Edmonton Valve & Fitting Blog

Whacky Alberta Weather Calls for Wise Winterizing

Thu, Oct 25, 2018 @ 15:10 PM / by Katie Reid posted in winterization, Steam, Downloads


Low temperatures can mean ruptured tubing and other problems. Here are four free resources to help you winterize... and avoid crises.

winterization group

We have tips to help you prep your facility for cold weather, including three videos (described and linked to below) and a new PDF flyer.

Winterization Checklist

Record heat, record cold, record precipitation, and more

Headlines about unusual weather are common these days, as record after record is broken for heat, cold, snow, and other meteorological events. And while we can't predict weather, we can help you cut risk by taking proven steps to winterize your operation.

"People understand they have to winterize, but most of the time it becomes a reactive procedure rather than proactive," says Tristian McCallion, local field service advisor for Edmonton Valve & Fitting. "People just sort of forget about it, then all of a sudden October hits and they say, 'Oh yes, we meant to do that.' But really, you should already have the work done by the time you start thinking about bringing your winter jacket out."

New PDF provides winterization tips at a glance

If you aren't sure where to start when you are beginning your winterization process at your plant, look no further than our "Fluid Systems Winterization Checklist." This document will help you with your initial sweep of your facility and what you key indicators you should be looking for in determining your needs. Download your free copy here and get started!

Winterization tips by and for pros

Three videos feature McCallion discussing winterization best-practices: The first one, "Tracing," covers the basics of using heat tracing systems to keep pipes from freezing. The second one, "Steam Tracing Trap Stations & Trap Testing," looks at steam trap stations for tracing. And the third one, "Unit Heaters," addresses unit heaters and different applications. 

Which is better, jacketing or tracing?

Tracing is based on a simple principal: The amount of heat energy that needs to be added to process fluids must equal to the amount of heat energy that is being lost due to low surrounding temperatures. That can be accomplished in a couple of ways. Process valves and other components can be jacketed. That gives a large heat-transfer area, and they are relatively easy to install. But the installation costs are relatively high and the jacket makes it harder to see failure points.

One alternative is to use a bare tube attached to the line. They are easy to install and maintain, and they are reliable. What you sacrifice is the amount of heat transfer surface area.

In the "Tracing" video we cover material selection and design. For instance, condensate is drained from steam tracer systems by gravity. A good design will be free of low spots in the tracer run, and not wrap around the tubing.

We also will cover system startups. Even with the best steam system design, starting it up improperly can create water hammer.

What is best way to test steam traps?

Steam systems need to trap any condensate. Most industrial plants have some type of steam traps, but they get caught in a dilemma: The technology is so reliable that companies don't think much about it. As older workers retire, they may not pass along their knowledge to younger workers. Then when a problem does arise, the staff is stumped. In the "Steam Tracing Trap Stations & Trap Testing" video you'll get a look at the essentials, such as the best way to test steam traps.

How do we maximize a unit heaters' efficiency?

The third video, "Unit Heaters," covers unit heaters. While they are simple devices, people sometimes have misconceptions about how to get the best performance from them. For instance, a higher temperature setting doesn't actually mean you'll get warmer, McCallion says. He explains how to maximize efficiency and goes into their component parts, such as whether propeller fans or blower fans are better for a particular application. (Blowers are generally quieter, by the way.)

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To Slay Ice, A Steam Lance Is The Weapon Of Choice

Thu, Feb 01, 2018 @ 15:02 PM / by Alecia Robinson posted in Steam, Custom Solutions, winterization


It's also great for eliminating solidification of asphalt, heavy oils and plastics

steam lance with handle.jpg

The Steam Lance, pictured above, is an unique product that comes pre-assembled and ready to use and install at your site. For all the product's highlights and benefits, download your copy of the Steam Lance info sheet.

Download PDF                                  

When you need to fight ice buildup on equipment and you don't want to shut down your system, it's time to grab a steam lance.

The basic construction is simple: A length of insulated tubing, heat-shrink boots to seal the insulation, and a steam-rated ball valve at the end. Hook it up to a steam line, and you are ready to clear out plugged piping, remove ice from the exterior of structures, and get frozen drain valves flowing again. You can use it on tubing runs, steam-assisted gravity drainage, containment vessels and ice-coated instruments.

The lance can also be used to eliminate solidification of asphalt, heavy oils, plastics and more.

Variation on the theme

Edmonton Valve & Fitting offers a couple of variations that make the steam lance even easier to use. We put a 12-inch piece of insulated pipe upstream of the valve, giving the operator something to hold on to other than the steam hose itself. We also insulate the valve to further protect the operator.

And we now offer the option of a handle on the other side of the valve, so that you don't have to hold the valve itself while using the lance. That can be especially desirable when you're wearing thick hand protection in cold weather.

We can make our lances to the length you want, too. (We've made them as long as 22 feet, but the jacketed tubing is available in even longer runs than that.)

Click here to get a free information sheet.

Easy to order, easy to use

There's no need to cobble together some do-it-yourself equipment that might cause a safety hazard. When you order a Swagelok steam lance, you get an assembly that already has been pressure tested and comes ready to use right out of the box. It has a single part number too.

Edmonton Valve & Fitting is an expert on steam, and we know all about dealing with cold weather. Put that combination to work for you by calling 780-437-0640 to ask about steam lances, or send us a note through our website.

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Losing Steam? Send For Our Swagelok Energy Advisors

Wed, Mar 01, 2017 @ 13:03 PM / by Alecia Robinson posted in Steam, local expert, Value Added Services, Energy Advisors


We'll look at steam generation, distribution, use, and condensate recovery

SEA Engineer.png

Edmonton Valve & Fitting's Energy Advisors conduct a steam system evaluation to give you insight on the current state of your system and provide recommendations to improve performance. Book your evaluation today and let us help you optimize your steam system performance.

When steam is critical to your plant operations, leaks cost money, hurt reliability and compromise safety. On top of all that, it's getting harder to find experts in steam systems operation.

One call to Edmonton Valve & Fitting can solve the problem. We have the experts, and we'll send them to your site for a steam survey. We start with "pre-job" conference to find out what work already has been done on site, and what's still needed. If a plant already has tags identifying all its steam traps, for instance, that will save us a lot of time. If it's a brand new system with no tagging in place, we'll need extra time to learn all the locations. Your steam chief will want to be involved, and probably your reliability engineer.

At this conference we'll ask questions that will help both our teams agree on a set of goals and objectives. During the entire analysis, our evaluation team will work shoulder to shoulder with your team members. When the evaluation is finished, we deliver an in-depth report that documents calculated cost factors, installation cost estimates, energy savings calculations and payback estimates.  Our roadmap is a practical plan that helps you easily translate recommendations into implemented changes. 

Detailed inspection

Our steam system evaluation program looks at all four key parts of the steam system: generation, distribution, steam-consuming equipment and condensate recovery. When we're done, we'll give you a list of solutions and recommendations that pay for themselves in terms of improved productivity, efficiency and reliability. We'll separate the near-term needs from longer-term considerations. While some of those might involve spending some capital, many require little or no cost to implement.

Our recommendations will cover:

  • Safety and/or code issues that must be corrected immediately
  • Cost savings and/or performance upgrades with ROI in 18 months or less
  • Cost savings and/or performance upgrade with ROI in 24 months or less
  • Cost savings and/or performance upgrade with ROI in 36 months or less
  • Best practices that aren't necessarily associated with cost savings

We also offer a Steam Trap Station Management Program with a goal of reducing steam trap failure rates to 3 percent or less. We'll test the traps, analyze the root cause of any failures, make sure they are properly sized, and check the isolation and check valves.


Once you have our reports, you'll have a road map for making repairs and upgrades. In our experience, we've found that the plants with the right mindset have the highest success rates with their steam systems. They are always thinking about how to make improvements. Unlike some other aspects of life, dealing with big problems in steam systems does not mean that the little problems will take care of themselves.

But that mindset is not universal. We've seen some scary sights on our steam surveys. We've seen water hammer that was so bad it almost shook you. We've seen makeshift solutions that only addressed the symptoms and not the cause of the problem. Fortunately, once they see the benefits of our steam survey, we often see them adopt a better way of thinking.

The places that commit to the whole program will see the greatest advantage.

There's no reason why your plant has to lose steam. Set up an appointment through our website or by calling 780-437-0640.

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Getting the Most from Compressed Air Systems

Tue, Jan 17, 2017 @ 14:01 PM / by Alecia Robinson posted in Steam, SEA, Cost Savings, Value Added Services, Energy Advisors, local expert


The air may be free, but compressing it can be costly when your system leaks

 Leak Detector.pngPictured above is a leak found at a customer site by our team. After a leak is found through the use of our ultra-sound technology Snoop is applied to the area for visual verification. These leaks are then tagged and recorded to be fixed. 

Download: Cost of Leakage

Fortune magazine once described compressed-air systems as "probably the least efficient utilities in manufacturing plants." The air itself may be free, but not the machinery and electricity required to keep it under pressure. Every time air leaks out of the system, more air must be squeezed back in. This is a waste of money.

A longtime customer of Edmonton Valve & Fitting once saw that their two compressors were running at capacity, and had plans to add a third. Before the addition of the third compressor this customer had us check the system for leaks. We found so many leaks that once they were fixed the company didn't need to add a new compressor. In fact, they were able to take one of the existing compressors off line. That was about 10 years ago. We still check out the system for leaks twice a year. Altogether the company has captured more than $1 million in savings.

If you notice that your compressors are running longer without any other changes being made to the system, it's a good bet you've developed some new leaks. Even if the compressors are running the same as always, you could still have leaks. On average, uninspected systems lose 25 percent to 30 percent of their compressed air through leaks.

On the hunt

Leaks typically fall into three categories. The smallest are those that you probably didn't even know you had. Then there are leaks that you suspect but can't find on your own. The third category is when enough air is escaping that there's no doubt about the location of the leak.

Usually we're called out because the client already knows about a large leak and while we're on site we look for all other leaks.

We find leaks through ultrasound technology. The turbulence of the leaking air creates sound waves that the human ear may not be able to detect, but our equipment can. When we find a leak, we always follow up with a visual test by putting Snoop leak detector on the area and looking for the telltale bubbles.

Each time we find a leak, we list it on a spreadsheet, noting the location, severity, and the air pressure on that line and then tag it. In the course of a day we might find 100 leaks in a medium sized facility, even in operations considered "best in class." When we're done, we'll take you through the site and show you where the leaks are. We'll help you benchmark your system so that you can measure the improvement when all the leaks are fixed.

Here's a tip when you can clear your schedule to fix the leaks: If you work your way straight through from one end of the plant to the other, you probably can fix them all in one day. Too often, customers start with the worst leaks, and somehow never seem to make it all the way to the smallest ones. We know, because when we come back a year later, we see some of the previous year's tags still in place. By then, some of those small leaks aren't so small anymore.

Not just air

If it's expensive to lose air through leaks, think of how much worse it is to lose gas that must be purchased, such as helium or argon. And think of how much more dangerous a leak will be if the gas is flammable, such as hydrogen.

To get a more detailed look at the cost of leaks, download our free Hidden Costs of Leakage PDF. It presents some exampled of costs associated with compressed air leakage. Then contact us through our website or by calling 780-437-0640, and we can start helping you save money.

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Specifically Made for Alberta's Needs: The ZSML Fitting

Tue, Dec 13, 2016 @ 14:12 PM / by Katie Reid posted in Fittings, Steam, Value Added Services


Swagelok 1035 Grade Carbon Steel, MoS2 coating helps the tube fittings withstand the heat of steam-assisted gravity drainage

ZSML fittings.png

Swagelok's ZSML fitting, as pictured above, is specially coated with a 1035 Grade Carbon Steel, MoS2 covering that was developed for the SAGD industry in Northern Alberta. If you would like more information on this product line, get in touch with us today.

Get In Touch

Eighty percent of Alberta's oil sands are too far below the surface for open pit mining. To get the oil out, companies have to use methods such as steam-assisted gravity drainage. And for SAGD to work properly, it needs parts such as Swagelok's ZSML fitting. To understand why ZSML fittings are so important, take a quick look at how SAGD works.

Get moving

SAGD uses a pair of horizontal wells, one about 4 to 6 metres above the other. Steam is injected into the upper well, heating up the surrounding oil. That makes the oil less viscous. Gravity then draws the oil down to the second well, where it can be extracted.

The fittings on the steam generators must withstand high temperatures, and even Swagelok's ordinary carbon steel fitting won't do. That's why Swagelok came up with the ZSML fitting. This unique coating (1035 Grade Carbon Steel, MoS2) allows the fitting to withstand temperatures of up to 427 degrees C! But you won't find it in any Swagelok catalogue as it was designed specifically for Alberta and our extreme conditions. Swagelok even sent its engineers to SAGD sites to see the field conditions before creating the ZSML fitting. 

Inside knowledge

You might wonder how our customers know how to order the ZSML fittings if they aren't in the catalogue. Most of those who are involved in setting up SAGD systems are already familiar with this special fitting. We also can provide a value added service of going into the field to teach maintenance and repair crews about this specific part if needed.

Maybe you have a special need and can't find the kinds of parts you are looking for. Don't assume that the catalogue tells you everything you'd want to know. Give Edmonton Valve & Fitting a call. We might know of a component that will do the job for you. And it's even possible that Swagelok would be willing to design something if it doesn't already exist.  Ask us about the ZSML fitting here.



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In a hurry or have a question? Please click here to get in touch - we respond fast! Or call 780.437.0640


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Have You Winterized Yet? We Can Talk You Through It in Our Live October Webinar

Thu, Oct 06, 2016 @ 14:10 PM / by Katie Reid posted in Steam, Sample Systems, Training, Events, Value Added Services


Our October webinar will cover the equipment to check and the steps to take

Due to a last minute scheduling conflict we will be rescheduling the event. 


"A good comparison of when you should be winterizing your plant is when you are thinking about winter tires," says Tristian McCallion. "If winter tires are on your radar, so should winterization." McCallion will be hosting a special 1 hour Winterization Webinar on Wednesday, October 19th at 12PM MDT. Get your spot today!

Winterization Webinar Sign Up

It's that time of year...

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone in Edmonton that Alberta gets freezing cold in the winter and this winter won’t be any exception. And yet every year some businesses fail to prepare for it. Then the temperature plummets, fluid systems freeze, and the companies end up with damaged equipment and costly downtime. Sometimes they end up with injured workers too.

In just three months last winter, November 2015 through January 2016, the Alberta Boilers Safety Association received four incident notifications involving damage to equipment due to freezing. Three of those resulted in ruptured piping, with two of these due to inoperative heat tracing and one due to isolation of the line. So even some experienced companies that know enough to winterize their lines, still don't do it properly.

Edmonton Valve & Fitting wants to get you up to speed on winterization this season, so we're offering a FREE 1 hour webinar on October 19 at 12PM MDT. Tristian McCallion, our sales supervisor and Energy Service Advisor, will review some best practices for winterizing and answers your questions.

From start to finish

Smart winterization starts with a written procedure. For starting your system components, unit heaters, tracers and steam traps all need to be prepared and checked. McCallion will be going over this checklist in the October webinar.

Correctly operating Steam traps are crucial in winterization, the seminar will cover the different types of traps and how to check them.  It will also discuss some of the tools that can make the process easier.

Even companies that understand the importance of winterization can sometimes get distracted. Then a cold wave hits and they get an unwelcome reminder. Don't be one of those who get caught by surprise, sign up and get your spot for our Winterization Webinar.

In a hurry or have a question? Please click here to get in touch - we respond fast! 
Or call 780-437-0640

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Swagelok Energy Advisors Can Give Your Steam System a Boost

Thu, Jan 29, 2015 @ 10:01 AM / by Katie Dennis posted in People, Value Added Services, Steam


Get expert information without pulling your own technicians off their regular jobs

SEA Engineer.png

Bringing in a Swagelok Field Engineer to examine your steam system provides you with many benefits. Get in touch with the right peole today, click below.

Get In Touch 

It might take a full week for a technician to do a ground-up inspection of your steam system. If you can't spare one of your own technicians, or if they don't have much troubleshooting experience, consider a one-day, on-site visit from Swagelok Energy Advisors. We'll send out an expert in steam and condensate systems to look at a specific problem, such as a valve that keeps failing for unknown reasons, or water hammer. Then we'll give you a report on how to fix the specific problem and suggestions about what else to look for in your system, as well as a road map for how to implement the recommendations.

It is a chance to open a window into your steam system and uncover cost savings, explore opportunities for improvement and gain from the experience and capabilities that our advisers bring to the table.

Product selection

While our adviser is on-site, you will also have a chance to pick their brain without having to worry about getting a sales pitch for a specific brand of product. That's because, as enthusiastic as we are about Swagelok products, most steam system requirements go beyond the typical scope of the Swagelok catalogue. Swagelok does not manufacture boilers, steam traps, desuperheaters, heat exchangers or pumps, so you can be confident that our steam systems adviser will recommend only what’s best for your specific application without regard to manufacturer.

It is natural, then, to ask how Swagelok got into the business of inspecting steam systems. Back in 2008, Swagelok acquired Plant Support and Evaluations Inc., a Naples, Florida-based training firm with extensive experience specializing in the evaluation of steam systems. It is now known as Swagelok Energy Advisors, or SEA. This acquisition has proven invaluable in helping our customers achieve the highest level of performance and reliability of their steam systems.

Long menu

What does a SEA field adviser look at? You might want an inspection of your system's condensate recovery, pressure reducing stations, desuperheaters or steam traps. You also might be having temperature control issues in a heat exchanger or a dryer. The plant might be venting excess steam, which is wasting significant money and energy. We will give you a questionnaire so that you can provide basic information on your steam system prior to our visit. That could include the kind of equipment you use, the size of your system and whatever is causing trouble now.

"I usually ask what the top three things are that are bugging them in their steam system," says Tristian McCallion, one of our SEA experts. Leaks are often high on the list. So is steam quality. McCallion typically will converse for a while to see how familiar each customer is with its own particular steam system. "Some are pretty knowledgeable," McCallion says. "Others may not be sure where the steam is even made in their plant."

Those conversations help the SEA technician figure out what to look for, and how to effectively report any findings from the inspection. If the SEA technician finds something serious, they may call in advanced experts from SEA in Florida, drawing on their decades of worldwide experience.

Typically the results are first reported back to the customer through a conference call. Depending on how they want to deal with any problems found, SEA can provide a more formal report.

McCallion makes SEA inspections about once or twice a month. They can be as short as a few hours, or as long as a few days. Often it's a repeat call for periodic leak detection and testing of steam traps.

"If they are conscientious enough to call us back, they want to improve their system," he says.

A short visit from a local adviser comes at a substantial discount from SEA's normal rates. What kind of savings you will net from implementing the recommendations are unique to each steam system. However, it is common that improvements from our recommendations will pay for the site visit in a few months.

So for a healthy discount on one day of service, and the possibility of saving money and energy in the long term, schedule a brief phone consultation with McCallion or one of his SEA colleagues. They can answer any questions you may have about the SEA site visits and help you take back control of your steam system.


In a hurry and have a question? Click here to get in touch or call us at 780.437.0640.


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Water Hammer and Swagelok Energy Advisors Prevention Tips

Thu, Oct 02, 2014 @ 11:10 AM / by Katie Dennis posted in Value Added Services, Steam


The right time to fix it is now, and then work on preventing recurrence

  Steam trap installation

Shown above is a steam trap installation. To download a copy of SEA's swagelok alloys Steam Systems Best Practices PDF, click here

If you think water hammer is just a nuisance, check out what happened when it caused a rupture in a steam pipe under the streets of New York in 2007. Of course water hammer doesn't always result in this degree of catastrophe, but even in its less severe forms, water hammer will wear out components and cause leaks. It can overstress pressure gauges, crack steam trap bodies, rupture pipe fittings, break welds, and cause valves to fail.

Unfortunately, most steam systems experience some type of water hammer, leading some people to mistakenly believe that water hammer is unavoidable. It isn't. If the system is properly designed and operated, water hammer in any form will not occur. The better you understand the nature and severity of water hammer in a steam and condensate system, the better you can avoid it.  


Often, a steam system will tell you when there's a water hammer problem.

“SEA is often called in to identify the cause of water hammer” says Tristian McCallion, ‎sales supervisor at Edmonton Valve & Fitting. "You'll hear the pipes rattling or hear them shaking, or there will be a failure analysis of a steam system component that identifies water hammer as the root cause of the failure."

In fact, tracking down the source of the problem is one of the main reasons we are called out for audits.

But sometimes water hammer is silent. For example, a small steam bubble may collapse inside the system, creating a thermal shock that is not heard by the human ear. Even so, damage to steam and condensate components is still occurring.


As with many problems in life, prevention is the best cure. Some proactive measures that prevent or eliminate water hammer include:

1. Proper training for plant personnel.

2. Correct steam and condensate piping design.

3. Have documented standard operation procedures (SOPs) for steam system startups and shut downs.

4. Have installation standards for steam components.

5. Specify and place steam line drip steam traps on the steam system to ensure proper condensate drainage out of the steam system.

6. Correct condensate piping connections of branch lines to the main condensate line and enter only on the top.

7. Ensure that steam traps are properly sized and appropriate for the application.

8. Use warm up valves on steam line isolation valves larger than 2 inch.

9. Checking or repairing the pipe insulation to reduce the build up of condensate in the steam lines.

10. Correct condensate line sizing. Under-sizing the condensate lines is one of the largest contributors to water hammer.

11. A system that has a modulating control valve should have a drip leg trap upstream of the valve to remove condensate during a closed condition for the valve.

12. Always use gravity to drain condensate  away from the process applications that use a  modulating control valve.

13. Condensate can be drained into a pressurized condensate return line only if proper differential is maintained.

14. Properly label the steam and condensate lines.

15. Isolate and remove abandoned steam and condensate lines from the system.

16. Have a proactive maintenance program.

Even if your system is designed properly at the start, people often add and remove components as needs change over the years, McCallion says. It's smart to have someone check the piping configuration to make sure the system has proper drainage and functional steam traps on a regular basis.

Swagelok Energy Advisors has a more detailed description of water hammer and its prevention. It includes detailed descriptions of the four kinds of shock that water hammer can produce. The PDF is free for download online. 

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Steam Separation Increases Quality for Your Fluid System

Wed, Nov 13, 2013 @ 15:11 PM / by Taryn Hardes posted in Value Added Services, Steam


Three different designs remove water from vapour for better performance

Steam Separators
 The Baffle-Type Separator,
Centrifugal Separator, and
Mechanical Coalescing Separator.
Read more at SwagelokEnergy.com 

The efficiency of any steam system depends largely on the quality of the steam that's delivered to the process equipment. The goal is 100 percent vapour and no liquid, also known as saturated steam. Anything less can cause problems. In a steam turbine, for example, moisture will erode the internal parts. In heat-transfer units, entrained moisture will increase the condensate film on the heat-transfer surface, which can reduce heat-transfer performance efficiency by 14 percent or more.

If a steam system is properly designed, specified, installed, operated, and maintained, it should operate with steam at or close to 100 percent. Proper steam velocities will allow the moisture to drop out of the steam vapour to the bottom of the pipe, where a drip leg steam trap station can remove it. But not every system can always operate under ideal conditions. That's the time to use a steam separator, sometimes called a moisture separator. 

A steam separator takes advantage of the inertia difference between condensate (liquid) and steam (vapour). They do that by creating a pressure drop across the device. The design of the separator determines the amount of pressure drop.

Three types

There are three basic types of steam separators: baffle, centrifugal and mechanical coalescence. Often, a combination of two different types of separators is used to achieve higher efficiencies.

The baffle-type separator consists of one or more internal baffles that redirect the steam in one or more different directions. This allows the heavier condensate droplets to be removed by a control valve or steam trap station. This is the simplest separator to design and manufacture, but it also is the least efficient.

A centrifugal separator, as the name implies, uses centrifugal force to separate the condensate from the vapour. The steam is directed into a steam-flow pattern resembling a spinning cyclone. The heavier condensate is expelled to the wall of the separator then drained by gravity to the condensate collection point. The steam pressure drop across this type of separator tends to be larger than in the other types because the velocity required for operation is larger. Less centrifugal action will decrease its performance. It's especially important, therefore, to determine the effect a pressure drop might have on the rest of the system.

The mechanical coalescing steam separator uses a two-stage process. In the first stage, the steam is introduced to a stainless steel mesh that makes the steam flow change directions. Fine water particles combine (increasing their size and mass), fall by gravity to the bottom of the separator, and are removed through a drain device. Any droplets that are not removed are directed to a second, centrifugal stage. In the second stage, deflector blades separate all the condensate droplets from the steam flow and on to a drain. The mechanical coalescing separator is usually the preferred design because it is not flow dependent and has a high efficiency factor. Also, it has a relatively low pressure drop compared to the other two designs.

You can read more detailed information about steam separators online, courtesy of Swagelok Energy Advisors. Then give Edmonton Valve and Fitting a call to discuss how we can help you get the setup that's best for your system.

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It's That Time Again: Start Winterizing Your Fluid System Now

Tue, Oct 15, 2013 @ 14:10 PM / by Taryn Hardes posted in People, Training, Steam


To avoid unplanned downtime and labour, get the work done while it's still warm 


swagelok parts

Edmonton Valve's SEA expert Tristian McCallion.

swagelok parts Download Best Practices for Steam Tracing »

Did you notice a few cooler days in the Edmonton weather forecasts this month? That's your reminder that winter is not far off. This is the time to get your systems ready for cold weather, and Edmonton Valve and Fitting wants to help.  

Last year we presented three winterization webinars that we recorded and put online. Our resident expert on the topic, Tristian McCallion, guided his audience through the best practices of steam tracing, steam trap stations and unit heaters.

Each video is about 45 minutes long and packed with way more information than we can summarize in a blog post, but here are a few highlights:

Steam tracing

The most efficient type of tracing is the gut line, in which the tracer runs inside the pipe. The entire exterior surface of the trace line is exposed to the process fluid, so you get great heat transfer. But it's very difficult to install and maintain, so you don't see gut lines used very often.

Another method is the jacketed design. In this case, the tracer is on the outside, surrounding the pipe. It's not as efficient as a gut system because some heat radiates outward.

The most common design used today is the bare-tube tracer. It's very easy to install, very easy to change, and very reliable. The downside is that it is not nearly as efficient. Having said that, there are ways to improve efficiency. A heat-transfer material can help, such as a heat transfer cement.

Remember, heat rises, so put the tracers on the bottom of the pipe for maximum effect. It's also important to keep tracers in good repair. They may not use much energy individually, but when you add them up the total can be significant.

Steam trap stations

You'll want a steam trap station at the bottom of the supply header to remove any condensate that builds up, and on the return header. Avoid threaded systems if you can. The expansion and contraction inherent in the system is a setup for leaks. It's also important to keep the supply and return headers as close together as possible. If they are close enough, it usually takes only one person to start up the system or take it down.

The steam trap station itself has several components. One important part is a strainer. One of the main reasons that traps fail is because of dirt or corrosion in the system. It's also important to have a blow-down valve on the strainer. One more component is the test valve, or the secondary isolation valve. There are several ways to test steam traps: temperature, ultrasound and visual tests. McCallion recommends using all three. Each is good for indicating certain problems, and each has its negatives.

Unit heaters

Unit heaters are often ignored when it comes to winterization. But if they are installed and maintained correctly, they can be a very efficient way of heating a large industrial space. One of the biggest problems we run into is that the heat is not being distributed correctly. That's usually a matter of properly adjusting louvers. It's also important to make sure areas are not being cut off by other pieces of equipment. A combination of vertical and horizontal heaters usually is best.

"People understand they have to winterize, but most of the time it becomes a reactive procedure rather than proactive," McCallion says. "Really, you should already have the work done by the time you start thinking about bringing your winter jacket out."

About Swagelok Energy Advisors

Swagelok Energy Advisors has a core team of four full-time field engineers in North America. They’re on the road three out of every four weeks. In 2011 they conducted 62 steam system reviews, held 26 training events and worked on two large implementations. When needed, they can call on local specialists like Tristian McCallion, here at Edmonton Valve & Fitting.

Most of these experts are mechanical engineers with 15 to 20 years of working with steam systems in a variety of industries. Not only do they know steam, they know how it is applied in various processes. They understand pulp and paper mill equipment, food processing, refineries and more. So even if it is a new process, they understand what is going on inside the system. Swagelok Energy Advisors won’t just tell you that you need a valve in a particular spot, they’ll explain why.

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