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Boilers Basics

Boiler Water Treatment

Chapter 5

Boiler Water Treatment

5.1 Objective of Water Treatment

Of the many uses for energy in the world - in industry, in transportation, in homes and
commercial buildings, the largest portion of total use is directed toward producing
steam through the combustion fossil fuels. Utilities account for the greatest share of
this, but industrial plants also produce enormous quantities of steam for process uses,
often generating electric power through turbines as a by-product (Cogeneration).
The treatment of water for steam generation is one of the most sophisticated
branches of water chemistry. An understanding of the fundamentals of boiler water
chemistry is essential to the power engineer who continually strives to increase the
efficiency of the boilers and steam using equipment.
The pressure and design of a boiler determine the quality of water requires for
steam generation. Municipal or plant water of good quality for domestic use is
seldom good enough for boiler feed water. These sources makeup are nearly always
treated to reduce contaminants to acceptable level, in addition corrective
chemicals are added to the treated water to counteract any adverse effects of the
remaining trace contaminants. The sequence of treatment depends on the type of
concentration of the contaminants found in the water supply and the desired
quality of the finished water to avoid the three major boiler system problems:
corrosion, deposits and carryover.

5.2 Deposits
Deposits, particularly scale, can form on any water washed equipment surface
especially on boiler tubes as the equilibrium conditions in the water contacting these
surfaces are upset by an external force, such as heat. Each contaminant had an
established solubility in water and will precipitate when it had been exceeded. If
water is in contact with a hot surface and the solubility of the contaminant is lower
at higher temperatures, the precipitate will form on the surface, causing scale. The
most common components of boiler deposits are calcium phosphate, calcium
carbonate, magnesium hydroxide, magnesium silicate, various forms of iron oxide
and alumina.
At the high temperatures found in a boiler, deposits are a serious problem, causing
poor heat transfer and a potential for boiler tube failure. In low pressure boilers with
low heat transfer rates, deposits may build up to a point where they completely
occlude the boiler tube.
In modern intermediate and higher pressure boilers with heat transfer rates in excess
of 1.2 kj/m2/hr, the presence of even extremely thin deposits will cause a serious
elevation in the temperature of the tube metal. The deposits coating retards the flow
of heat from the furnace gases into the boiler water. This heat resistance results in a
rapid*rise in metal temperature to the point at which failure can occur.

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Thickness of Scale
0.5 mm
1 mm
2 mm
4 mm (0.125")
8 mm ( 0.25")
16 mm (0.5)
30 mm ( 1 " )

Increase in fuel consumption due to scale


Table 5.1 shows the increase in fuel consumption due to scales formation

5.3 Corrosion
The second major water related boiler problem is corrosion, the most common
example being the attack ot steel by oxygen. This occurs in water supply systems,
pre-boiler systems, boilers, condensate return lines, and in virtually any portion of the
steam cycle where oxygen is present. Oxygen attack is accelerated by high
temperature and low pH. A less prevalent type of corrosion is alkali attack, which
may occur in high pressure boilers where caustic can concentrate in a local area of
steam bubble formation because of the presence of porous deposits.
Some feed water treatment chemicals, such as chelants, if not properly applied can
corrode feed water piping, control valves and even the boiler internals.
While the elimination of oxygen from boiler feed water is the major step in controlling
boiler corrosion, corrosion can still occur, an example is the direct attack by steam of
the boiler steel surface at elevated temperatures, according to the following
4H2O + 3Fe Fe3O4 + 4H2
This attack can occur at steam blanketed boiler surfaces where restricted boiler
water flow causes overheating. It may also occur in superheater tubes subjected to
overheating. Since this corrosion reaction produces hydrogen, a device for analyzing
hydrogen in steam is useful as a corrosion monitor.
The third major problem related to boiler operations is carryover from the boiler into
the steam system. This may be a mechanical effect, such as boiler water spraying
around a broken baffle, it may be caused by the volatility of certain boiler water
salts, such as silica and sodium compounds, or it may be caused by foaming.
Carryover is most often a mechanical problem, and the chemicals found in the
steam are those originally present in the boiler water, plus the volatile components
that distill from the boiler even in the absence of spray.

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Boiler Water Treatment

5.4 Water Impurities

- The common impurities in raw water can be classified as follows:
1 - Suspended solids
These are substances that exist in water as suspended particles. They are usually
mineral, or organic in origin.
These substances are not generally a problem as they can be filtered out.

2 - Hardness
Water is referred to as being either 'hard' or 'soft'. Hard water contains scaleforming impurities while soft water contains little or none. The difference can easily
be recognized by the effect of water on soap. Much more soap is required to make
lather with hard water than with soft water.
- Alkaline hardness (also known as temporary hardness)
Calcium and magnesium bicarbonates are responsible for alkaline hardness. The
salts dissolve in water to form an alkaline solution. When heat is applied, they
decompose to release carbon dioxide and soft scale or sludge.
The term 'temporary hardness' is sometimes used, because the hardness is
removed by boiling. This effect can often be seen as scale on the inside of an
electric kettle.

Fig. 5.1 Alkaline or temporary hardness

- Non-alkaline hardness and carbonates (also known as

permanent hardness)
This is also due to the presence of the salts of calcium and magnesium but in the
form of sulfates and chlorides. These precipitate out of solution, due to their
reduced solubility as the temperature rises, and form hard scale, which is difficult
to remove.

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Boiler Water Treatment

In addition, the presence of silica in boiler water can also lead to hard scale, which
can react with calcium and magnesium salts to form silicates which can severely
inhibit heat transfer across the fire tubes and cause them to overheat.

Fig. 5.2 Non-alkaline or permanent hardness (scale + carbonic acid)

- Total hardness
Total hardness is not to be classified as a type of hardness, but as the sum of
concentrations of calcium and magnesium ions present when these are both
expressed as CaC03. If the water is alkaline, a proportion of this hardness, equal in
magnitude to the total alkalinity and also expressed as CaC03, is considered as
alkaline hardness, and the remainder as non-alkaline hardness.

Fig. 5.3 Total hardness

3 - Dissolved solids
These are substances that will dissolve in water. The principal ones are the
carbonates and sulfates of calcium and magnesium, which are scale-forming when
heated. There are other dissolved solids, which is non-scale forming.
In practice, any salts forming scale within the boiler should be chemically altered
so that they produce suspended solids, or sludge rather than scale.

4 - Dissolved gases
Oxygen and carbon dioxide can be readily dissolved by water. These gases are
aggressive instigators of corrosion.

5- Silica

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Calcium carbonate
Calcium bicarbonate


Common name



Chalk, limestone

Soft scale
Soft scale+CO2


Calcium sulphate


Calcium chloride


Gypsum, plaster of paris

Hard scale

Magnesium carbonate



Soft scale

Magnesium sulphate


Epsom silts


Magnesium bicarbonate
Sodium chloride

Scale, corrosion


Common salt


Sodium carbonate


Washing soda or soda


Sodium bicarbonate


Baling soda

Priming, foaming


Caustic soda

Alkalinity, embrittlement


Gluaber salts




Hard scale

Sodium hydroxide
Sodium sulphate
Silicon dioxide

Table 5.2 Impurities Found In Water

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Boiler Water Treatment

5.5 Methods of Water Treatment

There are three basic means of boiler feed water treatment:

External Treatment: Treatment of water makeup, condensate or both

before it enters the boiler, to reduce or eliminate chemicals (hardness or
silica), gases or solids.

Internal Treatment: Treatment of the boiler feed water, boiler water,

steam or condensate with corrective chemicals.

Blow-down: Control of the concentration of chemicals in the boiler water

by bleeding off a portion of water from the boiler.

5.5.1 External Treatment

Most of the unit operations of water treatment (filtration, coagulation/flocculation,
precipitation, adsorption, ion exchange, evaporation, degasification & membrane
separation) can be used alone or in combination with others to adapt any water
supply to any boiler system. The suitability of the processes available is judged by
the results they produce and the cost involved.

The amount of impurities present is extremely small and they are usually
expressed in any water analysis in the form of parts per million (ppm), by
weight or alternatively in milligrams per liter (mg/l) Treatment of Suspended Solids

The removal of suspended solids is accomplished by
coagulation/flocculation, filtration or precipitation.
Other unit processes except direct reaction, usually require
prior removal of solids. For example water to be processed
by ion exchange should contain less than 10 mg/L
suspended solids to avoid fouling of the exchanger and
operating problems.

Fig 5.4 A Typical Filter

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Boiler Water Treatment Treatment of Hardness

Ion Exchange is the common method used for hardness treatment and is divided
- Base Exchange
- De-alkalization
- Demineralization
An ion exchanger is an insoluble material normally made in the form of resin beads
of 0.5 to 1.0 mm diameter. The resin beads are usually employed in the form of a
packed bed contained in a glass reinforced plastic pressure vessel. The resin beads
are porous and hydrophilic - that is, they absorb water. Within the bead structure are
fixed ionic groups with which are associated mobile exchangeable ions of opposite
charge. These mobile ions can be replaced by similarly charged ions, from the salts
dissolved in the water surrounding the beads.

- Base Exchange Softening

This is the simplest form of ion exchange and also the most widely used
especially in Fire Tube Boilers. The resin bed is initially activated (charged) by
passing a 7 -12% solution of brine (sodium chloride or common salt) through it,
which leaves the resin rich in sodium ions. Thereafter, the water to be softened is
pumped through the resin bed and ion exchange occurs. Calcium and magnesium
ions displace sodium ions from the resin, leaving the flowing water rich in sodium
salts. Sodium salts stay in solution at very high concentrations and temperatures and
do not form harmful scale in the boiler.
From Figure 5.5 it can be seen that the total hardness ions are exchanged for
sodium. With sodium Base Exchange softening there is no reduction in the total
dissolved solids level (TDS in parts per million or ppm) and no change in the pH. All
that has happened is an exchange of one group of potentially harmful scale forming
salts for another type of less harmful, non-scale forming salts. As there is no change
in the TDS level, resin bed exhaustion cannot be detected by a rise in conductivity
(TDS and conductivity are related). Regeneration is therefore activated on a time or
total flow basis.

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Fig 5.5 Base Exchange Softening

Softeners are relatively cheap to operate and can produce treated water reliably for
many years. They can be used successfully even in high alkaline (temporary)
hardness areas provided that at least 50% of condensate is returned. Where there is
little or no condensate return, a more sophisticated type of ion exchange is
Sometimes a lime/soda softening treatment is employed as a pre-treatment before
Base Exchange. This reduces the load on the resins.
C = M T H /R
C = Capacity of softener in cubic feet of resin
M = Makeup water volume per hour in gallons; the volume needed to be softened
(8.34 pounds per gallon)
T = Time in hours desired between regeneration cycles
H = Hardness of water in grains (17.1 ppm per grain hardness)
R = Resin Capacity per cubic foot (this is virtually always 30,000 grains)

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Fig 5.6 A typical Softener unit

- De-alkalization
Disadvantage of base exchange softening is that there is no reduction in the TDS and
alkalinity. This may be overcome by the prior removal of the alkalinity and this is
usually achieved through the use of a dealkalizer.
There are several types of dealkalizer but the most common variety is shown in
Figure 5.7 It is really a set of three units, a dealkalizer, followed by a degasser and
then a base exchange softener.
Dealkalizers are sometimes called 'split-stream' softening. A dealkalizer would
seldom be used without a base exchange softener, as the solution produced is acidic
and would cause corrosion, and any permanent hardness would pass straight into
the boiler.
A dealkalization plant will remove temporary hardness as shown in Figure 5.8. This
system would generally be employed when a very high percentage of make-up water
is to be used.

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Fig 5.7 A De-alkalizing unit

Fig 5.8 Dealkalization Process

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- Demineralisation
This process will remove virtually all the salts. It involves passing the raw water
through both cation and anion exchange resins (Figure 5.9). Sometimes the resins
may be contained in one vessel and this is termed 'mixed bed' demineralisation.
The process removes virtually all the minerals and produces very high quality water
containing almost no dissolved solids. It is used for very high pressure boilers
(Water Tube Boilers) such as those in power stations.
If the raw water has a high amount of suspended solids this will quickly foul the ion
exchange material, drastically increasing operating costs. In these cases, some pretreatment of the raw water such as clarification or filtration may be necessary.

Fig 5.9 Demineralisation Process

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Boiler Water Treatment Treatment of Dissolved Solids

The most effective method used in treatment of dissolved solids is Reverse Osmosis,
other methods like Demineralisation & Dealkalization (discussed before), are not
effective for TDS > 1500 ppm.
- Reverse Osmosis
Reverse Osmosis is based upon the fundamental pursuit for balance. Two fluids
containing different concentrations of dissolved solids that come in contact with each
other will mix until the concentration is uniform. When these two fluids are separated
by a semi permeable membrane (which lets the fluid flow through, while dissolved
solids stay behind), a fluid containing a lower concentration will move through the
membrane into the fluids containing a higher concentration of dissolved solids.
After a while the water level will be higher on one side of the membrane. The
difference in height is called the osmotic pressure. By pursuing pressure upon the
fluid column, which exceeds the osmotic pressure, one will get a reversed effect.
Fluids are pressed back through the membrane, while dissolved solids stay behind in
the column. Using this technique, a larger part the salt content of the water can be

Fig 5.10 Osmosis & Reverse Osmosis phenomena

Reverse Osmosis is a technique that is mainly applied during drinking water

preparation. The process of drinking water preparation from salty Seawater is
commonly known. Besides that, Reverse Osmosis is applied for the production of

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ultra pure water and boiler feed water. It is also applied in the food sector
(concentration of fruit juice, sugar and coffee), in the galvanic industry
(concentration of wastewater) and in the dairy industry (concentration of milk for
cheese production).
- Desalination with Reverse Osmosis
The desalination unit consists of a number of Reverse Osmosis membranes in several
pressure vessels, which are placed in a certain order. The feed water that is pumped
into the module will be separated into water with a low salt content and water with a
high salt content.
The water with a low salt content is called permeate and the water with a high salt
content is called concentrate or reject. The concentrate flow is regulated by a
pressure vessel, which is placed within the concentrate. The pressure vessel
regulates the percentage of feed water that leaves the module through the
concentrate flow.


High Pressure

Membrane Element

Fig 5.11 Desalination Process

Reverse Osmosis systems are usually designed for a specific permeate flow. To
achieve this flow, a number of membrane elements are required. The number of
membrane elements that is placed within the installation depends upon the designed
For the desalination of seawater the limiting factor is the maximum feed pressure;
this may not exceeds 69 bars.
Based on the designed flux, the production per unit membrane can be determined:
- Production per element = flux element surface
- Number of elements = permeate flow / production per element
- Number of pressure vessels = number of elements / number of elements
per vessel
- By means of the permeate flow and the required recovery, the feed water
flow is calculated:
Feed water flow = permeate flow / recovery
A certain feed pressure is required, depending on the system design. The flux, the
energy loss in the system and the osmotic pressure determine the feed pressure that
the system requires. The required feed pressure will increase when the membrane
elements are becoming contaminated through the years. A feed pump that enables a

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Boiler Water Treatment

higher flow than the flow that is theoretically required will than be implicated to keep
the feed pressure continual. A feed pump that increases the feed pressure by 25%
will be satisfactory in practice.
When the system is started up, the initial situation is recorded. All relevant
parameters should be registered and noted in a log. Based on this data the
performance of the installation can be examined and regulated after the system has
been put into action.

Fig 5.12 A Typical RO Desalination Plant Showing Membranes Banks

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Boiler Water Treatment Treatment of Dissolved Gases

Degasifiers are commonly used to remove gas mechanically rather than chemically.
Blower types are used for CO2 removal at ambient temperatures following acid or
hydrogen-exchange units. Vacuum degasifiers provide the same extent of CO2
removal, but also reduce O2 to less than 0.5 to 1.0 mg/L, offering corrosion
protection, especially if the vacuum degasifier is part of a demineralizing system.
Steam-scrubbing degasifiers, called deaerating heaters, usually produce an
effluent free of CO2 with O2 concentrations in the range of 0.005 to 0.01 mg/L. Direct
reaction of this low residual with catalyzed sulfite, hydrazine, or hydrazine substitutes (all-volatile oxygen-reducing compounds) eliminates O2 completely to
prevent pre-boiler corrosion.
De-aerator is the equipment used to get rid of any dissolved gases (O2) in
the boiler feed water.
Theory & Principal of Work
If a liquid is at its saturation temperature, the solubility of a gas in it is zero,
although the liquid must be strongly agitated or boiled to ensure it is completely
This is achieved in the head section of a deaerator by breaking the water into as
many small drops as possible, and surrounding these drops with an atmosphere of
steam. This gives a high surface area to mass ratio and allows rapid heat transfer
from the steam to the water, which quickly attains steam saturation temperature.
This releases the dissolved gases, which are then carried with the excess steam to be
vented to atmosphere. (This mixture of gases and steam is at a lower than
saturation temperature and the vent will operate thermostatically). The deaerated
water then falls to the storage section of the vessel.
A blanket of steam is maintained above the stored water to ensure that gases are
not re-absorbed.
De-aerators can eliminate the usage of chemicals thus decrease boilers
running & operational costs.

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Fig 5.13 Atmospheric De-Aerator

Fig 5.14 Pressure De-Aerator

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Fig 5.15 Pressure De-Aerator Installation Treatment of Silica

Silica reduction is not always necessary, especially in the absence of a condensing
turbine. Low concentrations of silica can sometimes produce sticky sludge in low
pressure boilers treated with phosphate.
A makeup treatment process may be selected to provide just the proper degree of
silica reduction required by steam system.
A summary for methods of silica treatment is shown in Table 5.3.

Original water
Cold lime & iron salts
Cold lime-soda
Hot lime-soda
Na2X + anion exchanger


Residuals mg/l
Hardness Alkalinity

Table 5.3 Silica Reduction Processes


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5.5.2 Internal Treatment

Scale formation within a boiler is controlled by one of four chemical programs:
coagulation (carbonate), phosphate residual, chelation, or coordinated phosphate. Coagulation Program

In this process, sodium carbonate, sodium hydroxide, or both are added to the boiler
water to supplement the alkalinity supplied by the makeup, which is not softened.
The carbonate causes deliberate precipitation of calcium carbonate under favorable,
controlled conditions, preventing deposition at some subsequent point as scale.
Under alkaline conditions, magnesium and silica are also precipitated as magnesium
hydroxide and magnesium silicate. There is usually a fairly high concentration of
suspended solids in the boiler water, and the precipitation occurs on these solids.
This method of treatment is used only with boilers (usually firetube design) using
high-hardness feed water and operating below 17 bars. This type of treatment must
be supplemented by some form of sludge conditioner. Even with a supplemental
sludge conditioner, heat transfer is hindered by deposit formation, and blowdown
rates are excessive because of high suspended solids. Coagulation programs are
becoming obsolete as pretreatment systems become more common and competitive
with the high internal treatment cost. Phosphate Program

Where the boiler pressure is above 17 bars, high concentrations of sludge are
undesirable. In these boilers, feed water hardness should be limited to 60 mg/L, and
phosphate programs are preferred. Phosphate is also a common treatment below 17
bars with soft makeup.
A sodium phosphate compound is fed either to the boiler feed water or to the boiler
drum, depending on water analysis and the preboiler auxiliaries, to form an insoluble
precipitate, principally hydroxyapatite, Ca10 (PO4)6(OH)2. Magnesium and silica are
precipitated as magnesium hydroxide, magnesium silicate (often combined as
3MgO.2SiO2.2H2O), or calcium silicate. The alkalinity of the makeup is usually
adequate to produce the OH for the magnesium precipitation. Phosphate residual
programs which produce high suspended solids require the addition of a sludge
conditioner / dispersant. Because these programs restrict heat transfer, owing to the
deposition of calcium and magnesium salts, precipitation programs of this type are
often replaced with solubilizing treatments such as che-lants and polymer /
dispersants. Chelant Programs

A chelate is a molecule similar to an ion exchanger; it is low in molecular weight and
soluble in water. The sodium salts of ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA) and
nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA) are the chelating agents most commonly used for internal
boiler treatment. These chelate (form complex ions with) calcium and magnesium.
Because the resulting complex is soluble, this treatment is advantageous in

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minimizing blowdown. The higher cost compared to phosphate usually limits the use
of chelates to feed waters having low hardness. There is the risk that breakdown of
the organic molecule at higher temperatures could create a potential problem of
control that could result in corrosion, so chelate programs are usually limited to
boilers operating below 100 bars. The addition of polymers as scale control agents
increases the effectiveness of chelate programs.
It also reduces the corrosion potential by reducing the chelant dosage below
theoretical requirements, so that there is no chelant residual in the boiler water.
Chelates can react with oxygen under boiler water conditions, which can increase the
cost of a chelate program substantially. Overfeed of chelates and concentration
mechanisms in the boiler can lead to severe localized corrosion and subsequent unit
failure. Coordinated Phosphate Program

In high-pressure, high heat transfer rate boilers, the internal treatment program
must contribute little or no solids. The potential for caustic attack of boiler metal
increases with increasing pressure, so free caustic alkalinity must be minimized. The
coordinated phosphate program is chosen for these conditions. This differs from the
standard program in that the phosphate is added to provide a controlled pH range in
the boiler water as well as to react with calcium if hardness should enter the boiler.
Trisodium phosphate hydrolyzes to produce hydroxide ions:
Na3PO4 + H2O 3Na+ + OH- + HPO42This cannot occur with the ionization of disodium and monosodium phosphate:
Na2HPO4 2Na+ + HPO42Na2HPO4 Na+ + H+ + HPO42The program is controlled by feeding combinations of disodium phosphate with
trisodium or monosodium phosphates to produce an optimum pH without the
presence of free OH-. To successfully control a coordinated phosphate program, the
feed water must be extremely pure and of consistent quality. Coordinated phosphate
programs do not reduce precipitation; they simply cause precipitation of less
adherent calcium phosphate in the absence of caustic. A dispersant must be added
to condition deposits that would otherwise reduce the heat transfer rate. The
coordinated phosphate program was first developed for high-pressure utility boilers,
and most experience with this program has been gained in this field. COMPLEXATION/DISPERSION
The newest addition to internal treatment technology is the use of synthetic organic
polymers for complexation and dispersion. This type of program can be used to 100
bars and is economical in all low-hardness feed water systems typical of those
produced by ion exchange. Heat transfer rates are maximized because these
polymers produce the cleanest lube surfaces of any of the available internal
treatment programs. This treatment solubilizes calcium, magnesium, and aluminum,
and maintains silica in solution while avoiding corrosion potential side effects as

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determined by hydrogen levels in the steam. Iron particulates returned from the
condensate system are likewise dispersed for removal via blowdown. A simple
measure of ion transport is used to demonstrate on-line performance of this

5.6 Boiler Carryover

The third major problem related to boiler operations is carryover from the boiler into
the steam system. This may be a mechanical effect, such as boiler water spraying
around a broken baffle; it may be caused by the volatility of certain boiler water
salts, such as silica and sodium compounds; or it may be caused by foaming.
Carryover is most often a mechanical problem, and the chemicals found in the steam
are those originally present in the boiler water, plus the volatile components that
distill from the boiler even in the absence of spray.
Carryover can be caused by two factors:
1. Priming
This is the ejection of boiler water into the steam take-off and is generally
due to one or more of the following:
- Operating the boiler with too high a water level.
- Operating the boiler below its design pressure; this increases the volume and the
velocity of the steam released from the water surface.
- Excessive steam demand.
2. Foaming
This is the formation of foam in the space between the water surface and the steam
off-take. The greater the amount of foaming, the greater the problems which will be
The following are indications and consequences of foaming:
- Water will trickle down from the steam connection of the gauge glass; this makes it
difficult to accurately determine the water level.
- Level probes, floats and differential pressure cells have difficulty in accurately
determining water level.
- Alarms may be sounded, and the burner(s) may even 'lockout'. This will require
manual resetting of the boiler control panel before supply can be re-established.
These problems may be completely or in part due to foaming in the
boiler. However, because foaming is endemic to boiler water, a better
understanding of foam itself is required:
- Surface definition - Foam on a glass of beer sits on top of the liquid, and the
liquid / foam interface is clearly defined. In a boiling liquid, the liquid surface is
indistinct, varying from a few small steam bubbles at the bottom of the vessel, to
many large steam bubbles at the top.

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- Agitation increases foaming - The trend is towards smaller boilers for a given
steaming rate.
Smaller boilers have less water surface area, so the rate at which steam is released
per square meter of water area is increased. This means that the agitation at the
surface is greater. It follows then that smaller boilers are more prone to foaming.
- Hardness - Hard water does not foam. However, boiler water is deliberately
softened to prevent scale formation, and this gives it a propensity to foam.
- Colloidal substances -Contamination of boiler water with a colloid in suspension,
for example, milk, causes violent foaming. Note: Colloidal particles are less than
0.0001 mm in diameter, and can pass through a normal filter.
- TDS level - As the boiler water TDS increases, the steam bubbles become more
stable, and are more reluctant to burst and separate.
Corrective action against carryover
The following alternatives are open to the Engineering Manager to minimise
foaming in the boiler:
1- Operation - Smooth boiler operation is important. With a boiler operating under
constant load and within its design parameters, the amount of entrained moisture
carried over with steam may be less than 2%.
If load changes are rapid and of large magnitude, the pressure in the boiler can drop
considerably, initiating extremely turbulent conditions as the contents of the boiler
flash to steam. To make matters worse, the reduction in pressure also means that
the specific volume of the steam is increased, and the foam bubbles are
proportionally larger.
If the plant conditions are such that substantial changes in load are
normal, it may be prudent to consider:

Modulating boiler water level controls if on / off are currently fitted.

'Surplussing controls' that will limit the level to which the boiler pressure is
allowed to drop.
A steam accumulator.
'Feed-forward' controls that will bring the boiler up to maximum operating
pressure before the load is applied.
'Slow-opening' controls that will bring plant on-line over a pre-determined
2- Chemical control - Anti-foaming agents may be added to the boiler water. These
operate by breaking down the foam bubbles. However, these agents are not effective
when treating foams caused by suspended solids.
3- Control of TDS - A balance has to be found between:
- A high TDS level with its attendant economy of operation.
- A low TDS level which minimises foaming.
4- Safety - The dangers of overheating due to scale, and of corrosion due to
dissolved gases, are easy to understand. In extreme cases, foaming, scale and

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sludge formation can lead to the boiler water level controls sensing improper levels,
creating a danger to personnel and process alike.

- The amount of TDS in the boiler water depends on the type of feedwater treatment
that is used. However, for any given feedwater condition control of TDS in the boiler
water is by blowdown. The type of treatment will depend on the source of the
feedwater, its constituents and steam generator requirements.
- The feedwater treatment can include water softeners, demineralizers and/or
polishers to eliminate hardness, silica, other dissolved solids, and suspended solids.
Organic material ingress control equipment may also be provided. A deaerating
heater is also included to minimize the dissolved oxygen. The feedwater treatment
should be compatible with the boiler water treatment and other cycle requirements.
It should be noted that systems which include steam turbines, and superheaters, will
require higher purity feedwater than referenced in this document. In the case of
steam turbines, the manufacturer of the turbine to be used should define the steam
quality requirement needed from the boiler. It should further be noted that steam
quality requirements can differ between the various turbine manufacturers. Thus it is
important that the various equipment manufacturers (boiler, turbine, water
treatment, etc.) be selected, and communicate at an early stage in the project with
the owners representative regarding steam quality and water treatment
requirements, in order to avoid later problems.
- The type of boiler water treatment usually varies with the operating pressure of the
boiler, the quality of the feedwater, and the boiler design. A "caustic phosphate"
treatment is often used with feedwater having high solids, generally in boilers
operating at lower pressures. This treatment provides the chemical conditions
necessary to cope with residual hardness and other scale forming constituents.
- Chelant treatments may be used with operating pressures up to about 1500 psig.
With this treatment it is essential that oxygen in the feedwater be reduced to the
lowest possible levels through mechanical and chemical deaeration. It is also
essential that the boiler be protected from oxygen during any outage periods.
- A "Coordinated Phosphate" treatment may be used at any operating pressure but is
generally used with boilers having high purity feedwater and operating at high
pressures. The phosphate treatment precipitates the hardness compound and also
controls the alkalinity and pH.
- A "Zero Solids" or "All Volatile" treatment does not add any dissolved solids to the
boiler. The pH in the complete cycle is controlled by volatile amines such as
ammonia, morpholine and Cyclohexylamine. The zero solids treatment may be used
at all operating pressures in those boilers having very high purity (low solids)
feedwater. However, this treatment does not provide any corrosion protection of the
boiler whenever the feedwater becomes contaminated. Accordingly, users of this
treatment should be prepared to inject. Phosphate in the boiler water or remove the
boiler from service whenever there are condenser leaks or other contamination.

Boilers Basics
Boiler Water Treatment

- Chemical scavenging of oxygen may use sodium sulfite or a volatile oxygen

scavenger such as hydrazine for boilers operating at pressures up to 1500 psig. Only
volatile oxygen scavengers should be used at pressures above 1500 psig.
- If solid type chemicals, such as sodium sulfite, must be used for boiler water or
feedwater treatment, they should be injected downstream of the spray water takeoff.
- Other boiler water chemicals should be injected via the boiler chemical feed
connection. It is the responsibility of the plant operator to provide proper feedwater
and boiler water conditions which must reflect the particular requirements of each
- Consultation with boiler manufacture and water treatment specialists will be
beneficial in formulating a proper water treatment system.
0 250
251 350
351 - 500

5000 - 3500
4000 3000
3000 - 2500

ppm as CaCO
1200 - 900
900 - 700
800 - 600


Solids max.




Iron max. (Fe)


150 - 100
120 100
80 - 50

(1) Maximum values may not be achievable due to plant operating
conditions or feedwater characteristics.
(2) Critically affected by operating conditions and year of boiler


Boilers Basics
Boiler Water Treatment

Fig 5.16 Boiler Room Arrangement

Boilers Basics
Boiler Water Treatment

Boilers Basics
Boiler Water Treatment

Boilers Basics
Boiler Water Treatment

Boilers Basics
Boiler Water Treatment

Boilers Basics
Boiler Feed Water Treatment

Boilers Basics
Boiler Feed Water Treatment