Proper Marine Boiler Blowdown
Boiler water has a certain amount of dissolved or suspended solids and as the water boils and steam is generated, there is a gradual concentration of remaining solids that are left behind. Boilers have limitations as to how concentrated boiler water can become until there are problems such as scale, foaming or carryover. Therefore, in order to regulate the amount of concentrated boiler water, a portion of the water must be removed by blowdown. Blowdown is the purge of a small portion of concentrated boiler water from the boiler in order to maintain the optimum level of dissolved and suspended solids in the system. It is an important part of normal boiler operations and is essential in preventing waterside deposits and/or boiler carryover. Typically there are two types of boiler blowdown: bottom and surface or top. Bottom blowdown is a manual operation that removes both dissolved and suspended solids such as sludge that has settled out of the boiler water. It is also referred to as “flash blowdown.” Surface or top blowdown is typically done on a continuous basis to remove dissolved solids. Although we use the term “continuous blowdown,” it is not continuously performed uninterrupted, but rather on a periodic basis. For most low pressure boilers, <32 bar, it is recommended that the lower section of the boiler should be “flash-blown” once per week to control suspended solids. Flash-blowdown is defined as quickly opening the blowdown valve, holding it open for approximately 10 seconds and then quickly closing it. Experience has shown that frequent bottom blowdowns of short duration are more effective in removing suspended solids and sludge than blowdowns of longer duration. Sludge removal is only effective during the first few seconds of bottom blowdown due to the sweeping action that occurs. In addition, longer bottom blows create a great deal of turbulence in the water drum “stirring up” the sludge, resulting in the possibility of sludge being drawn into generating tubes and baking on tube surfaces. Longer bottom blowdown may also simply short circuit and draw dilute feed water out of the boiler bringing little or no sludge with it. The possibility of disrupting circulation leading to overheating of the main generating or water wall tube surfaces also exists with longer bottom blowdowns. A new boiler that has not been thoroughly and properly boiled out before being placed in service may need additional bottom blowdowns to remove debris. In our low-pressure phosphate/alkalinity boiler water treatment programs, hydroxyapatite sludge is formed from the precipitation of calcium hardness with phosphate in the presence of hydrate alkalinity. This is a non-adherent, soft sludge that is easily removed by bottom blowdown. Additionally, magnesium hardness can react with silica in an alkaline boiler water to form serpentine or it can react with hydrate alkalinity to form magnesium hydroxide. Both are non-adherent sludges.
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