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Boiler Basics

Boiler Basics

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Published by: intrudentalert on Jul 03, 2009
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Boiler Basics
Design and operation
A boiler is an enclosed vessel that provides a means for combustion heat to be transferred into water until itbecomes heated water or steam. The hot water or steam under pressure is then usable for transferring theheat for the steam requirements of process industries or for power generation.Combustion boilers are designed to use the chemical energy in fuel to raise the energy content of water sothat it can be used for heating and power applications. Many fossil and non-fossil fuels are fired in boilers,but the most common types of fuel include coal, oil and natural gas. During the combustion process,oxygen reacts with carbon, hydrogen and other elements in the fuel to produce a flame and hot combustiongases. As these gases are drawn through the boiler, they cool as heat is transferred to water. Eventuallythe gases flow through a stack and into the atmosphere. As long as fuel and air are both available tocontinue the combustion process, heat will be generated.Boilers are manufactured in many different sizes and configurations depending on the characteristics of thefuel, the specified heating output, and the required emission controls. Some boilers are only capable of producing hot water, while others are designed to produce steam.Boilers can burn coal, oil, natural gas, biomass as well as other fuels and fuel combinations. Most boilersare classified as either watertube or firetube boilers, but other designs such as cast iron, coil type, andtubeless (steel shell) boilers are also produced.
Components of a boiler system
The main components in a boiler system are boiler feedwater heaters, deaerators, feed pump, economiser,superheater, attemperator, steam system, condenser and condensate pump. In addition, there are sets of controls to monitor water and steam flow, fuel flow, airflow and chemical treatment additions.More broadly speaking, the boiler system comprises a feedwater system, steam system and fuels system.The feedwater system provides water to the boiler and regulates it automatically to meet the steamdemand. Various valves provide access for maintenance and repair.The stem system collects and controls the steam produced in the boiler. Steam is directed through a pipingsystem to the point of use. Throughout the system, steam pressure is regulated using valves and checkedwith steam pressure gauges.The fuel system includes all equipment used to provide fuel to generate the necessary heat. Theequipment required in the fuel system depends on the type of fuel used in the system.
Feedwater system
The water supplied to the boiler, which is converted into steam, is called feedwater. The two sources of feedwater are condensate or condensed steam returned from the process and makeup water (treated rawwater) which must come from outside the boiler room and plant processes.
Feedwater heater 
Boiler efficiency is improved by the extraction of waste heat from spent steam to preheat the boiler feedwater. Heaters are shell and tube heat exchangers with the feedwater on the tube side (inside) andsteam on the shell side (outside). The heater closest to the boiler receives the hottest steam. Thecondensed steam is recovered in the heater drains and pumped forward to the heater immediatelyupstream, where its heat value is combined with that of the steam for that heater. Ultimately thecondensate is returned to the condensate storage tank or condenser hotwell.
Feedwater often has oxygen dissolved in it at objectionable levels, which comes from air in-leakage fromthe condenser, pump seals, or from the condensate itself. The oxygen is mechanically removed in adeaerator. Dearators function on the principle that oxygen is decreasingly soluble as the temperature israised. This is done by passing a stream of steam through the feedwater. Deaerators are generally acombination of spray and tray type. One problem with the control of deaerators is ensuring sufficienttemperature difference between the incoming water temperature and the stripping steam. If thetemperature is too close, not enough steam will be available to strip the oxygen from the make-up water.
Economisers are the last stage of the feedwater system. They are designed to extract heat value fromexhaust gases to heat the steam still further and improve the efficiency of the boiler. They are simple finnedtube heat exchangers. Not all boilers have economizers. Usually they are found only on water tube boilersusing fossil fuel as an energy conservation measure.A feedwater economiser reduces steam boiler fuel requirements by transferring heat from the flue gas toincoming feedwaer. By recovering waste heat, an economiser can often reduce fuel requirements by 5 per cent to 10 per cent and pay for itself in less than two years.A feedwater economiser is appropriate when insufficient heat transfer surface exists within the boiler toremove combustion heat. Boilers that exceed 100 boiler hp, operating at pressures exceeding 75 psig or above, and those that are significantly loaded all year long are excellent candidates for econimiser retrofit.
Steam systemSteam and mud drums
A boiler system consists of a steam drum and a mud drum. The steam drum is the upper drum of awatertube boiler where the separation of water and steam occurs. Feedwater enters the boiler steam drumfrom the economizers or from the feedwater heater train if there is no economiser. The colder feedwater helps create the circulation in the boiler.The steam outlet line normally takes off from this drum to a lower drum by a set of riser and downcomer tubes. The lower drum, called the mud drum, is a tank at the bottom of the boiler that equalizes distributionof water to the generating tubes and collects solids such as salts formed from hardness and silica or corrosion products carried into the boiler.
In the circulation process, the colder water, which is outside the heat transfer area, sinks and enters themud drum. The water is heated in the heat transfer tubes to form steam. The steam-water mixture is lessdense than water and rises in the riser tubes to the steam drum. The steam drum contains internalelements for feedwater entry., chemical injection, blowdown removal, level control, and steam-water separation. The steam bubbles disengage from the boiler water in the riser tubes and steam flows out fromthe top of the drum through steam separators.
Boiler tubes
Boiler tubes are usually fabricated from high-strength carbon steel. The tubes are welded to form acontinuous sheet or wall of tubes. Often more than one bank of tubes is used, with the bank closest to theheat sources providing the greatest share of heat transfer. They will also tend to be the most susceptible tofailure due to flow problems or corrosion/ deposition problems.
The purpose of the superheater is to remove all moisture content from the steam by raising thetemperature of the steam above its saturation point. The steam leaving the boiler is saturated, that is, it is inequilibrium with liquid water at the boiler pressure (temperature).The superheater adds energy to the exit steam of the boiler. It can be a single bank or multiple banks or tubes either in a horizontal or vertical arrangement that is suspended in the convective or radiation zone of the boiler. The added energy raises the temperature and heat content of the steam above saturation point.In the case of turbines, excessive moisture in the steam above saturation point. In the case of turbines,excessive moisture in the steam can adversely affect the efficiency and integrity of the turbine. Super heated steam has a larger specific volume as the amount of superheat increases. This necessitates larger diameter pipelines to carry the same amount of steam. Due to temperatures, higher alloy steel are used. Itis important that the steam is of high purity and low moisture content so that non-volatile substances do notbuild up in the superheater.
Attemperation is the primary means for controlling the degree of superheat in a superheated boiler.Attemperation is the process of partially de-superheating steam by the controlled injection of water into thesuperheated steam flow. The degree of superheat will depend on the steam load and the heat available,given the design of the superheater. The degree of superheat of the final exiting steam is generally notsubject to wide variation because of the design of the downstream processes. In order to achieve theproper control of superheat temperature an attemperator is used.A direct contact attempaerator injects a stream of high purity water into the superheated steam. It is usuallylocated at the exit of the superheater, but may be placed in an intermediate position. Usually, boiler feedwater is sued for attemperation. The water must be free of non-volatile solids to prevent objectionablebuildup of solids in the main steam tubes and on turbine blades.Since attemperator water comes from the boiler feedwater, provision for it has to be made in calculatingflows. The calculation is based on heat balance. The total enthalpy (heat content) of the final superheatsteam must be the mass weighted sum of the enthalpies of the initial superheat steam and theattemperation water.
Condensate systems
Although not a part of the boiler per se, condensate is usually returned to the boiler as part of thefeedwater. Accordingly, one must take into account the amount and quality of the condensate whencalculating boiler treatment parameters. In a complex steam distribution system there will be severalcomponents. These will include heat exchangers, process equipment, flash tanks, and storage tanks.

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