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Fired Heaters

Fired Heaters

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Published by Jan Jare
Fired Heaters
Fired Heaters

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Published by: Jan Jare on Feb 07, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Fig. 5-1.
A Fired Heater as Seen by a Process Engineer 
© Walter Driedger, P. Eng., 2000 May 20.
First published in
Hydrocarbon Processing,
April 1997.This Office 97 file is available for download at
The purpose of a firedheater is very simple: To add heat to aprocess fluid. Its representation on aprocess flow diagram is also very simple.But, of course, fired heaters are amongthe most complex pieces of processcontrol equipment. Each furnace is, afteall, at least two pieces of equipment inone. Firstly, it is a special variant of theshell and tube heat exchanger since itspurpose is to exchange heat. Secondly,it is a chemical reactor in which fuel andair undergo extremely exothermicreactions to produce the required heat.In previous articles of this series
1, 2, 3, 4
, theprocess aspects of controlling a piece of equipment were presented beforedealing with protection and safety. Thistime the topics will be reversed: In thecase of fired heaters, it must be safetyfirst!
If fired heaters had not beeninvented and were being proposed for the first time, I would probably say,"You've
to be kidding. That thing willblow up in your face the first time you throw a match in it." However, at least a half a billion gasfired heaters are in service around the world (according to the American Gas Association). Mostof them are operated by people with no technical experience whatsoever; few heaters blow up.Still, the average domestic water heater is not in the same league as a hydrogen reformer furnace. The fact that accidents and disasters are as few as they are, is due to the longexperience the human race has in dealing with fire. A million years, I'm told. For the last century,this experience has been embodied in various codes and standards that have been written intolaw and are en-forced by inspectors around the world.
The most popular, or notorious, of these codes in North America is the NFPA 8500
5,6, 7
series issued by the National Fire Protection Association. These have been considerablyupdated in recent years, especially in terms of clarity. Nevertheless, there is still the problem of interpretation. The code is not at all easy to read as it combines many facets of construction,
Controlling Fired Heaters http://www.cadvision.com/driedgew/CE5_FH.htmlPage 5-1
instrumentation and operation in a single document. Not only that, but the code
contains thefollowing disclaimers:
It is not possible for these standards to encompass specific hardwareapplications, nor should these be considered a "cookbook" for the design of safety systems.
This standard applies to boilers with a fuel input of 12,500,000 Btu/hr (3663kW) or greater. This standard applies only to boiler-furnaces using singleburners firing:a)Natural gas only as defined in Chapter 3.b)Other gas with a BTU value and characteristics similar to natural gas.c)Fuel oil of No. 2....
Furnaces such as those of process heaters used in chemical and petroleummanufacture, wherein steam generation is incidental to the operation of aprocessing system, are not covered in this standard.
What is an engineer to use for a guide when the furnace is not a boiler, but a feed heater; doesnot exceed 12½ million Btu/hr, but is only four million; does not burn natural gas as defined inChapter 3; but refinery off-gas with a high hydrogen content? Despite the disclaimers, the NFPAseries is still an excellent guide to the instrumentation and control of any furnace.
The NFPA standards deal with a variety of fuels, both oil and gas. There is one standard, NFPA 8501
, for single burner furnaces; andanother, NFPA 8502
, for multiple, independent burners in a single furnace. The discussion thatfollows restricts itself to fuel gas fired, single burners. NFPA standards have been followed asmuch as possible and have sometimes been exceeded by adding components and controlfunctions where the special requirements of process control make it advisable.The diagram on the following page, Figure 5-2, shows the in-line instruments typically installed ona burner fuel gas train. Diamond symbols with an "I" in them refer to I/O of the Burner Management System (BMS).
PCV-1The fuel gas supply regulator is only required when the fuel gas pressuremust be reduced in two stages. This is often the case in refinery service. SeeFigure 5-3 for typical regulator settings.PI-1Every regulator should have a gauge so that the operatocan set the regulator properly and so that he can know that it is doing its job.PSV-1Many standard fuel gas train components have an upper pressure limit oapproximately 100 psig (700 kPag). Failure of both PCV-1 and PCV-21 wouldoverpressure the fuel gas train if the supply pressure exceeds the rating of anydownstream component. In such cases provision for pressure relief is required.
Controlling Fired Heaters http://www.cadvision.com/driedgew/CE5_FH.htmlPage 5-2
Note that it is not unusual to consider double jeopardy in burner safety analysis.
Controlling Fired Heaters http://www.cadvision.com/driedgew/CE5_FH.htmlPage 5-3

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