Edmonton Valve & Fitting Blog

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

New Technical Briefing: Industrial Steam Sampling Best Practices

by Katie Reid, on Thu, Sep 17, 2020 @ 14:09 PM

In a new technical briefing you'll learn about the most common errors in steam sampling and six keys to doing it right.

Steam Sampling

Industrial steam expert Kelly Paffel and Edmonton Valve energy guru Tristian McCallion delivered a 25-minute technical briefing on steam sampling in July. We've posted a recording of it, along with additional resources, here:

Technical Briefings

In July, Kelly Paffel and Tristian McCallion led a technical briefing, “Steam Sampling,” packed with practical advice grounded in decades of experience helping engineers, operators, and technicians optimize steam generation areas. We’ve posted the recorded briefing online, along with resources attendees downloaded after the session. All the resources are free.

Every boiler plant or steam generation area requires frequent testing. Checking boiler chemistry, boiler water quality, carry over, and condensate corrosion is essential. Operators monitor PH, conductivity, hardness, OH alkalinity, sulfites, and phosphates. They also monitor dissolved gases, particularly oxygen; and conduct other tests depending on chemical vendors' recommendations.

Paffel points out that, even in a basic steam system, operators need to take samples from about seven different points in the system. In a complex system, sample points may increase by a factor of two, three, or more.

Daily testing is best, and accurate results depend on numerous factors. It's wise to have a central location for sampling where you have the correct valves for positive shut off, double valve protection, cooling to below 90oF (32oC), discharge of samples to a safe location, and more.

Paffel and McCallion step through common errors like leakage, incorrect valves, lack of clear operating procedures, and improper labeling. Such problems result in inaccurate sampling and higher than necessary operating costs. Even worse, they can result in personnel being burned or injured in other ways.

Then they identify at least six keys to proper design, assembly, and installation. One is accounting for the way tubing and pipe expand when heated. If you have a 200-foot run of tube or pipe that goes from 50 to 650oF, McCallion explains, your design needs to account for six inches of expansion and contraction.

Another key is tapping lines in the right places. If they are too high, you'll be getting samples at the liquid/vapor interface or entirely from the vapor space, which means terribly inaccurate results. 

Threads need special sealant and lubricant to handle high temperatures. Supports and brackets need to remain strong at high temps. Personnel should be shielded from hot pipes, tubes, hoses, valves and other components. Even instruments need to be suitable for high temperatures. (Gauges, for example, are generally limited to about 212oF (100oC) if they are liquid filled.)

Kelly PaffelOver the past 28 years, Paffel has personally conducted thousands of steam system audits, project management tasks, product design, engineering assignments and training sessions in the United States and overseas. He has achieved Steam System Level V certification in Steam Systems, is a member of the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Steam Best Practices Committee and Steam Technical Committee, and has published many technical papers on steam and compressed air system design and operation.


Edmonton Valve has relied on McCallion for 26 years. His current title is Custom Solutions Manager. Earlier, he supervised our sales team. Before that, he managed a sales territory in Edmonton and northeastern Alberta. For 12 years he also worked with Swagelok Energy Advisors across north America,  providing training on steam fundamentals (TAP) , steam trap testing & worked on a number of different steam system audits.

View the full technical briefing and supporting resources here:

Technical Briefings

Steam system audits (now with RealWear headsets)

Whether you have a refinery, power plant, or other industrial operation, downtime in your boiler plant area costs big money. Even smaller problems --ones that don't halt production -- are a drain on resources.

Why put up with a problem when you don't have to? Our certified engineers can promptly examine your systems and identify concrete ways to boost consistency, reliability, and efficiency. And in 2020, to maximize speed and value delivered, they wear hands-free RealWear headsets while doing evaluations.


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