve & Fitting Blog

Weekly posts for northern and central Alberta engineers, plant operators, and buyers.

Proactive Questions from September's Winterization Webinar

by Katie Dennis, on Wed, Oct 24, 2012 @ 10:10 AM

Webinar participants get the chance to ask questions & get answers to their specific concerns from SEA expert Tristian McCallion

Tristian McCallion goes over the importance of winterization

Our September webinar series on winterization covered a lot of ground. Swagelok Energy Advisors (for more info on SEA click here) and Edmonton Valve and Fitting Inc. put together material on steam tracing lines, steam trap stations and unit heaters specifically for professionals in the Edmonton, Alberta area. Those who registered and participated live got an extra benefit: They were able to pose questions to field service advisor Tristian McCallion and get answers on the spot. Here's a sampling, but for the full Q&A session download the PDF here:

Q: What type of tracing is most efficient?

A: The standard types of tracing are steam, electric and thermal fluid. Steam is the most efficient, but installing it can be expensive. When installation cost is a primary consideration and steam is not readily available, it may be a better choice to go with electric tracing.

Q: What are the benefits of tracing with copper versus stainless steel?

A: Most applications now use stainless steel. Copper does transfer heat more efficiently, and maintenance is easier, but most plants don't run copper in the normal course of business. That means you'd have to stock the material just for tracing. Copper can also have some corrosion issues.

Q: Do you prefer a sight glass or a test valve for visual testing of a steam trap?

A: My preference is the test valve. The site glass is nice from the standpoint that you don’t have to break into the line, and we aren’t discharging condensate to atmosphere. So in facilities where you have to get approval to open valves, the site glass is nice. The negative with the site glass is that it's tough to tell whether a trap is blowing through, or if it’s plugged further up the line and you have condensate sitting there behind the plug. You need some movement in the line to get some sort of reference of what’s going on. With a test valve, you open it up and either something comes out or it doesn’t, and the problem becomes fairly obvious. Site glass can also cloud up over time.

Q: Can I have too many steam traps in a system?

A: Typically, no.  Every time you have a tracing line, you have to have a trap on it. The more traps, the more efficient your system will be. You will have less condensate pooling. There are generally going to be prescribed points that you need steam traps. Every time you come off with a supply line, you are going to be trapping the steam before you are returning it into the condensate header. On the steam main line, every time you change direction or elevation you are going to have a steam trap station. If it’s a straight line with no expansion loop or changes in directions, then you are going to have a steam trap about every 300 to 400 feet, but that is getting a bit more into the engineering aspect of it. Anytime you have a valve that you can shut off, you are going to want to have a steam trap station in front of that. 

Q: How often should unit heaters be cleaned?

A: The dirtier the environment, the more often you'll need to clean them. In a warehouse or a dusty sawmill, you may need to clean them monthly. In an office, you may be able to wait until the beginning of the heating season.

Q: How do I get management to buy into an energy management system?

A: The best thing to do is to raise awareness of how much steam and compressed air and utilities in the facility are costing. There are lots of information resources: The U.S. Department of Energy, Natural Resources Canada, and the Swagelok Energy Advisors website. Also look for articles in business magazines like Forbes. Steam and compressed air costs can easily be upwards of $100,000 in some plants. You can save a vast percentage of that by managing your system. If cost isn't a big issue at your plant, consider the greenhouse gasses going out. It's good to be green as well as financially stable. To make sure your argument is heard, find yourself a champion and raise the management’s awareness.

When our next webinar rolls around, be sure to register and get your chance to participate live. We'll have video of all three winterization webinars up on our web site soon. Keep checking back. 

Further resources are available from Swagelok Energy Advisors and their newest article Winterize Now to Avoid Problems Later.


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