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Proper Boiler Feed Water Temperature Management

Prior to it entering the boiler, the plant manager has the opportunity to control both the boiler feed water temperature as well as its quality. This involves introducing treatment and heating that will provide optimal conditions for a long boiler life.

The Issue of Improperly Heated Feed Water

An “Improperly Heated Feedwater” condition occurs when the feedwater coming to the boiler is not adequately heated. Improperly heating feed water results in lower boiler efficiency, incomplete mechanical deaeration, and can cause cracking and catastrophic failure to the feedwater lines, boiler shell, and boiler tubes through thermal shocking.

Low temperatures can affect the boiler feed water quality as well, as it will result in higher levels of dissolved gases, oxygen and carbon dioxide, that will corrode the internal metal surfaces the water comes in contact with.

Thermal shock also occurs any time there is a sudden change in temperature of a metal or uneven temperatures throughout the boiler. Metal expands and contracts in relation to temperature and temperature fluctuations may result in cracking at local sites of temperature swings, boiler tube leaking, cracking of the tube sheets, or catastrophic boiler failure.

How to Adjust Your Boiler Feed Water Temperature

Pre-heating the feed water to achieve an ideal boiler feed water temperature will allow the boiler to run most efficiently as the heat input required to raise the temperature of the water up is reduced. The difference between 140°F and 180°F in boiler feed water temperature equates to about a 3-4% difference in boiler efficiency. Feed water preheating typically occurs in either the feedwater tank or deaerator using supplementary steam.

Pre-heating the feedwater is the most basic method of mechanical deaeration, or the process of removing dissolved oxygen from water. According to the National Board, 70°F water at 0 psig contains approximately 8.6 ppm, 150°F water at 0 psig contains approximately 4.3 ppm, and 212°F water at 0 psig contains approximately 0.0 ppm.

To avoid the “Improperly Heated Feed Water” condition described above, the boiler feedwater should be heated to at least 180 °F when using a feedwater tank and 227 °F when using a deaerator. This will minimize the chemical treatment required, provide adequate mechanical deaeration, and greatly reduce the thermal shock experienced on the internal components of the boiler. Appropriate feedwater temperature and boiler feed water quality will help to ensure the boiler remains safe, operational, and failure free for many years of service.

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