Running an efficient steam system is an important part of most refineries or plants. Our instincts tell us that making sure all of the steam traps are operating properly is the right thing to do. Besides saving money, properly operating steam traps ensure efficient production, personnel safety and a smaller carbon footprint. However, it is easy to let maintenance on this hard-working part of any facility move to the back-burner.
Much like an annual physical for your body, a steam trap survey is the easiest and best way to identify costly leaks and failed traps in a plant. Once an annual survey and repair regimen is put in place, energy savings is immediate. Many of my customers see a payback on their first steam trap survey in cost savings within six months.
Going forward, the number of traps requiring repair or replacement diminishes. Because of this, it can be tempting to “save costs” by not performing surveys yearly but regular check-ups are the most important step toward a healthy plant or refinery, and here is why:
A single leaking steam trap can raise a plant’s energy costs by $25,000 or more every year. Considering a typical plant includes thousands of steam traps, that is a big risk. A failed trap can also cause a chain reaction if it isn’t identified and replaced or serviced. Steam systems take a lot of abuse, so when one trap isn’t functioning properly, it adds further strain onto the rest of the system. It doesn’t take long for the steam system to return to its original state of steam leaks and failed traps. Over just a couple of years, this can create production to be impacted or worse, water hammer, which can jeopardize the integrity of the entire system.
Steam has a much higher energy potential than water, and when a trap is leaking that is valuable energy escaping from your operations.
Safety, safety, safety.
It just isn’t worth the risk. In the end, safety is the most important thing and a failed open or closed steam trap can be a very serious risk for anyone at the facility. Regular check-ups can help prevent that situation from ever becoming an issue.
MRC Global recommends that our customers use an third-party surveyor to perform these checkups. These surveyors specialize in identifying failed or leaking traps and can either be affiliated with a steam product manufacturer or independent.
After the survey is complete, if you would like to standardize, review trap selection, best practices, or need products to complete the repairs, we can help. Remember, a survey in itself is of no benefit unless the repairs are made either in-house or by a qualified contractor. Just like if a doctor prescribes an antibiotic, it doesn’t help the patient feel better unless they pick it up from the pharmacy and take it as instructed. Surveying your steam trap program is the first step toward a safer, more efficient and more cost-effective facility. Contact us for more information about finding a qualified surveyor.
About the Author
Karen Field is MRC Global’s Product Specialist for all things steam. She has more than 25 years of experience troubleshooting steam systems, application and specification of steam specialty products. In her role at MRC Global, she supports our technical sales representatives and customers to insure safe and efficient operation of their steam and condensate systems.
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