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Furnace is the primary part of boiler where the chemical energy available in the fuel is
converted to thermal energy by combustion. Furnace is designed for efficient and complete
combustion. Major factors that assist for efficient combustion are time of residence (fuel)
inside the furnace, temperature inside the furnace and turbulence which causes rapid mixing
between fuel and air. In modern boilers water cooled furnaces are used which has the following
advantages :
i)In furnace not only combustion but also heat transfer is taking place
ii) The maintenance work involved in repairing the fire bricks (which is otherwise
necessary) is practically eliminated.
iii) Due to heat transfer in the furnace, temperature of the flue gas leaving the furnace is
reduced to the acceptable level of the superheating surfaces.
iv) Higher heat loading in the furnace is possible as heat is being simultaneously
removed by heat transfer, and hence economy in surfacing.
During design of the water cooled surface the following points are taken care in addition to
the ones mentioned above.
i) In the case of natural circulation boiler the furnace height and size of water wall is
selected such that adequate water circulation in the furnace tubes is ensured.
ii) The size of furnace and location of burners are selected such that flame does not
impinge on any furnace tubes.
iii) Uniform heat transfer on all furnace walls.
iv) Shape of furnace to ensure gas path which will fill the furnace and hence
provide maximum absorption.
v) Provision for removal of ash (wet or dry) from bottom of furnace in the case of coal
fired boilers.
vi) Furnace is to be well supported to withstand static load, load due to furnace pressure,
wind and seismic load but at the same time allow for free expansion due to
temperature change.
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2.1 P.F. Fired Dry Bottom Furnaces
The tall rectangular radiant type furnace has now become a feature of the modern dry bottom
p.f. boiler. Increased height not only facilitates adequate natural circulation but also aids
reduction of furnace exit gas temperature and hence less soot deposit in superheaters and
reheaters. Single furnace or multifurnace with division walls is selected according to the size
of the boiler. Multifurnaces are necessary for higher capacity boilers to provide sufficient
heat transfer surface for the corresponding furnace volume required for combustion.
Dry bottom furnace is selected for coal of non-slagging type (i.e.) fusion temperature of the
ash (produced by combustion) will be more than the temperature encountered in the furnace.
Normally a maximum of 20% total ash may be collected as slag from bottom of furnace.
The rest of the ash is carried away along with flue gas and can be separated after boiler. If
slagging type coal is used in dry bottom furnace, slag will fuse and deposit in the heat transfer
surfaces of furnace, superheater and reheater where removal may pose problem.
Hopper at the bottom is formed by sloping the front and rear water walls thus the amount of
brick work is reduced and hence maintenance. By this arrangement, loss of efficiency due to
evaporation of water from hopper is also effectively reduced.
Most of the Indian coals contain high amount of silica in the ash and hence ash fusion
temperatures are high. Hence dry bottom types are best suited for Indian coals. In addition,
loss of efficiency due to sensible heat in the molten ash of wet bottom furnace which
increases with ash content also favours use o f dry bottom furnace for high ash content
coals. See Figures 11-2 and 11-5 for arrangement of water walls in dry bottom coal fired
2.2 Slag Type Furnace
Furnace of this type normally has two furnace parts. Primary furnace is used for very high
rate of combustion from where the molten slag passes to ash hopper and the hot flue gases
into the secondary furnace which is very similar to dry type furnace. Provision is made to
chill the molten slag and crush to granular form for easy disposal. As the ash had to flow
from the primary furnace, coal having low melting temperature can only be used. To obtain
high temperature inside the primary furnace which will facilitate the easy flow of ash, very
small but highly rated design is needed for primary furnace. High temperature refractory
material is used inside the primary furnace and hence maintenance is needed.
Horizontal cyclone type furnace is used as primary furnace in U.S.A. where coals available
are suitable for this type of furnace. As slag is removed in the furnace itself, the heat transfer
surfaces are kept reasonably clean.
2.3 Oil Fired Boiler Furnace
Greater emissivity of oil flame results in a high absorption by the furnace wall surfaces hence
higher furnace loading is possible. Normally about 65% of furnace volume is enough for an
oil fired boiler compared to the corresponding output PF fired boiler..
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Oil fired furnace is generally closed at the bottom as there is no need to remove slag as in the
case of PF fired boiler. Bottom will have small amount of slope to prevent film boiling
in the bottom tubes.
If boiler has to be designed for both PF as well as oil, the furnace has to be designed for
coal as otherwise higher heat loading with PF will cause slagging and high furnace exit
gas temperature. Superheaters, and reheaters may have to be designed for operation of oil
in the furnace designed for coal, otherwise superheater outlet temperature may not be
obtainable. However ratio of heat transfer between evaporation and superheating can be
varied using burner tilting and/or gas recirculation. Figures 11-6 and IV-1 show the
arrangement of water wall in oil fired furnace.
Furnace wall construction has gone through various stages of development from
conventional refractory backed walls to present day fusion welded panels also known as
membrane panels. The other well known construction is tangent tubes.
In the tangent tubes construction -See Figure VI-1 the water wall tubes are placed in close
pitches such that they practically touch each other. Small amount of insulation and boiler
casing are slung with the tubes from the building structure. The independently supported
casing with its associated heavy buck-stays used in the earlier (refractory type construction)
type is thus eliminated.
In membrane wall construction the tubes are placed side by side with a gap of about 12
mm and the tubes are joined by welding a continuous longitudinal strip on both the tubes
thus making like a panel at the manufacturers works itself. The length and width of panel is
limited by transportation consideration only. The panels in turn are welded together at site
to form the complete furnace. Thus the total amount of welding work at site is limited to
very great extent thus facilitating easy erection and high quality welds.
Air infiltration which will reduce the efficiency of boiler is greatly reduced by use of these
types of construction. Membrane type construction also facilitates use of pressurised firing
i n furnace which will eliminate one of the boiler house auxiliary-l D fan.
Provision for free expansion of furnace tubes is vital in all cases and it is normal for tube
walls to be entirely suspended from the top of the structural members so that all expansion
is taken in a downward direction 40 metres high furnace will have roughly 125 mm
expansion due to temperature change alone during boiler operation.
The furnace is contained in position and load created by furnace pressure, seismic and wind
load is safely transmitted by special supports called buck-stays which is
carefully designed such that it does not restrict in any way the free movement required due to
temperature change.
4.1 Operation
It is absolutely essential to keep the water level in drum (applicable to drum type boiler alone)
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within prescribed level whenever fire is inside the furnace to avoid carry over, starvation and
consequent failure of furnace wall tubes. In modern boilers, automatic control systems are
incorporated to maintain practically constant level in drum at all operating conditions which
is also essential for maintaining the steam purity.
Water level has to be cross-checked at least once a shift with the help of direct level indicator
and compared with the control room instrument. Before lighting up the boiler the operator
should check the water level in the upper drum by blowing down the water column in the
gauge glass. Several blow down at low pressure during starting will facilitate cleaning of
foreign materials in gauge glass, valves and line. But blow-downs of gauge glass during
normal operation should be kept minimum to protect the gauge glass.
The expansion of furnace walls should be watched carefully during start-up. The difference
in expansion between different corners at the same plane or expansion prevention above a
certain rise in temperature will indicate the restriction. If this is not immediately investigated
and rectified it will result in major failure.
Since the design heat transfer rates in water cooled furnaces are normally high it is
essential that the tubes be kept free from internal deposits of salt, copper and iron
oxide. This is accomplished by proper boiler water and feed water treatment (refer the
chapter Water Treatment for further details). Scale formation is the depositing of an
insulating film on the water side of the tube wall, which raises the hot face temperature
and may result in overheating of the tube section. Boiler water treatment is aimed to
eliminate deposition of scale forming components by substituting nonscale forming
Boiler blow down is used as a means of controlling the boiler water concentrations (solids
and alkalinity) and to remove sludge formation. Frequency and quantity of blow down depends
upon local conditions such as character of the water, nature of feed water treatment, design
and rating of boiler etc. In most cases the continuous blow down system is sufficient. In
extreme cases boiler may be blown down intermittently through other blow downs such as
drum drain, down-take drains but never by the water wall header drains. At no time should
the conditions specified for an installation as to total dissolved solids, alkalinity etc. be ignored
or exceeded.
The amount and rate of slagging depends largely on type of fuel burned. The furnace walls
cannot be entirely kept free from deposit but should be kept reasonably clean. Heavy local
accumulation should be avoided by proper use of soot blowing equipment. Use of wall
blowers should be restricted to the affected areas only.
Flame inside the furnace should be watched and taken care to keep them off from impinging
on furnace walls. The selection of burners and loading is to be done such that the heat loading
is uniform in furnace. This is best accomplished in the corner fired boiler by operating tierwise.
The peep holes and view holes in the furnace should always be kept closed except during
flame viewing. The leakage of air through furnace should be avoided.
The rate of raising or lowering of boilers parameters (saturation temperature in most of the
cases) should be strictly restricted to or below the specified value for the boiler. Bring the
boiler into service and loading at faster rate are advantageous for the time being but detrimental
to life of the equipment. It has been found that some of the operating staff have the tendency
to bring the boiler to rated at faster rate than permissible to satisfy the higher level and no
defect is being revealed in near future. This practice should be strictly stopped on total economy
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basis considering the reduction of life of boiler.
The fatigue failure of fusion welded tubes in open hopper type can occur when the tubes are
subjected to direct contact with relatively cold ash hopper water. This should be avoided by
proper inspection.
4.2 Maintenance
Routine inspection of furnace is necessary to detect the troubles in the early stages and also to
correct possible faults in firing, combustion, circulation, soot blowers, etc., before serious
damage can result. The procedure adopted during annual overhauls will vary according to
design and to operating history of individual boilers but extreme vigilance is necessary
throughout the whole life of a boiler.
The first step after taking a boiler out of service for overhaul or after some failure is to inspect
the furnace carefully before any cleaning is carried out. Information can be gained from deposits
adhering to walls and tubes as to possible defects. The deposit formation may reveal following
vital points condition and alignment of burners, flame distribution and impingement on walls,
effect of different coals, corrective measure necessary in operation and most suitable method
and extent of cleaning process needed.
The second stage of inspection is carried out after thoroughly cleaning all surfaces. This time
it is for checking deterioration of burners, wall tube headers, refractory works, soot blowers,
hopper brick works, etc. Repairs to furnace will be undertaken during annual overhauls on a
scale sufficient to ensure the trouble-free operation of furnace until the next overhaul period.
Bare tube water cooled furnace requires minimum maintenance if boiler circulation and water
treatment are correct and there is no overheating due to flame impingement. To remove the
internal deposit from the tubes may require acid cleaning after a considerable operating time
in boiler subject to water condition conducive to scale or oxide deposition. If external erosion
of tubes noticed, cause may be traced and rectified. In most of the cases it may be due to
wrong directional angle of soot blowers.
Bowing of a single tube of furnace may be due to overheating and coming out of the support.
But row of tubes or panel bowing may be due to obstruction to expansion movement. In
case of severe damage, the tubes are to be replaced after rectifying the cause of bowing.
A tube section which has failed or which must be replaced because of danger of failure can in
most cases easily be replaced. After removing the furnace wall insulation behind the failed
area, the tube section is removed by cutting across the tube, sufficiently above and below the
failure. Before inserting and rewelding a new tube section the tube ends should be prepared
for welding. After testing the welding the insulation must be put back and casing work
completed in such a way that no air leakage through casing is possible. All repairs should be
done by competent and qualified personnel and all welding be in accordance with recommended
procedure acceptable to boiler inspector and Indian Boiler Rules.
NOTE:-For details on Drum and its Internal, refer section 9: Water Treatment.
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