The Weakest Point in the Steam Distribution Systems

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In 1991, The Netherlands textile industry utilized the “User Group” methodology to achieve an 8% reduction in energy consumption nationwide. The “User Group” methodology consists of companies with similar processes recognizing and collectively discussing their problems. This helps to solve problems faster and achieve optimal results.

Conquest has recently launched the User Group project at Tirupur with the help of The Netherlands-based NGO Solidaridad, CREM, a consultation organization, and TNO, a Dutch research organization. With voluntary participation by ten companies, we discussed energy conservation and management solutions, mainly steam generation and distribution.

Various options were explored and discussed for energy saving. Among them were boiler efficiency, insulation, and steam trap maintenance. We discovered through extensive literature reviews and evaluation that steam traps have a high potential for energy conservation.

Unfortunately, regular and active maintenance for steam traps is not present, which is disadvantageous. Steam traps are poorly understood, leading to ineffective steam distribution systems.

During the dyeing process, the steam heats the liquor and must maintain it at a specific temperature. Once the heat from the steam is used, condensed vapors are left behind. Steam traps are devices that remove this condensate without letting the steam leak. The three types of steam traps are thermodynamic, float, and bucket.

If steam traps fail through leaking, blowing, rapid cycling, or clogging, it leads to a loss of time and cost-effectiveness. About 15-30% are known to fail without proper maintenance, and about 50% fail due to a lack of steam trap testing. Regular maintenance is necessary to lower this percentage.

Various methods like visual, temperature, and ultrasonic detection were utilized to evaluate the functionality of steam traps. In this project, Masoneilan & Napier formula was used to evaluate the performance of steam traps. Input and output temperatures were measured and compared. If the output temperature of the condensate line comes out more than 95 degrees Celsius, it means steam is leaking, and the steam traps are malfunctioning. From our observations and survey, 25% of steam traps were faulty.

Further surveys from group companies revealed that a large amount of savings could be made by adopting proper steam trap maintenance. For example, a company with a steam trap capacity of 100 may save up to an impressive 10 lakh rupees and 400 tonnes of fuel per year. This alone emphasizes how beneficial steam trap maintenance plans can be.