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Boiler House Course


Introduction to M&M Training and Instructor

Health & Safety and Welfare at M&M Training
Introduction by Course Personnel


Section 1. History of Boilers

Section 2. Boiler Description & Construction of Boilers
Section 3. Different Types of Boilers
Section 4. The Boiler House Equipment
Section 5. Boiler Controls
Section 6. Water
Section 7. Water Treatment Methods
Section 8. Chemical Dosing
Section 9. Boiler Feed Tanks
Section 10. Boiler Blow down and TDS
Section 11. Boiler Level Control
Section 12. Burner Combustion
Section 13. Burner Control
Section 14. Ventilation
Section 15. Boiler Pressure
Section 16. Energy Saving Potential
Section 17. Legal
Section 18. Boiler Operation
Section 19. Boiler Operation Guidelines
Section 20. BG01 Compliance
Section 21. Safe Isolation
Section 22. Boiler Inspection
Section 23. Questions & Answers

Appendix 1 Steam tables

CITB Assessment


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Section 1
History of Boilers
Steam boilers can considerably vary in design. The designs have evolved over the years in
order to achieve the level of performance, efficiency, reliability, and safety that would not
have been possible in the past.

Most boilers in industrial use are of the horizontal shell also known as package type,
where the hot combustion gasses pass within tubes, which are placed inside the boiler shell.
There are also small vertical boilers, which are not dissimilar in principle to the shell design,
but are built with compactness and space saving in mind. There are coil-type steam
generators; very large boilers are usually of the water tube type, which are not within the
scope of this standard course. Some boilers have two separate heat inputs whereby waste
heat from an incinerator or CHP engine exhaust can be applied separately from a fuel-fired
burner. Although coal was predominately used in the early part of the last century, most
boilers use natural gas, or perhaps oil. However, in recent years there has been a small
resurgence in solid fuels in the form of biomass products such as wood chips and pellets.

Haystack Boiler Wagon Boiler

Egg End Boiler Lancashire Boiler

The most common design is the three-pass horizontal design, which is best illustrated if we
look at the manufacturing process of a shell boiler.

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Section 2
Boiler Design & Construction
We will first consider traditional gas or oil fired boilers, and its construction:

In order to make a boiler it is necessary to start with steel plate, cut to the required size to
make the circular end plates; the boiler shell is constructed by taking a flat sheet of steel
and rolling it until it has become a perfect cylinder. The next stage of construction is to
produce a furnace tube, into which the burner will fire. The furnace tube is welded at one
end to the front endplate, and the other end is welded to a pre-fabricated rear reversal
chamber where the combustion gasses are conducted into a bank of tubes, which return to
the front of the boiler. The rear reversal chamber is separated from the rear endplate of the
boiler, and is supported by stay bars. This allows water to flow behind the rear reversal
chamber, and means that the design is known as a wet back boiler. Once the hot gasses
have returned via the second pass tubes to the front of the boiler, they are turned around in
the front reversal chambers, and are then conducted in the banks or third pass tubes. These
tubes conduct the hot gasses to the rear endplate, where they then exit through the flue of
the boiler.

The following photographs show the key stages of a boiler under construction.

Boiler front endplate in manufacture

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Boiler shell being rolled

The picture below shows a boiler shell, complete with various connections welded into
place, and the furnace tube and rear reversal chamber sub-assembly. This sub-assembly will
be installed in the boiler shell.

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The burner will fire inside the furnace tube (red arrow).

The hot combustion gasses will turn around in the rear reversal chamber, and then return to
the front via the second pass tubes (orange arrow).

The gasses will turn around in the front reversal chamber, and pass through to exit through
the rear endplate (yellow arrow).

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Section 3
Different Boiler Types
Small horizontal boilers are often of the reverse firing type. These are distinctive by the
fact that they usually have a single door. The third pass tubes are usually fitted with
turbulators to improve heat transfer (as can be seen here being inserted in one of the

It will be noted that the furnace tube is proportionately larger than on a traditional 3-pass
shell boiler. This is because the second pass is the reversal of the hot gasses being around
the outside of the flame, which is firing down the centre of the furnace tube. The rear of the
furnace tube is usually separated from the rear endplate, being supported by stay bars,
hence this design is also known as a wet back boiler.

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Small boilers are often of the vertical tubeless design, as seen here, on a typical
prefabricated skid-mounted package. The boiler is on the right-hand side of the photo, and
the water treatment plant on the left.

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The combustion gas flows within the vertical boiler are shown in
the diagram below

The burner is a down-firing type; the gasses reverse around the bottom of the pressure
vessel (hence this is a dry back design) and then pass upwards to exit the flue connection.
This is therefore a two-pass design and would therefore be considered a dry back design.

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In general terms the relative merits of a three-pass horizontal shell boiler are:

Relatively low cost design

Simple to operate
Efficient design
Can tolerate internal water quality as high as 3,000 3,500 ppm
The burner can have a turndown of 10:1

The disadvantages are:

There is a large quantity of stored water, hence a large store of energy

Due to the mass of water, it takes considerable time to bring up to working pressure
from a cold start
Pressure is limited to about 20 25 bar
Output is limited by physical size & transportation difficulties to about 20 25 t/hr

The smaller reverse-firing boiler is usually made up to about 5 t/hr output, and its burner is
limited to a turndown of only 3:1.

The vertical boiler is appropriate for outputs up to about 1 t/hr being of 2-pass design it is
less efficient than horizontal designs, but the robust nature of the tubeless design means
that it is more tolerant of operating care and poor water quality.

Coil-type generators which literally consist of a coil, or coil bundle, which is heated by the
burner, with water entering one end of the coil, and steam leaving the outlet, hold minimal
water. They are therefore very quick to bring up to steam, and hold only a small store of
energy. Their disadvantage is that they are not quick to respond to sudden load changes,
and they do need a much better quality of water.

In addition to both gas and oil fired boilers, there has been a recent return to solid fuels; but
instead of coal, there is extensive use of biomass. This is commonly in the form of wood
chips or pellets manufactured from wood and other fast-growing plants such as elephant
grass. Like coal, these fuels are usually automatically fed into the boiler on a chain grate,
and there is the need to rake out the ash residue. An alternative is to use a separate
combustor and a waste heat boiler. There are also bio-oils available as an alternative to
mineral oils, but most bio-oils have a relatively short storage life before they degrade not
something, that is a problem for most industrial users who have a constant ongoing demand
for fuel. Bio-oils with a longer shelf life tend to be acidic and therefore require stainless steel
pipework, valves, and pumps.

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Section 4
The Boiler House & Equipment
A boiler is only part of a complete system, and requires a feed water tank, water treatment
plant, and a blowdown vessel. There may also be a steam distribution manifold. It is
common practice to have more than one boiler within a boiler house. Traditionally this
would be based on two duty & one standby boiler.

A Complete Shell Boiler, showing the key features

Level gauge glasses Safety valve Crown valve

Pressure gauge Level probes

Font reversal
Chamber doors

TDS probe
Burner Water sample cooler Pressure switches feed water pumps
Gas supply Main control panel

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Boiler Ancillaries

Boiler Nameplate

In the latter half of the 19th century, explosions of steam boilers were commonplace. Because
of this, a company was formed in Manchester in 1855, called the Steam Users Association,
later called Manchester Steam Users Association, with the objective of reducing the number
of explosions by subjecting steam boilers to independent examination. This company was, in
fact, the beginning of today's Safety Federation (SAFed), the body whose approval is required
for boiler controls and fittings in the UK.

After a comparatively short period, only 8 out of the 11,000 boilers examined exploded. This
compared to 260 steam boiler explosions in boilers not examined by the scheme.

This success led to the Boiler Explosions Act (1882) which included a requirement for a
boiler nameplate. An example of a boiler name-plate is shown.

The serial number and model number uniquely identify the boiler and are used when
ordering spares from the manufacturer and in the main boiler log book.

Example of a Boiler Nameplate

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Boiler Feed Pump

The boiler feed pump delivers water to the boiler from the hot well. The discharge pressure
from the feed pump has to be higher than the boiler pressure (typically 10%), to overcome
the boiler pressure and the associated feed water stop and check valve.

The temperature of the feed water for a standard feed pump should be approximately 85-
90C, temperatures in excess of this feed pump can cause cavitation.

There are some instances where higher feed water / hot well temperatures can be used, for
example, a de-aerator, but the feed pump would need to have special high temperature
sealing arrangements.

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Water Feed Check Valves

The feed water check valve is installed in the boiler feed water line between the feed pump
and boiler. A boiler feed stop valve is fitted at the boiler shell.

The check valve includes a spring providing assistance, greater than the head of water in the
elevated feed tank when there is no pressure in the boiler. This prevents the boiler being
flooded by the static head from the boiler feed tank.

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Boiler Check Valve

Under normal steaming conditions, the check valve operates in a conventional manner to
stop return flow from the boiler entering the feed line when the feed pump is not running.
When the feed pump is running, its pressure overcomes the spring to feed the boiler as

Because a good seal is required, and the temperatures involved are relatively low (usually
less than 100C) a check valve with an EPDM (Ethylene Propylene) soft seat is generally the
best option.

In a corrugator with closed loop condensate recovery or a plant with an economiser, the
feed water to the boiler will be elevated above 100C and a check valve with a special high
temperature seal is required.

On ordering a check valve, ensure that you state the temperature and pressure of the feed
water entering the boiler as well as the static head of the feed tank.

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Air Vent

A manual air vent valve should be open on start-up of the boiler until the boiler is at
approximately 1 barg (consult with your boiler-operating book for your set pressure).

On shut down of the boiler to prevent a vacuum being created, the manual vent valve is
opened, when the boiler pressure gauge reads zero. This should be done with caution and
wearing the correct PPE.

A manual air vent may be augmented with an auto air vent and vacuum breaker fitted in

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Crown Valve

A steam boiler must be fitted with a stop valve (also known as a crown valve) which isolates
the steam boiler and its pressure from the process or plant. It is generally an angle pattern
globe valve of the screw-down variety.

In the past, these valves have often been manufactured from cast iron, with steel and
bronze being used for higher-pressure applications. In the UK, BS 2790 (eventually to be
replaced with EN 12953) states that cast iron valves are no longer permitted for this
application on steam boilers. Nodular or spheroidal graphite (SG) iron should not be
confused with grey cast iron as it has mechanical properties approaching those of steel. For
this reason, many boilermakers use SG iron valves as standard.

The stop valve is not designed as a throttling valve, and should be fully open or closed. It
should always be opened slowly to prevent any sudden rise in downstream pressure and
associated water hammer, and to help restrict the fall in boiler pressure and any possible
associated priming.

To comply with UK regulations, the valve should be of the 'rising hand wheel' type. This
allows the boiler operator to easily see the valve position, even from floor level. The valve
shown is fitted with an indicator that makes this even easier for the operator.

On multi-boiler applications, an additional isolating valve should be fitted, in series with the
crown valve. At least one of these valves should be lockable in the closed position. The
additional valve is generally a globe valve of the screw-down, non-return type, which
prevents one boiler pressurising another. Alternatively, it is possible to use a screw-down
valve, with a disc check valve sandwiched between the flanges.

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Other Boiler Ancillaries

Bottom Blowdown See Section 10

Side TDS See Section 10

Level Control See Section 11

Level Gauges See Section 11

Pressure Stats See Section 12

Burner See Section 13

Relief Valve See Section 15

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Section 5
Boiler Controls
The control of a steam boiler is fairly simple:

Energy must be applied to the boiler to correspond with the rate at which steam is
being produced. This is achieved by monitoring boiler pressure
Water must be delivered to the boiler to correspond with the rate at which it is
leaving the boiler predominately through steam release, but also through
blowdown losses

Both of these functions can be undertaken manually. In the past, a boiler operators duties
included shovelling coal into the boiler, as well as managing the feed water pump. Fully-
manual boilers are, thankfully, a very rare sight, although they may be seen at museums for
example. They are reliant on the boiler operator maintaining a careful watch on both the
boiler pressure gauge and the water level gauge glasses.

A boiler is considered to be automatically controlled if the aforementioned functions

require no manual input. On all modern boilers:

The burner is regulated by the pressure control system. This could be altering the
firing rate of a gas or oil burner, or altering the rate at which solid fuel; such as coal,
is fed onto the boiler grate
The water level is regulated by a level control system, which in turn manages the
feed water pump or a control valve

An automatically controlled boiler will have various safety devices and alarms to ensure that
the safe parameters of boiler pressure and water level are correctly maintained. The term
automatically controlled does not imply that a boiler will necessarily have other
automated controls such as blowdown, albeit that these are a useful feature.

HSE Guidance Note BG01, which we shall look at in detail in a later section, advises on the
safe levels of supervision and corresponding integrity of safety devices.

Before we can make steam, we must first understand the properties of water, and how it
might need to be treated in order to make it suitable to pump into a boiler.

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Section 6

We cannot use tap water to supply a boiler, unless the water is of unusually good quality.
Water supply companies have a duty to supply water that meets the required standards for
drinking quality: it is up to the boiler user to ensure that the water is further treated to
make it suitable for use in a boiler.

Water is often described as H2O however; this is a bit misleading, as water will invariably
include various impurities. Indeed, the familiar way in which water behaves is due to some
impurities being present. Water is a virtually universal solvent, so were we to use ultrapure
water it would quickly corrode any pipework, pumps, and the boiler. It is important,
therefore, that the water contains sufficient impurities of the right type to not have an
adverse effect upon the operation and longevity of the boiler, and to produce good quality

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Impurities can have a wide range of undesirable effects, which are summarised on the
following table:

Common Impurities
Impurity Symbol Common Name Effect
Calcium carbonate CaCO3 Chalk, Soft scale
Calcium bicarbonate Ca(HCO3)2 limestone Release of CO2
Calcium sulphate CaSO4 Gypsum, plaster of Paris Hard scale
Calcium chloride CaCl2 Corrosion
Magnesium carbonate MgCO3 Magnesite Soft scale
Magnesium sulphate MgSO4 Epsom salts Corrosion
Magnesium bicarbonate Mg(HCO3)2 Scale & corrosion
Sodium chloride NaCl Common salt Galvanic corrosion
Sodium carbonate Na2CO3 Soda Alkalinity
Sodium bicarbonate NaHCO3 Baking soda Foaming
Sodium hydroxide NaOH Caustic soda Alkalinity, embrittlement
Sodium sulphate Na2SO2 Glauber salts Alkalinity
Silicon dioxide SiO2 Silica Hard scale

The undesirable qualities we need to remove are:

Deposition of scale from the boiler water

Acidity, which would cause corrosion
Strong alkalinity which would cause caustic corrosion
Salts which might cause galvanic corrosion between dissimilar metals

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The impurities may briefly be categorised as follows:

Type of Impurity Name Adverse Effect

Dissolved impurities,
Scale deposition on heat
which will precipitate out
transfer surfaces, causing
of solution upon being
Temporary hardness salts localised overheating and
heated, and cause scale
thermal stress damage to
deposition on heat
the boiler.
transfer surfaces.
Dissolved impurities,
An accumulation of
which will not precipitate
dissolved solids will cause
out of solution within the Permanent hardness salts
the boiler water to foam,
operating temperature of
leading to carryover.
the boiler.
Can accumulate in the
bottom of the boiler, and
Insoluble particles Precipitated solids cause the furnace tube to
overheat. Can also cause
an increase in foaming.
Dissolved gasses, Poor quality steam.
including air and carbon Non-condensable gasses Corrosion of the steam
dioxide and condensate system

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Section 7
Water Treatment Methods

There are several methods of treating boiler water. These include:

Thermal de aeration
Reverse osmosis
Chemical dosing

The most common arrangement is for a simple base-exchange softener to be used in

conjunction with some chemical dosing. This is augmented by heating the boiler feed water
tank to achieve some level of thermal de-aeration - something that will be explained in the
section on boiler feed water tanks.

The less common use of reverse osmosis plant and the older technique of DE alkalisation
will also be explained later; however, we shall first consider the most basic equipment, as
show below, consisting of a duplex base-exchange softener, and a chemical injection unit.

Resin vessels Control head

Brine well Chemical dosing pump

Chemical reservoir

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A bund should be provided for the chemical reservoir, also a COSSH Data sheet on
prominent display.
Eye wash and PPE to be available, it would be advantages to have running water or an
emergency shower within a close vicinity

The Base-Exchange Water Softener

The Base Exchange Water Softener consists of two resin vessels. One is in service whilst the
other is being regenerated ready for re-use. (On some older installations, only one resin
vessel may be found; this is only suitable for instances where the boiler is operated for a
limited number of hours per day, so that regeneration may take place whilst the boiler is not
in operation). A brine well is also part of the softener, with the brine therein used to
regenerate the resin vessel.

Finally, an automatic control head on top of the resin vessels monitors (on either a time
clock or metered flow basis) operation, will switch over the resin vessels when appropriate,
and manage the regeneration of the vessel. It is important that regeneration takes place at
some point before the resin is exhausted, otherwise un-softened water will be delivered to
the boiler feed water tank.

The synthetic resin bed, which fills the vessels, will attract brine due to the positive ionic
state of the sodium contained in the brine (sodium chloride solution). During operation, the
stronger positive ions of calcium and magnesium salt attracts to the brine retained by the
resin beads. The calcium and magnesium will bind to the chlorine, meaning that they are
retained in the softener bed, whilst sodium salts are carried over into the boiler feed water.
The result of this is that the temporary hardness salts are retained in the softener, and are
substituted by permanent hardness salts.

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If we consider the salt in the resin is sodium chloride (Na Cl), and for example consider
calcium carbonate entering the softener (CaCO3), we will find that calcium chloride is
retained in the softener bed (Ca Cl) and sodium carbonate (Na CO3) passes to the boiler feed

When the softener is regenerated, it is back-flushed to remove any solids which might have
accumulated therein. Then a strong brine solution saturates the resin bed. This draws the
calcium and magnesium compounds away from the resin, and replaces them with brine.
Once this process is complete, the resin vessel is ready for re-use.

It is important to monitor salt consumption, as this can give an early indication that the
regeneration process is not happening correctly.

The boiler operator may make complicated chemical tests to establish the level of any
residual hardness which might be present. This is usually performed by an independent
chemical treatment specialist company. However, simple test tablets are available which
will normally be green, but will change to a red colour in the presence of calcium. The use of
such a test is highly recommended, as an ineffective softener can lead to harmful deposits
of scale in a boiler.

The softened water is normally supplied directly to the boiler feed water tank, although
some installations may have a separate softened water storage tank alongside the boiler
feed water tank.

The advantage of base-exchange softeners is that they are relatively cheap to operate and
reliable. However, it must be appreciated that after about five years in service the resin will
begin to deteriorate. In addition, if a correctly selected resin vessel is put into a revised
operation whereby it only sees a small flow, there is an effect known as channelling
whereby the small flow effectively short-circuits and only the resin in the upper part of the
vessel is used. This means that the working resin in the vessel, despite its size, rapidly
becomes exhausted. It must be borne in mind that a base-exchange softener will not
remove dissolved solids, only modify their nature.

It is important that the softer is working in a very effective manner, producing boiler water
with no detectable Calcium hardness. In the case of coil generators, it is especially important
to ensure that no calcium hardness is present because scale can rapidly accumulate and
block the limited cross-sectional area of the coil.

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Reverse Osmosis Plant

An increasingly common water treatment method is that of reverse osmosis, which results
in a high level of water purity, which still requires some chemical treatment.

It is usual for water to first pass through a conventional base-exchange softener, to prevent
the RO membrane from becoming blocked with scale.

The water may then be pre-filtered, in order to remove suspended particles. A filter will
typically pass only particles below 20 microns in size (less than half the diameter of a human

The water is then passed over (and not through!) the membrane which divides the RO
module. Due to the different size of molecules, only small water molecules will permeate
through the membrane, whilst larger molecules of impurities will not do so. These larger
molecules are retained in the reject water, whilst the permeate is delivered to the boiler
feed tank. The reject water is often passed through a further one or two stages of RO
modules to extract further permeate.

The resulting water is of good purity, with almost all of the dissolved and insoluble matter

The reject water is not toxic, but it will obviously contain a much greater concentration of
the impurities that were already in the softened water supplied to it.

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Other Water Treatment Processes

De-alkalisation. In the past, de-alkalisation was not uncommon on larger boiler plant,
although it has largely been displaced by RO plant due to lower capital costs. The process
consisted of passing the water through a weak acid resin bed, which removed the calcium
and magnesium, associated with the bicarbonates. This works by the exchange of hydrogen
ions for the calcium and magnesium, and the bicarbonate ion reacts with the hydrogen ion
to form dissolved carbon dioxide and water. The carbon dioxide is then removed by a de-
gasser tower. The method is very effective, and has the advantage of reducing the total
dissolved solids (TDS) level of the water.

De-mineralisation. This process passes the raw water through a resin to remove all of the
cations such as calcium, magnesium, and sodium, followed by another resin which removes
all of the anions such as bicarbonates, sulphates, and chlorides. Hence, the treated water is
almost completely de-ionised. This method is frequently used for high-pressure water-tube
boilers such as may be found at power stations.

Thermal deaeration. No discussion of water treatment would be complete without mention

of thermal deaeration.

The solubility of oxygen in water diminishes as temperature increases. When water is

heated in a saucepan, bubbles may be seen to form at the bottom of the pan long before
the water has reached boiling. These are air bubbles, being driven out of solution as the
water temperature increases.

Ideally, we would want to heat water to 1070C, at which point the solubility of oxygen is
negligible; unfortunately, for obvious reasons this is impracticable. Nevertheless, by heating
water in the boiler feed tank to around 900C we will significantly drive off much of the
oxygen, and therefore need less oxygen scavenger chemical than would be required at
lower temperatures.

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Section 8
Chemical Dosing

Having removed the temporary hardness salts in the water, and converted them to
permanent hardness salts; there remains the need to ensure that the following aspects of
the water are addressed:

The pH, which needs to be slightly alkaline

Any oxygen in solution needs to be removed by using an oxygen scavenger
The precipitated solids, which are dispersed in the boiler water, need to be treated
so that they form a sludge, which will more effectively settle to the bottom of the
boiler and can then be removed via a blowdown valve

The usual chemicals for these purposes are:

Sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), a strong alkaline, which will cause burns to the
skin, and therefor demands the use of suitable PPE. This is normally dosed to provide
a feed water pH of about 8.5, resulting in the boiler water concentrating to a pH of
about 10.0 to 11.5
Sodium sulphite, which will convert to a sodium sulphate if free oxygen is present.
The boiler water is usually maintained with a sulphite reserve of 30 to 70 ppm;
ensuring that there is a safety margin. Other oxygen scavengers are tannin and
hydrazine (although hydrazine, being carcinogenic is seldom used today)
A polymer phosphate, usually maintained at 50 to 100 ppm, to effectively convert
suspended particles of insoluble matter into a sludge, which settles more readily to
the bottom of the boiler

The values above are typical for shell boilers. Small vertical boilers, due to their limited water
content, may require different values. Coil generators cannot have their internal water
quality measured, so the appropriate quality of water in the feed tank must be managed. In
both cases, refer to the manufacturers instructions.

For small boilers it is not uncommon for the chemical dosing to be provided using a single
barrel (as seen on the previous slide showing a skid-mounted vertical boiler). In this case, the
chemical will be a mixture of all three of the above, supplied in a ratio that is something of
an economic compromise.

It is also possible that a filming amine will be injected into the steam pipework. This will
form a protective layer inside the pipework to resist corrosion.

Finally, the rate of chemical injection can be controlled simply by wiring the injection pumps
into the boiler feed pump circuit. This is appropriate for pump on/off boiler water level
control. Where a modulating feed system is used, a control signal (such as valve position
indication) may be used to regulate the injection pump frequency.

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Section 9
Boiler Feed Tank(s)

It is necessary to have a boiler feed tank in order to maintain a reserve of treated water to
be supplied to the boiler as called for. The tank also acts as a store for condensate being
returned to the boiler house. The rate of steam supply and condensate return will seldom
be in balance, so it is important that the tank has both the capacity to accept excess
returning condensate, as well as being able to supply the boiler for a period whilst no
condensate is being returned.


The illustration above shows a well-designed feed water tank. It has cold-water inlet via a
sparge pipe at a relatively high level, thus enabling the make-up cold water to mix more
thoroughly with the body of water. There is condensate return about halfway down the
tank, again via sparge pipes, which break down bubbles of flash steam, mix the condensate,
and flash steam with the tank contents. At a similar height is a flash steam recovery sparge
system. Close to the bottom of the tank is a steam injection system to heat the tank. Thus, it
will be seen that the hottest water or steam is applied to the bottom, and the coldest at the

Hence, a system of natural convection thoroughly mixes the contents of the tank. The feed
pump suction is taken a short way above the bottom of the tank, thus enabling any scale
and deposits to settle to the bottom of the tank, and not to enter the feed water supply.
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A traditionally vented feed tank will normally operate at 850C to 900C. Above this range,
there is a risk of feed pump cavitation. Below this range, the dissolved oxygen content
significantly increases.

They can be manufactured from Carbon Steel, but preferably, Stainless steel of 304 or 316
grade is usually used, with internal or external bracing sections.
The tank needs adequate insulation, and will be externally clad, usually in aluminium.
A removable inspection cover is provided, as well as a vent pipe so that if the contents were
to boil, due, perhaps to failed steam traps, the tank will not pressurise.

Level is maintained using a level control system similar to that used on a boiler. It is normal
to provide some form of low-level alarm, and perhaps a high-level alarm.

It is important to distinguish between the use of a sparge pipe (as used for delivering cold
water, flash steam, and condensate into the tank), and a steam injector (for introducing
heat into the tank.)

A sparge pipe is simply a length of pipe with the end capped, and multiple holes bored along
the pipe. Its purpose is to distribute incoming water and/or to break down flash steam into
a multitude of small streams of bubbles, thereby mitigating water hammer.

A steam injector, on the other hand, is a device, which is designed to mix low-pressure
steam with water to deliver a discharge of heated water.

Steam flowing into the injector causes a low-pressure zone, which draws water into the
injector through the radial ports. All of the steam condenses within the injector, leaving a
relatively quiet discharge, free from harmful water hammer.

Aside from the obvious problems of excess water or low water, the tank temperature may
fail to control properly. This can be due to a defective steam injection control valve, or it
may be due to steam traps, which have failed and are allowing live steam to be returned
with the hot condensate.

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Another problem is water hammer. This can result from failed steam traps, or from the
steam being injected at too high a pressure. Alternative reasons are a damaged sparge pipe,
which may have lost its end cap or may be split along its length; alternatively, steam
injectors occasionally become unscrewed and drop off, forcing large steam bubbles to enter
the tank, which collapse violently upon meting the colder contents of the tank.

Deaeration Dome

Larger feed water tanks are sometimes fitted with a de-aeration dome. The principle is to
ensure that the space at the top of the feed water tank is covered in a blanket of steam,
thus preventing the tank contents from contact with and the ability to absorb air. Returning
condensate is sprayed into the dome. A circulation pump is often used to circulate the
contents of the tank via a spray nozzle through the de-aeration dome, thereby ensuring that
there is a continuous deaeration effect taking place. This arrangement is an improvement
on the standard atmospherically vented tank (as above), but is not as effective as a
pressurised deaerator.

The Pressurised Deaerator

The temperature at which water can absorb the least amount of oxygen is 1070C, which
demands a tank pressure of about 0.35 bar g. Very large boiler plant is often supplied by a
pressurised deaerator, which has the advantages of minimal requirement for oxygen
scavenger, as well as minimising loss of flash steam from returning condensate. The
deaeration dome fitted to a pressurised deaerator usually relies on trickle trays, rather than
spray nozzles.

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Section 10
Bottom Blowdown & TDS

We have so far looked at managing the quality of the water being supplied to the boiler, and
must now turn our attention to managing the quality of water within the boiler. There are
two essential considerations:

Removal of precipitated solids from the boiler (i.e. insoluble matter, which is
dispersed within the boiler water and with the aid of a sludge conditioner, will
settle to the bottom of a boiler). This is often referred to as mud
Regulation of the dissolved solids content of the boiler water, which, if allowed to
accumulate, will cause excessive foaming, leading to boiler water carryover and
unstable water level

Whilst it is possible to do both jobs with a single blowdown valve, it is recognised that it is
best to use dedicated valves for each duty, which can be fully automated. Note that in the
case of a coil generator, it is the feed water tank, which has its water quality regulated by
blowdown, as it is not possible to fit a blowdown valve arrangement to the coil itself.

The Factories Act dictated that where there is a range of boilers (i.e. two or more in the
same boiler house) the valves must be key operated to prevent more than one boiler
being blown down at the same time; furthermore, only one key is permitted in a boiler

The traditional design is as per the above picture, with the valve operated by an L or T
shaped key. As can be seen from the picture, there is a cut out in valve drive surround, and
the key has a corresponding lug. It is therefore only possible to insert or remove the key
when the valve is in the closed position. Once the valve is open, the key is captive, so no
other valve can simultaneously be operated. It was common practice for a boiler inspector
to take possession of the key before entering a boiler, thus ensuring his own safety.

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Unless determined otherwise by risk assessment, it is a normal requirement for the main
blowdown valve to be operated once per day or in the case of shift operation at the
beginning of each shift.

As far as removing sludge is concerned, it is only necessary to open the blowdown valve for
about 3 to 5 seconds: anything longer is simply a waste of water. It is common practice for
the main blowdown valve to be pneumatically operated using an automatic timer.

The drawing above shows a particularly good design of main blowdown valve. Note that
effective closure of the valve is effected not only by a strong external spring, but that boiler
pressure is also applied to the underside of the valve plug, further aiding closure on what is
inevitably a dirty service. Compressed air is applied via a solenoid valve to the diaphragm
actuator to open the valve.

Where two or more boilers are in the same boiler house, and automatic main blowdown
valves are installed, the associated timers will normally be programmed to operate at
differing times of day. It is also usual practice for the timers to have a communications link
so that in the event of two timers attempting to operate simultaneously, one will succeed,
whilst the other will defer the action for perhaps half an hour.

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Quarter-turn ball valves are frequently used on blowdown duty, although these are not such
a reliable solution due to the dirty nature of the service, coupled with the high thermal
expansion rate of the PTFE seat ring. This can lead to the valves leaking or perhaps jamming
open after extensive operation.

Control of the total dissolved solids (TDS) level within the boiler can be achieved by judicious
operation of the main blowdown valve. However, such action is rather hit-and-miss, and is
likely to result in periods when the boiler is at a lower TDS level than necessary and other
periods when the TDS level is higher than recommended. For most shell-type boilers, the
recommended TDS level is 3,000 ppm (parts per million), which figure usually has an
allowance for transient higher values. Where an automatic system continually monitors the
boiler TDS, it is usually possible to increase the TDS set point to 3,500ppm. It must be borne
in mind that the higher the TDS level, the less blowdown is needed. Consequently, an
automatic TDS control system is a very cost-effective way of managing a boiler.

TDS may conveniently be measured using the electrical conductivity of the boiler water. In
the picture below, the TDS probe may be seen to be constantly checking the conductivity of
the boiler water, and the blowdown valve will open as and when necessary.

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A cheaper solution, often used on small boilers, is a sampling system, whereby the TDS
probe is mounted in the blowdown line, and blowdown is effected using a solenoid valve.
The system periodically opens the solenoid valve for perhaps 30 seconds, during which time
the TDS is measured, and if necessary the blowdown valve held open for a further period in
order to bring the TDS level down. These systems, although cheaper to purchase and install,
are less cost effective in the long run due to the fact that they will relentlessly go through a
blowdown cycle even if it is not actually necessary. The solenoid valve is also liable to fail
due to the dirty nature of the service. By comparison, the better and more expensive system
(as illustrated above) will constantly monitor TDS and only ever blowdown when it is really
necessary, usually keeping the TDS within 100 ppm of the set point.

The TDS control valve will be similar to the example shown below:

Note that this valve has a boiler water sample valve, and that the drive from the actuator
has a manual clutch which may be disengaged, thus allowing the valve periodically to be
fully-opened in order to purge solids which may have accumulated.

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Relationship between Conductivity and TDS

Three factors will affect the conductivity of boiler water:

Alkalinity (or acidity) of the water

In order to isolate measurement of TDS, we must first of all eliminate the other two
variables. In order to check the TDS and calibrate an automatic TDS controller, we must first
of all take a sample of boiler water. The sample must then be neutralised, and the
conductivity checked using a temperature-compensated conductivity meter. Because
conductivity variations of as much as 2.5% / 0C can arise, simply cooling the sample to
approximately the standard reference temperature of 250C is not reliable.

Neutralisation of the pH can be achieved using a pH-compensated instrument, but is quite

commonly done by using an alkalinity indicator and acetic acid. The process is to put a drop
of indicator solution (phenolphthalein) into the sample; it will turn a purple colour in the
event of a pH above 8.2. By adding acetic acid to the sample until the purple colour has
disappeared will ensure that the sample is sufficiently close to neutral i.e. a pH of 7.

Using this value, the TDS controller may be calibrated. The TDS controller will then
continuously measure the conductivity of the boiler water and assess with adequate
accuracy subject to the pH of the boiler water remaining consistent, and the temperature of
the boiler water remaining consistent. The temperature of the boiler water will be
dependent upon the operating pressure of the boiler. If a boiler is banked at low pressure,
the lower pressure will dictate a lower temperature, hence the displayed TDs value will
reduce. This, of course, is not a problem as there will be no steam evaporation when the
boiler is held at low pressure. However, it must be borne in mind that the TDS readings will
not be correct, and no attempt to recalibrate the controller should be made unless the
boiler is at its normal working pressure.

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Boiler Water Sample Cooler

A boiler water sample cooler is essential for the safety of the operator who is taking a
sample, and also for the accuracy of the sample, as it will be ensured that there are no
steam losses.

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Blowdown Vessel

It is illegal to discharge into a public sewer above 430C; due to:

Risk of thermal shock damage to the sewer

Need to maintain safety of any workers in the sewer
Avoiding elevated temperatures which would increase bacterial growth
Elevated temperatures dictate depleted oxygen content, and ultimate discharge in to
a watercourse would be environmentally harmful.

The purpose of a blowdown vessel is to cool the blowdown water before it enters the
sewer. The design of a blowdown vessel usually determines a standing water level. The
outlet is a dip pipe, and the inlet is above water level, meaning that any fresh blowdown
displaces to drain water which has been standing in the vessel and has had opportunity to
cool. Additionally, a cooing (mains) water injection system will automatically add cold water
to the vessel or outlet pipework to further ensure that the outlet is maintained below 43 0C.

Note that due to the outlet height of the blowdown vessel it is necessary to incorporate
low-point drain valves on the main blowdown lines from each boiler in order that they may
be drained for inspection.

In Guidance note PM60 (which was first published in the 1985 and was withdrawn in 2011)
it is advocated that each boiler should have separate lines to the blowdown vessel for each
service. Hence, there are often three inlet manifolds on a blowdown vessel, one for the
main blowdown, one for TDS, and one for level gauge glasses and/or external level

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Section 11
Boiler Water Level Control

Gauge Glasses

Water level, may visually be determined by using the level gauge glasses.

It is mandatory to have a level gauge on a steam boiler. Two gauge glasses are provided on
all except for the smallest of steam boilers. Contrary to the convention with all other
manual quarter-turn valves, with the handle across the pipe the valve is open, and when the
handle is in line with the pipe the valve is closed. Hence the normal operating position is
with all handles pointing downwards. This convention originated from the Victorian era,
when gauge cocks were manufactured with solid brass handles of significant weight, and
boilers were often used on railway and road vehicles. The combination of the weight of the
handle coupled with the vibrations would inevitably make the handle work its way to the
downwards position; this therefore dictated acceptance of the downwards position
representing the normal situation. This also has the advantage that with all handles pointing
downwards, it is highly conspicuous if a valve has been left in the wrong position.

A routine task (usually daily or at each shift) is to blow down the gauge glass. There is no
specific sequence in which the valves must be operated, so long as the water leg and the
steam leg are individually blown down to ensure that they are clear.

If the water leg is blocked by sludge, steam condensing in the upper area of the unit will
gradually fill the water tube, giving a false reading higher than the true situation in the
boiler. Clearly this is a fail unsafe situation.

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Automatic Boiler Water Level Control

In order to determine operating parameters for automatic control, we must first define the
normal water level, and the degree from which the water level may safely depart from that
particular level. We must then also define extremes of high and low level beyond which the
boiler cannot safely operate.

Water may be fed into the boiler by switching a pump on or off (known as pump on/off
control) or the supply of water may be regulated by a control valve.

A typical setup may be as shown in the illustration below:

If instead of pump on/off control a modulating valve is used, the above pump switch points
become the 0% and 100% control points for the valve controller. This does not mean that
the valve must be at 50% when at normal water level: the valve might be substantially open
or fully closed depending upon the particular load on the boiler.

In principle, water must be fed into the boiler to correspond with the rate at which water is
evaporating to steam, plus any blowdown losses.

If water gets too high in the boiler, there is a serious risk of water being carried over into the
steam system, where severe water hammer will arise. This is dangerous because it could
cause the pipework to fail, resulting in the dangerous escape of a large amount of steam.
Low water level is extremely dangerous. Indeed, it is probably responsible for the most
devastating of boiler incidents, as the illustrations enclosed will show:
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Example of Poor Water Control

This is a boiler incident which happened in America in 2007, where a boiler exploded due to
low water level. The boiler in the picture below is clearly not in its original location, and the
front panel and burner are also missing:

It can be seen that the furnace tube has collapsed (the second pass tubes should not be
visible). This is a typical furnace collapse, where low water level means that there is
nothing to take heat away from the furnace tube: the burner keeps firing, the furnace tube
overheats, weakens, and collapses under the external pressure of the boiler. The boiler
pressure forces the furnace tube out of the way, and escaping water and steam project the
burner in one direction, whilst propelling the boiler shell in the opposite direction.

The boiler, viewed from its original position. Note: remains of flue and crown valve in the
upper area of the picture.

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Damage to building due to explosion. Note rear end of boiler is in the drainage ditch but it
would have travelled much further were it not for the covered walkway which arrested its

The modulating feed valve was found to have a sheared actuator link, meaning that despite
the control system attempting to open the valve, no water could flow to the boiler:

In the right-hand picture is the bypass valve, which was found to be in the half-open
position, presumably as a means of overcoming the problem with the main valve.

Even with this situation, there is no reason why the boiler should have exploded due to low
water level. The low water alarms should have cut off the burner, which would have
rendered the boiler safe. However they did not operate for two very different reasons, as
the next pictures will show.

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One of the alarms was not working because the float had a broken spring, which caused the
float to adopt an up position i.e. it had an usafe failure mode.

The other alarm did not work because the correct relay (left, with reset button) had been
replaced with the incorrect type (right), and the reset button was removed. Note different
operating modes of the two relays.

Quite clearly this incident arose from a number of failures, including a lack of training and
inappropriate maintenance. The State requirements were also that the boiler be checked
every 20 minutes however these checks were taking place every 60 90 minutes.

It is belived that the explosion was casued by the operator introducing water into the boiler
using the bypass valve. With the boiler already in a dry fry state, this would have caused a
sudden and dangerous increase in boiler pressure. It was reported that when the boiler
came to rest it was glowing cherry-red.

Quite clearly the correct operation of the low-level alarm was not checked following the
replacement of the relay, and it seems unlikely that routine checks were undertaken. This
underlines the importance of routine testing of boiler safety system whenever any parts are
replaced or maintenance is undertaken, as well as the need for routine tests on the crical
safety devices.

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The way in which a boiler must respond to low water is essentially that the flow of fuel into
the burner must be stopped. The exact UK requirements do depend upon when the boiler
was first put into service:

The term PM5 Legacy Sites refers to those boilers supplied up to the end of 2011, when
the governing HSE guidance document was PM5. Following the publication of the
replacement document, BG01, which complied with harmonised European Instrumentation
Standards, a different regime applied with respect to 1st low water level. Indeed, there is
now no need for any difference in the physical level at which the two low level alarms must
engage all that is required is two independent low level limiters/cutouts.

For high alarm, there is no specific requirement for a boiler to react (although for multi-
boiler installations burner cutout is a viable action). It is common to see an extra-high alarm
which operates a slam-shut valve in the feed water line, as shown in the picture below:

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In the above picture we can see the feedwater line running from the ecomoniser, through
the slam-shut valve, then through a water meter, before entering the modulating feed
control valve.

Where a modulating valve is installed, there is the inherent risk of the valve closing against a
constantly-running pump, hence a spill-back line is installed, containing an orifice plate,
which thus ensures that there will always be a flow of water through the pump, albeit
returned to the feed tank. A spill-back valve is sometimes provided to automatically close
when the control valve is open, thus avoiding unnecessary waste of energy.

Water Level Control Systems

The most prolific type of level control was, for many years, the float chamber:

Two chambers would normally be installed on the side of the boiler, connected via a steam
leg and water leg. This was therefore able to provide pump on/off control as well as two
independent low level alarms and a single high alarm. Inside each chamber would be a float
connected by a guide rod on the top of which is a magnet. The magnet, moving inside a
stainless steel pressure casing would interact with magnetic switches outide the pressure
casing, thus signalling whether the water level were above or below determined switch

Because there is the risk of the water leg to the boiler being blocked by sludge, a special
sequencing purge valve was provided on the foot of each chamber.

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This special valve has three operating positions:

The normal operating position, whereby the water leg to the boiler is connected to
the bottom of the chamber. (There is no valve on the steam leg). In this position,
changes in water level in the boiler are reflected by changes in water level in the
A purge position, 2 turns clockwise from the normal postion. This closed the
connection to the chamber, and connected the water leg to drain, thus enabling
the water leg to be blown clear of any sludge
A test position, a further 2 turns from the purge position, whereby the water
leg is closed off, and the chamber blown down. This enables the low water level to
be tested

The red operating handle has a ratchet mechanism, meaning that once it is turned an
operator is commited to undertaking complete operation of the valve before the ratchet is
released and the valve may be restored to its normal operating position. When operating
these valves it is important to pause at the purge position to ensure that the water leg is
indeed purged.

If the water leg is blocked by sludge, steam condensing in the upper area of the chamber
will cause water to build up into the chamber, potentially causing a high alarm condition
despite the true lower condition in the boiler. In this respect, floats do not fail safe
(although they will do so if punctured, causing them to sink).

Another consideration is that the guide rod could gain scale deposits, which might cause the
mechanism to stick in certain positions. By rapidly emptying the chamber, the float could
jump past a potential sticking position. Hence the weekly evaporation test came into being,
whereby water is slowly lowered at a natural rate as may arise under normal operating
conditions, hopefully revealing a float which might stick in a certain position.

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The picture below shows a typical boiler with float chambers. Note the sequencing purge
valves on the bottom of the chambers, with the red operating handles:

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Level Electrodes

Because of the inherent risk of a mechanical float device sticking, and therefore not giving a
true reading, it has become increasingly popular to use level electrodes. At their most basic,
the simple conductivity type of electrode is used. In the 1980s and early 1990s, it became
common practice to retro-fit electrodes into existing external float chambers. New boilers
were increasingly specified with electrodes direct-mounted on top mounting flanges on the
boiler shell. When a level instrument (whether a float or electrode) is fitted directly to a
boiler, it is necessary to provide a protection tube or stilling tube to stablilise the water
level, and prevent false readings due to rising steam bubbles. This is usually achieved by the
provision of a plate on the bottom of the tube to deflect bubbles, and some small holes
drilled in top of the tube in the boilers steam space in order to dampen the effect of surges
in water level.

A typical setup is shown below:

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A simple conductivity electrode uses the boiler water to complete an electrical circuit
between the electrode tip and the boiler shell, or a separate earth electrode tip. When
working normally, for example, when the pump is not running, water is being evaporated
from the boiler. Eventually, the water level becomes lower than the pump on tip, and the
conductive path through the water is lost. This is used to engage the pump relay, and the
pump runs constantly until the boiler water reaches the pump off tip. Within normal
operation, the water will always remain between these limits. However, in the event of
some form of failure, there are two independent low water level alarm electrodes, and a
high alarm electrode.

Where it is desired to obtain a quantitative measurement of the water level, rather than
have a multitude of electrodes, an electrical capacitance electrode is used.

The single electrode is completely sheathed in PTFE. The electrode and the boiler effectively
become the plates of a capacitor, and the PTFE sheath is the dielectric separating them. The
electrode rod and PTFE sheath remain of fixed dimension, whereas the boiler and its water
content are of variable size, and therefore the electrical capacitance of the boiler
measurably changes with variations in water level. A control signal (e.g. 4-20mA) can then
be sent to a valve controller and any number of other control devices such as level alarm

Although simple conductivity electrodes provide a reliable ability to register low water level
conditions, they could become unreliable if scale deposits form and thus form a conductive
path to earth, suggesting that there is a safe level of water in the boiler when in fact that is
not the case. Also, short-circuits in the wiring could produce false indications.

To overcome these issues, and, bearing in mind the dangerous consequences of low water
in a steam boiler, special high integrity low water level devices have become increasingly
common fitments on boilers over the course of the past 30 years.

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The body of the high-integrity electrode forms an earth with the boiler shell (green
arrow). The water is detected by contact of the electrode with boiler water (black
arrow). Separating these, and electrically insulated (blue arrows) is the compensating tip
(orange arrow). Should conductive deposits form on the electrode, which might form a
bridge to earth, they will be detected by the compensating tip.

In addition, the condition of the electrode is monitored by two separate electronic circuits,
both of which have to agree that the boiler water is at a safe level. Also, there is an
automatic self-checking system, whereby a logic process in each of the main monitoring
circuits runs through a self-check. The logic process must first of all confirm that the alarm
has been identified, and then confirm that it was a test alarm. If this process does not
proceed correctly, the boiler is put into a low water level alarm.

More recent developments have been the use of guided radar and ultrasonics.

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Modulating feed water system

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Spill-Back (recirculation) Lines

When a pump supplies water to a boiler, and the flow of water into the boiler regulated by a
control valve, we have to recognise that the pump could be running against a closed valve.
This would rapidly damage the pump, and in particular its seals.

To protect the pump a spill-back line is provided, and connects into the feed water line
between the pump and control valve. This line includes a small orifice plate. A small flow of
water is able to flow through the spill back line, through which it returns to the hotwell. This
circulation of water ensures that the pump is not working against a dead end and therefore
protects the pump.

An automatic spill-back valve may be fitted, which does not open until the main feed valve is
approaching its closed position.

Where an economiser is fitted to the boiler, particular care must be taken to ensure that the
economiser does not experience very little flow; otherwise the water in the economiser
tubes could boil. To protect the economiser, therefore, the feedwater control valve and
spillback lines are both fitted on the outlet side of the economiser.

Were the control valve to close completely, and the spill-back line to be blocked, because of
the non-return valve fitted on the pump outlet, the water trapped in the economiser tubes
would rapidly heat, expand, and could boil. A safety valve is fitted to protect the

Some manufacturers claim that their economisers are able to withstand boiling. However,
water quality must be borne in mind, because if the water does boil any dissolved solids will
be left behind to form deposits on the tubes. If these deposits build up, they will form a
layer of scale that shall detract from the efficiency of the economiser.

It is therefore particularly important to ensure that the spillback line orifice is not blocked,
and that if an automatic valve is incorporated that it is working correctly. If the orifice is
blocked or the spill-back valve is not opening, there is the risk of damage to the pump and
economiser (if fitted). On the other hand, an automatic valve which has failed open will
mean that energy is wasted through needlessly circulating water back to the hotwell.

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Section 12
Burner Combustion

The burner on most boilers will use natural gas or oil. In the past, coal was the most
common fuel, and, having been largely phased out of use for industrial plant, we are now
seeing a resurgance in solid fuel in the form of biomass. Some oil burners are supplied with
bio-oil. We will first concentrate on natural gas.

When a hydrocarbon fuel is burnt, we get two main products: water and carbon dioxide.
Natural gas is predominately methane, whose molecular composition is a single carbon
atom attached to four hydrogen atoms. It is the oxygen in air which is required for
combustion, but we also need an ignition source of sufficient energy to initiate combustion:

Methane + Ignition + Oxygen

Water + Carbon Dioxide + Heat

The heat produced from the first reaction will cause the next reaction to occur, and the
combustion process is self-sustaining.

Maintaining the stoichiometric ratio of air to fuel is virtually impossible, especially bearing in
mind the fact that we are dealing with a moving gas stream, and that the exact compositon
of the gas will vary.

If we do not provide sufficient air for combustion, the consequences are that carbon
monoxide will form, and some carbon will also be released.

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Combustion with Inadequate Air

Water + Carbon dioxide + Carbon monoxide + Carbon + Heat

Because hydrogen is more reactive than carbon, in the event that there is insufficient
oxygen (air) water will always form. Not all of the carbon will be able to form carbon
dioxide: there will be the production of carbon monoxide and carbon. The heat released will
also be reduced.

Carbon monoxide is a very dangerous gas. If breathed in a fairly low concentration of

100ppm for a few hours it will cause nausia and headaches. At a higher concentration of
400ppm for a few hours could be fatal. The adverse effect is dependent upon time of
exposure and concentration; so a higher concentration for a shorter interval would be
equally fatal.

It is therefore necessary for us to provide a safety margin of excess air to address the
factors which might lead to the formation of carbon monoxide. Therefore we would hope to
find that our flue gasses are predominately water, carbon dioxide, and a small amount of
oxygen usually about 3% excess oxygen which is equivalent to about 15% excess air.

The water that is formed as a result of the combustion process will instantly become steam,
which will invisibly be discharged from the chimney. Indeed, under most situations we want
to ensure that the water does not condense in the chimney or boiler, as this would cause
corrosion to the chimney and back-end of the boiler.

Needless to say, because we are using air as a means of supplying oxygen, we will be
providing a large amount of nitrogen into the combustion process. If the combustion
temperature reaches around 1,5000C, some of the nitrogen will oxidise, forming nitrous
oxides (NOx), which are harmful to health, contribute to poor atmospheric conditions, and
will form nitric acid upon encountering moisture in the atmosphere. The nitric acid so
formed is responsible for acid rain. It is therefore necessary to design the combustion
process such that the combustion remains below around 1,5000C. This can be achieved
through flue gas recirculation and/or burner design.

The presence of sulphur in fuel gives rise to the formation of sulphurous oxides (SOx), which
have the same harmful effects as NOx, save that it is sulphuric acid that is formed rather
than nitric acid. The most effective means of avoiding SOx production is to avoid fuels which
contain signifiant amounts of sulphur.

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When we move to heavier fuels, the hydrocarbon molecules become larger, and there tends
to be a greater proportion of sulphur therein.

Here are examples of other fuels:

Methane Propane Butane Kerosine

Kerosine is a very light fuel oil, usually refered to as 28 second oil. The lightest oil normally
found in industrial use is 35 second fuel oil, which is the same as diesel oil. The use of
meduim and heavy fuel oils is becoming much less common, due to the restrictions on the
use of sulphur-containing fuels. There is also the fact that these fuels require heating to
their pour point temperature, particularly so the heavier fuel oils.

The heavier the fuel, the greater the amount of energy required for ignition. Although gas
and 28s oils can be ignited with an electrical spark, heavier fuels require a pilot gas. It is
therefore normal for a bottled supply of propane to be provided for this purpose. Care
needs to be taken with propane systems, as unlike natural gas, propane is more dense than
air and leaks could accumulate in ducts and drains.

Furnace Side Explosion

The photographs above show the typical consequences of a failure in the automatic purging
process, and emphasise the need for ensuring that the automatic combustion controls
operate correctly.

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Burner Control by Pressure

Unlike heating boilers, which rely on temperature to determine the firing behaviour of a
burner, steam boilers use pressure. This is sensed by a small pipe from the steam space of
the boiler, which conducts steam pressure down to pressure switches and transducers,
which are often mounted on the side of the boiler control panel.

Pressure Switch Pressure Transducer

A pressure switch has two adjustments: set point and differential. The pressure transducer
will simply provide a signal (e.g. 4-20mA) to inform the burner controls of the boiler

A separate high-limit cutout is provided to independently shut down the burner in the event
that the pressure exceeds the normal working range. Should this fail, the boiler safety valve
will discharge and prevent the boiler from exceeding its safe limit.

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Flame Sensor

To enable the burner to operate in a safe manner, a flame sensor is installed on every
burner. This will detect the presence of UV radiation from the flame, and if flame failure is
detected, the fuel supply will automatically be shut off, and the burner locked out.

A standard flame sensor (UV detector) is shown above on the left. It should be tested on a
weekly basis when the burner is firing, by withdrawing it from the burner head. The burner
should lock out (usually going through a post-purge) as soon as the detector can no longer
detect the flame.

On the right is a self-checking unit, which does not require weekly checking. Self-checking
units are usually bolted into place, and cannot easily be withdrawn.

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Boiler Flue

The necessary height of the flue is determined in accordance with the Clean Air Act, and/or
other environmental legislation.

Taking into account of adjacent buildings and local topography. The flue height will produce
sufficient dispersion of the flue gases, to prevent a danger to nearby occupants.

For further details, refer to IGE UP 10/rev 4 Guidelines

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Section 13
Burner Control

Control of the buner can be a simple on/off arrangement, whereby, for example, the burner
would be on full fire until the pressure reaches 10 bar. The burner would then switch off
until the pressure had subsided by the amount determined by the differential setting
(perhaps down to 9 bar) at which point the burner would fire again.

In order to reduce the number of stops and starts, some burners are provided with high &
low firing. This requires an additional pressure switch, and would, for example, keep the
burner on full fire until, for example 9.5 bar were reached. At this point the burner would
drop down to low fire. Then, if the pressure subsided to 9 bar, the burner would revert to
high fire. But if 10 bar were reached, the burner would switch off.

Fully modulating burners are becoming increasingly common. Once the preserve of large
boilers, then are now to be found on fairly small boilers of about 1,500 kg/hr. An important
factor in selecting a modulating burner is the turndown ratio, that is to say the ratio of the
lowest firing rate to the full firing rate.

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The ability of a burner to modulate means that it is better able to match the energy input
with the energy output of the boiler. Although a turndown of 4:1 used to be considered to
be adequate, most gas burners are available with 10:1 turndown. The advantage is that the
burner stops and starts will be minimised.

Before a burner can run, it must go through a pre-purge, whereby the combustion air fan
runs for typically 30 seconds to ensure that there is no residue of unburnt fuel in the
combustion area of the boiler. At the end of each cycle, the burner must go though a post-
purge to clear the combustion area of combustion gasses. These necessary purges detract
from the efficiency of the boiler, as cold air is passed through the boiler, and carries heat

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Section 14

Ventilation plays an important role in the safe and efficient operation of boiler plant.

Adequate ventilation will provide:

Air for Combustion

Cooling of Equipment and Controls within the Boiler House
A Breathable Supply of Air for Persons Working in the Boiler House
Safe Dissipation of a Gas Leak

The best form of ventilation may best be achieved through a combination of low-level and
high-level louvers. Only if there is a lack of suitable external wall area for louvers to be fitted
should mechanical ventilation systems be used.

Air for Combustion

Most burner arrangements have an air intake as either part of the burner, or use a silencer
adjacent to the burner or boiler. This means that air from within the boiler plant room is
used to provide air for combustion. An adequate provision of fresh air is therefore needed
indeed, if it is not, then the burner air fan may struggle to deliver sufficient air. The problem
will be exacerbated at higher firing rates which obviously demand a greater quantity of
oxygen. This can lead to the formation of carbon monoxide and soot. It will also mean that
the pressure within the boiler plant room will be slightly negative, encouraging leaks from
the flue into the plant room which is obviously hazardous for any persons in that area.

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Cooling of Equipment and Controls within the Boiler House
As well as ensuring the safety and comfort of personnel, the cooling needs of equipment
such as the boiler control panel must also be taken into account. There is little point in
having cooling fans fitted to a control panel if they are able only to draw in hot air.

IGE/UP10 stipulates the Boiler House temperature to be:

No more than 25C at 100 mm above ground level

No more than 32C at mid-height (difference between the two)
No more than 40C at 100 mm below roof level

Because hot air is less dense than cooler air, convection currents will mean that the hot air
rises and can escape from the building through high-level louvers but this will only be
effective if adequate low-level louvers are in place to supply fresh cool air from outside.

A Breathable Air Supply for Personnel

Employees, contractors, and visitors in the boiler house must be provided with air of a
quality that is not detrimental to their health and welfare. If the air is excessively hot, they
may be overcome, and poor ventilation can (as stated above) mean that flue gasses are
induced into the boiler house. The matter of air quality must therefore be considered when
risk assessments relating to the boiler plant are undertaken.

Dissipation of a Gas Leak

Negligible extent gas leaks (i.e. those that cannot be detected through normal tests) can
exist even on new plant. Deterioration of pipework joints may also present small leaks.
Because natural gas is less dense (i.e. lighter than) air, any leaks will naturally tend to rise
in the building. This means that the usual provision of high-level and low-level ventilation,
working on the basis that warm air also tends to rise, will assist in the dissipation of a gas
leak. However, it is important that the high-level outlet(s) are positioned so as to mitigate
the risk of an accumulation of gas in the highest points of the boiler house roof.

Gas Safety
The need for adequate ventilation was highlighted by the publication of IGEM UP/10 in
1998. The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) (2002)
have subsequently reinforced this.

Because the leakage of gas could accumulate to form an explosive atmosphere, it is

incumbent on any gas-fired boiler user/operator to hold a risk assessment under DSEAR.
IGEM UP/16 also contains some useful information on adequate ventilation and addressing
a risk assessment.

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Mechanical Ventilation
If adequate provision of natural ventilation cannot be established for whatever reasons,
then mechanical ventilation must be applied. This will normally consist of matched fans,
extracting at high level and inlet at low level, such that the pressure in the boiler plant room
is maintained at a neutral or slightly positive pressure relative to the ambient conditions.
These fans must have proving switches, and be interlocked with the boiler controls such
that the burners cannot operate unless the ventilation system is proven to be working.

A setup using only extract fans at high level is unlikely to deliver safe conditions, because if
the fans are extracting a worthwhile volume of air, they will inevitably induce a negative
pressure within the plant room.

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Section 15
Boiler Pressure

Operating Pressure

The operating pressure of a steam boiler is automatically controlled, and will be kept below
the safe working limit of the boiler. It is often assumed that reducing the boiler pressure will
not have any detrimental effect, but nothing could be further from the truth. Operating
significantly below normal pressure will often cause wet steam, carryover, instability of
water level, and may necessitate a reduction in the TDS level to partially mitigate the
aforementioned effects.

What must be understood is that steam boilers are designed to have a limited steam offtake
velocity from the surface of the water. The actual value will depend upon the boilers design
parameters. The overall surface area of the water has to be considered.

Steam is a compressible medium: reducing its pressure will mean that a unit volume (e.g.
1kg) will occupy a correspondingly larger volume. Given that the cross-sectional area of the
steam space in the boiler is fixed, and that the surface area of the water surface is also fixed,
it follows that for a given mass evaporation rate, the steam offtake velocity and steam
velocity within the boiler will also be fixed so long as the specific volume of the steam is

Reducing the operating pressure of a boiler will, for a given mass steam offtake, increase
both the velocity of steam within the steam space, and will also increase the steam offtake
velocity. This will cause a problem. A higher steam velocity above the water surface will
produce a lower pressure, in turn causing the water to become drawn up towards the steam
outlet. A higher offtake velocity from the water surface will tend to cause more water
droplets to be released from the surface of the water.

If it is necessary to reduce the steam boiler pressure, then it must be accepted that the
maximum output of the boiler will be correspondingly reduced. If you wish to calculate this,
simply apply the ratio of the specific volumes for normal and reduced pressures to the
boilers rating. If the boiler load does not exceed this reduced rating value, then it will be
possible to operate the boiler at a reduced pressure.

However, using boiler pressure controllers is a far from ideal operating situation. A boilers
pressure will normally vary during operation, depending upon the imposed load. Any
attempt to use the boiler pressure to regulate system pressure will result in an unstable
system pressure. However, apply the varying boiler pressure to the inlet of a pressure-
reducing valve, and the outlet pressure will be accurately controlled within fine limits,
enabling optimum process conditions.

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Finally, if, for safety reasons, it is necessary to reduce the working pressure of a boiler, it is
essential to check that the safety valve is of adequate size. Often it will not be: the lower
pressure, and consequently greater specific volume will frequently dictate the need for a
larger safety valve to be fitted in order to handle the maximum burner input at the reduce
pressure working condition.

The Safety Valve

The safety valve is the last resort in protection of the boiler against excessive pressure.
Every steam boiler must be fitted with at least one safety valve. Standards have varied over
the years: older boilers were required to have two valves, often the set points of the valves
were set at slightly different pressures. More recently it has been regarded as adequate to
have a single valve, however new boilers will be seen with two valves due to compiance
with newer European Instrumentation Standards.

A typical double-chamber valve is shown on the left, and an installed single safety valve is
shown on the right. Note the tell-tale pipe fitted downstream of the installed valve. The
integral plug may be seen on the double-chamber valve.

The tell-tale pipe is normally wrapped around the side of the boiler, and its outlet is visible.
This will advise the operator that the safety valve is passing, as a portion of the escaping
steam will condense and drain down the tell-tale pipe. Once considered normal for this to
drip on the boilerhouse floor, it should now, for safety reasons, go to drain via a tundish.

Safety valves are provided with easing levers, which may be used on a periodic basis to
prove that the valve has not siezed, and may also enable the operator to sucessfuly re-seat a
safety valve that has for some reason lifted.

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Section 16
Energy Saving Potentials

There are many ways in which energy can be saved. Better efficiency means lower operating
cost and therefore better profitability. It also improves the green credentials of an
organisation. Obviously it makes sense to shop around for the lowest cost source of energy,
but having done that, it is a case of improving upon the site situation.

The boiler operator can undertake some initiatives which do not require the purchase of
capital equipment:

Ensuring that there are no leaks

Making good any damaged insulation, and properly re-instating insulation that has
been removed for maintenance
Visual checks on the appearance of the burner flame
Monitoring the consumption of water treatment chemicals, and checking that they
are not being unnecessarily over-dosed
Ensuring that steam traps are working properly
Ensuring that the TDS level is maintained as high as is possible
Consider more frequent servicing of the burners
Good record-keeping
Good housekeeping

Minor capital expenditure may be considered for projects such as:

Ductwork to capture warm air from the upper area of the boilerhouse thus
delivering warmer air into the burner
Installation of a heat recovery system on the blowdown system
Installation of an RO plant, which will minimise TDS blowdown
Investing in steam, water, and fuel meters. You cant control what you dont
measure. This information can be compared with production data, thus monitoring
for any upward trend in energy consumption per unit steam generation, and steam
generation per unit factory production
Flash steam recovery from high pressure condensate if there are widely differing
steam pressures on site

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More major expenditure on:

Standard economiser, which will typically save in excess of 4%

Condensing economiser if there is a large hot water consumption on site
Closed loop system, whereby condensate is pumped directly back into the boiler
Pressurised deaerator in the case of very large plant, or, for smaller plant,
replacement of an old hotwell with a modern efficient deaerating hotwell
Retrofitting high-turndown modulating burners in place of old high/low or on/off
Condensate monitoring equipemnt (if there is a risk of contamination of condensate,
rather than having it put to drain, it can be returned to the boiler house)

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Flue Gas Temperature

Many boilers are equipped with a flue gas or stack temperature gauge. This is a valuable
tool, and can enable the operator to identify potential problems with the boiler. The flue gas
temperature should be recorded at least daily, along with a note of the firing rate of the
burner. Day-to-day variations are not significant: it is long-term trends that are of interest.

The flue gas temperature, or back-end temperature, will vary depending upon the ambient
air temperature, the firing rate of the burner, the operating pressure of the boiler, and the
efficiency with which heat is being transferred from the burner into the boiler water.

A rise in back-end temperature which cannot be explained by increasing ambient

temperature, high firing, or an increase in working pressure must be due to a decrease in
the efficiency of thermal transfer. This could be due to

Soot deposits on the furnace-side of the boiler, which are a barrier to heat transfer
into the furnace and other boiler tubes
Scale deposits on the water-side of the boiler, forming a barrier to heat transfer,
and causing localised overheating of the furnace side components
An unnecessary increase in excess air, thus reducing the residence-time of the hot
gasses as they pass through the boiler

The degree to which the back-end temprature has increased gives an indication of the
severity of the problem, and as a rough rule of thumb the following is suggested:

Up to 10C above normal: No action required

Between 10C and 40C above normal: Closely monitor the boiler
Over 40C above normal: SHUT DOWN THE BOILER

Remember: it is long-term trends that are of interest, not day-to-day variations.

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Blowdown Heat Recovery

The discharge from the main blowdown valves is too great and so infrequent that the heat
recovery is impracticable. However, with the far smaller and more continuous flow from an
automatic TDS control system, it is possible to recover heat and depending upon the rate of
blowdown, a short payback time is often achieved.

With such a system, the blowdown is first directed into a flash vessel where perhaps 10% to
15% of the water spontaneously flashes to steam. This represents about half of the
recoverable heat. The remaining hot water is passed through a heat exchanger to pre-heat
cold make-up water as it is supplied into the feed tank or deaerator.

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Section 17

There are a number of items of legislation that are significant for the owner/operating
company, which are briefly explained in the following section. It is not expected that
persons who are responsible for daily operation of boiler plant to be in any way experts in
law; this section is included to provide the operator with a basic understanding of his duties,
those of his employer, and the importance of proper record-keeping and procedures.

Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

This imposes a basic legal duty for persons to work in a safe manner, and to take care of
their own safety and those around them. It is also incumbent upon every employer to
ensure a safe system of working. It is therefore important for an employer to provide
adequate training and documented procedures to enable employees to comply with their
legal duties.

Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations (1999).

Regulation 3 demands a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of all work-related
activities before they are carried out. A comprehensive technical risk assessment of the
boiler house is necessary, part of which will consider compliance with HSE Guidance Note
BG01. The risk assessment is further explained in HSE Guidance Note INDG436.

Pressure Equipment Regulations (1999).

This is a product regulation, which imposes a requirement for any product sold on the EU
market to comply with the essential safety requirements as determined by the various
relevant EU Product Directives. Without such certification (evidenced by CE marking and a
relevant certificate), the equipment cannot be used in the workplace. If an item is imported
from outside the EU that is not CE-marked, it must be tested and/or assessed before it may
be sold or put into operation in the workplace.

Pressure System Safety Regulations (2000).

These regulations are intended to ensure that a pressure system is safe, and is operated in a
safe manner. The regulations are concerned only with the uncontrolled release of stored
energy in a pressure system, and not the hazardous nature of any product therein.

The regulations demand a written scheme of examination for any system containing a
relevant fluid within the scope of which definition is steam at any pressure. There is
also a requirement for inspection in accordance with the written scheme at the intervals
prescribed therein.

It is a criminal offence to operate a pressure system after expiry of the certificate. For a
boiler house, the written scheme will cover all of the boilers, the blowdown vessel, and may
separately consider boiler economisers. It also should cover the piping system itself
(although the pipework will not, of course, require annual testing or examination). The usual
period of inspection is annual, although the certificate will normally be valid for 14 months.

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Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmosphere Regulations (DSEAR) (2002).
Any premises where there is the possibility of an explosive atmosphere existing (such as in
the event of a piped gas supply) must have a risk assessment undertaken in accordance with

Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (2005).

All premises must have a Fire Risk Assessment conducted.

Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) (1998).

These regulations impose on all employers a duty of care towards their employees with
regard to equipment provided for their work.

All work equipment must be of safe and suitable design (often evidenced by the CE logo
and certification), and be maintained in that state, with periodic testing and inspection as

Employees must be adequately trained in the correct use of their work equipment, so that
they may operate that equipment in a manner that is safe to both themselves and any other
persons who may be affected.

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Section 18
Boiler Operation

The degree of boiler operator intervention will depend on the degree of automation and
safety devices fitted to the boiler. In principle there will be:

Daily Checks
These will be undertaken once per day or in the case of shift operation at the start of each
shift. They will consist of:

Visual check on the boiler pressure and water level

Blowing down level gauge glasses
Operating main blowdown valve
Blowdown and testing of level controls if fitted in external chambers
Testing of level controls by lowering boiler water level if direct-mounted not
required if level alarms are high-integrity type
Visual check on feedwater tank and other ancillaries
Check levels of salt in brine well and chemical injection units, recording any topping-
up performed in the log book
Other tests as may be required such as basic feed water and/or boiler water tests

Upon completion, the boierhouse records must be completed.

Weekly Checks
These will be undertaken once per week. In the case of shift working, only one shift needs to
undertake these tests in addition to the normal daily checks:

Undertake daily checks as above

Perform evaporation test
Check flame failure sensor unless self-checking unit if fitted
Recalibrate TDS controller if necessary
Other tests may be required on feed water

Upon completion, the boilerhouse records must be completed.

Additonal Checks
The boiler manufacturer may stipulate other tests such as a monthly operation of the easing
lever on the safety valve. There may be other maintenance tasks peticular to the boiler, and
water treatment plant. Also, items such as the emergency shower and fire alarms / E-stops
may require periodic testing.

Annual Checks
This will fundamentally be preparing the boiler for inspection by the independent boiler
inspector, and undertaking a full annual service of the boiler. Where relevant, emissions
testing may also be required.

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Boiler Level Gauge Glass

The level gauge glass is an important instrument. Two are installed on all boilers, and should
both read the same level. To ensure that the gauges are reading correctly, it is necessary to
operate the gauge cocks in a sequence which purges the steam and water legs.

The valves shown in the illustration are shown in their normal operating positions. The
steam and water cocks are open, and the drain is closed (despite what the orientiation of
the cock handles may suggest, they all point downwards).

There are many sequences which may be followed; it is important to remember that only
one cock should be operated at any one time. A suggested process is to work from the
bottom upwards:
Open drain; close water this will purge the steam leg, and water in the glass will be
displaced to drain.
Open water, close steam this will purge the water leg.
Open steam and close drain water should promptly re-enter the glass If it does not,
then there is a blockage, and the process must be repeated)

When the glass re-fills, the water may be discoloured. This will clear over time, as steam in
the upper area will condense, and gradually displace the discoloured boiler water back into
the boiler, leaving the glass to contain only condensate (which is in effect distilled water and
therefore is clean in appearance).

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Pressure Gauge

All boilers are equipped with a pressure gauge. The gauge may have been marked with the
safe working limit, although new gauges have two markings, as shown on the photo below:

The red line indicates the maximum working pressure for the boiler. The blue line indicates
the maximum safe limit. It is acceptable for the gauge to display anything up to but never in
excess of the red line. The safety valve should operate and prevent the boiler from
exceeding the limit indicated by the blue line.

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Level Alarm Checks External Chambers

Where level controls are fitted in external chambers, it is necessary to blow down the
chambers using the special sequencing purge valves previously described. This process not
only clears any sludge from the system, but enables each alarm to be proven.

For older boilers, upon testing 1st low alarm, the alarm should sound, and the burner cut
out. The combustion air fan may go through a 30-second purge, or it may ramp down to low
speed and remain operating indefinately. Upon restoring water level in the chamber, the
burner will automatically re-fire. When 2nd low alarm (sometimes known as extra low) is
tested, it should annunciate using an independent sounder, and the burner will immediately
stop. The combustion air fan may also immediately stop. The boiler will then be in
lockout, and restoring water level in the chamber must not cause the burner to re-fire.

Level Alarm Checks Direct-Mounted Devices

Whether floats or electrodes, if direct-mounted on the boiler, these must be checked daily
by lowering the water level in the boiler. This only applies weekly if high integrity electrodes
are fitted, some floats have a compressed air float depression facility to enable testing. Test
buttons are not an acceptable means of performing this test.

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Weekly Evaporation Test

On a weekly basis, it is necessary to test the low water level alarms by lowering the boiler
water through natural evaporation. This process may be assisted by controlled blowdown,
something that will probably be essential in order expediently to reach 2 nd low alarm.

To undertake the test, the supply of water into the boiler must be stopped, either by turning
off the pump or using a valve. The boiler, which should be receiving some load, and
therefoer should be firing, will continue to opeate normally, until 1st low water level is
reached. The correct annunciation of the alarm and burner cutout should be checked, and
the presence of water in the gauge glass checked to see that it is at the level associated with
that alarm.

The water should then be lowered by evaporation assisted with controlled blowdown until
2nd low alarm is reached. Again, the correct annunciation of the alarm should be checked,
and the level in the gauge glass verified to be at its usual 2nd low level. The burner must lock

If at any time water is not visible in the gauge glass the test has failed, and the boiler must
not be put back into operation.

The water must then be re-introduced into the boiler. Only when the water has comfortably
exceeded 1st low may the lockout be reset.

This is essential in order to prove that lockout has correctly engaged.

After completing the evaporation test, it may be convenient to manually over-ride the feed
pump or valve, and deliberately prove the high alarm. This does not form part of the
evaporation test. The weekly flame failure sensor test may also be undertaken at this time.

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Visual Checks Outside and Inside the Boiler House

When approaching the boiler house, one should look for any unusual discharges from the
chimney, safety valve outlets, and vents such as on the feed tank and blowdown vessel. The
possibility of smoke coming out of the ventilation louvers should also be considered. The
boilerhouse should also be cheked periodically to ensure that no fire exits are externally
obstructed, and that there is nothing blocking the low-level ventilation louvers.

Entering the boilerhouse, one should be mindful of the possibility of a gas leak. The first two
things to check are the pressure gauges and level gauges on all working boilers this will
confirm that the boilers are in a safe condition.

Checks shoud be made for leaks. This could be oil leaks, water leaks from the boiler plant,
and steam leaks. A water leak at either end of the boiler is indicative of either a tube failure
or perhaps a boiler stay bar failure. Checks and records on the level of chemicals are
important it may be that an injection pump has stopped working, so some means of
identifying that the chemicals are not being consumed is important. The same applies to the
salt in the softener brine well.

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Attending To Alarms

There are many reasons for a boiler to go into an alarm state. Depending on what alarms
are provided on the boiler, various alarms may arise from time to time.

The most critical are:

Flame Failure / Burner Lockout

Excess Pressure
Low Water
High Water

Flame failure is more likely to be caused by a faulty flame sensor than any other problem.
The burner will also lock out if the combustion air fan is not delivering sufficient pressure to
the air switch that is provided to confirm correct supply of combustion air.

Excess pressure seldom arises, and if the over-pressure switch should fail, the safety valve is
a reliable backup.

Low water is critical, and should be regarded as a most dangerous situation. It can arise for
a number of reasons:

A genuine alarm, due to a failure of the feedwater supply system (failed pump,
inadequate water in the feed tank, excessive tank temperature causing pump
cavitation, feed check valve not holding, leading to pump cavitation, or a failed feed
control valve etc)
Nuisance alarms caused by poor electrical connections associated with high-integrity
level electrodes
Overloading of the boiler for which there are some solutions (see below)

High Water is less frequent, but is dangerous because of the liklihood of slugs of water
being carried over into the steam supply, causing damaging water hammer to the pipework.
It will be caused by a failure of the feedwater supply system (pump relay burnt-in, failed
feed control valve etc).

It is important to treat every alarm as if it were genuine, and to record in the log book each
time an alarm is attended to.

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Overloading of Steam Boilers

The sudden presentation of a heavy load on a steam boiler can cause an interesting
sequence of events:

The heavy load imposes a sudden drop in pressure within the boiler
The boiler water contains lots of steam bubbles. When the boiler pressure drops, the
size of the steam bubbles increases, meaning that the water level actually rises
Because of the rise in water level, the feed control stops putting water into the
boiler. The boiler will, nevertheless continue to lose water through evaporation
The temporary swelling of the boiler water can cause a high alarm
As the burner ramps up in response to the drop in pressure, the boiler pressure
begins to be restored. This means that the steam bubbles resume their original size,
and the volume of water decreases
When the water level has dropped sufficiently, the feed control system will
introduce water into the boiler. The feed water, being at much lower temperature
than the boiler, will quench the boiling
The quenching effect of the deluge of feedwater causes a rapid drop in water level,
with 1st and 2nd low alarms are likely to arise. Thus the boiler can go from high alarm
to low level lockout within around 10 minutes

If this is a symptom which appears familiar, there are a range of solutions:

Instruct plant operators to make more thoughtful use of equipment, to cut down on
transient peak demands
Fit a pressure-maintaining valve on the steam export line from the boilerhouse. This
will do nothing when the system is running normally, but when the boiler pressure
subsides below a certain value, it will throttle down the supply of steam, thus
preserving pressure in the boiler, and hopefully avoiding a low-level lockout
Fit a pressure-maintaining valve on a section of the plant, such that steam for a non-
essential service (e.g. building heating) is temporarily reduced when more critical
plant is demanding steam
Apply two-element or three-element level controls

Two- and Three- Element Level Controls

Two-element level control relies on the information from a steam meter fitted to the boiler
to recognise a sudden increase in demand for steam. This will be seen long before there is
any significant loss of boiler pressure. This information can be used in conjunction with the
measured water level to increase the rate of water being fed to the boiler, thereby avoiding
the collapse in water level leading to low alarms and lockout.

Three-element level control uses the input of both feedwater flow and steam flow to do the
same job as a two-element system. It is generally easier to commission than a two-element

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Section 19
Boiler Operation Guidelines

This document cannot replace the specific instructions for every type of boiler plant, and it
is therefore necessary for every boiler operator to obtain a copy of the instructions for their
plant, and to familiarise themselves with the recommended instructions for that particular

There are some matters which some general guidance may be given:

Shutdown of the Boiler

When a boiler is to be taken out of service, generally speaking it will be necessary to isolate
all of the various valves such as the crown, secondary isolating, boiler feedwater, and
blowdowns. As the boiler cools, the steam remaining inside will condense, and could form a
vacuum. Allowing the vacuum to develop presents the risk of leaks being induced, so to
prevent this, a manual air vent valve is provided. This is normally installed on top of the
boiler, and allows the operator to vent the boiler once it has reached zero pressure.

Remember to use PPE when operating this valve: the pressure gauge on the boiler will not be
accurate at negligible pressure, and there could be a significant discharge when the valve is

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There are three possible ways of leaving a boiler in a shut-down state:

Simply turn off the boiler and use air vent.

This is suitable for a weekend shutdown, for example, but not for longer periods due to the
risk of corrosion within the boiler.

Wet layup, or water-wedging.

This is suitable for periods of up to about two months. After normal shutdown, the boiler is
completely filled with water, and the oxygen scavenger dosing increased during filling. This
expels air from the boiler (water will discharge from the air vent), and mitigates the risk of

Dry layup.
Completely drain the boiler, remove all of the inspection openings and ventilate to ensure
that the boiler is completely dry inside. Apply some heat if necessary to ensure that the
boiler remains dry. (The manufacturer may advocate using the burner on low fire for a short
period, although this will require over-riding the low water level limiters).

If a boiler is being prepared for inspection, there will be the need to safely isolate all of the
connections using methods such as double-block & bleed valves, removing & blanking, or
spading. The fuel and electrical supplies must also be isolated. A proper lock-off procedure is

Start-up from Warm

To start a boiler from a warm state (i.e. where some residual pressure remains in the boiler,
perhaps it having been switched off overnight for example) does not normally require a
special procedure, other than to ensure that the burner is set to low fire until within
perhaps 1 or 2 bar of normal working pressure. The most modern of burners will
automatically manage this.

It is good practice to blow down the level gauge glasses as soon as there is sufficient
pressure to do so, thus ensuring that they are reading correctly. The blowdown valve should
also be operated soon after starting the boiler as this will discharge any sludge that might
have settled to the bottom of the boiler whilst it was shut down.

During shutdown, the boiler water will reduce in volume, meaning that upon starting-up the
boiler will be fed with water until normal water level is reached. Heating up the boiler will
cause this water to expand, and it is likely that a high alarm will arise. For this reason, it is
best to exercise manual control over the water level, and only allow the boiler to fill to a
level above first low alarm. Once the boiler is approaching normal pressure, the feed water
may be reverted to automatic control.

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Start-up from Cold

When starting a boiler from cold, the manufacturer will often stipulate a proper warm-up
procedure. This is designed to provide gradual and even heating-up of the boiler, and thus
protect the boiler shell from undue thermal stress.

The HSE specifically prohibits the unattended start-up of a boiler from a cold state and
although cold is not defined by the HSE it is usually taken to mean that there is no pressure
in the boiler. The reason for this is that during the warm-up phase, leaks may develop,
alarms may annunciate, and especially the fact that the water level may increase to a
dangerous high level, demanding that the boiler be blown down to rectify the problem.

The proper warm-up procedure will vary depending upon manufacturer and type of boiler,
but in principle it will be a matter of firing the burner on low fire for perhaps 5-10 minutes,
then switching off the boiler for 5-10 minutes to allow the heat to soak through. A number
of such cycles will be required, and they can often be lengthened as the boiler is warming-

It is advantageous to blow the boiler down for 10 or more seconds once the boiler is up to
about 1 bar, in order to avoid stratification. This is the situation where, due to a gentle
warm-up process, convection currents have not developed in the boiler water, resulting in
the situation whereby steam can be released from the top of the water, whilst the water at
the bottom of the boiler remains cold. The introduction of water from the feed tank will
help to initiate convection currents that will aid the progressive warm-up of the boiler.

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Bringing the Boiler On-Line

This refers to the opening of the steam valve; usually the crown valve, but possibly an
isolating valve on a manifold.

In the case of a multi-boiler installation, the appropriate procedure is to bring the boiler up
to a pressure that is equal to or even slightly higher than the other boilers. Crack open
the valve, and allow the pressures to equalise before fully opening the valve in a progressive

In the case of a single boiler, a different scenario arises:

Steam Mains Warm-Up

We shall look at this in more detail in the Steam Utlisation section. Briefly, if there is only a
single boiler on site, then it is essential to open the steam valve in a very slow and
controlled manner in order gently to warm-up the steam main. Failing to do so will result in
water hammer, and it very dangerous.

An alternative option is to start-up the boiler with the steam outlet valves open. In this way,
controlled warm-up of the boiler will ensure that steam is gradually introduced to the steam
main, thus warming it up at a slow and controlled rate.

A Risk Assessment should be carried out first, and then consult with the
Boiler Manufacturer, prior to adopting this procedure

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Before Leaving the Boiler

Having started-up the boiler, it is important to go through the usual daily checks on the
boiler, and unless there is a prevailing reason not to, also to undertake the evaporation test.
Finally, the appropriate log book entries should be completed, and if appropriate the lock-
off procedure and the permit to work closed-out.

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Section 20
BG01 Compliance

In 2011, the HSE introduced a new document on the subject of Safe Operation of Steam
Boilers. The scope of this document clearly includes most industrial boilers.

BG01 attempts to identify the level of attendance of a boiler, and when appropriate
compensate for reduced manning levels advocates higher levels of safety controls and

BG01 is a free download from many sources, such as:


and should be read in full. It is provided to assist companies undertake an adequte risk
assessment of their boilerhouse. Four typical arrangments are provided, of which
arrangment 4 only applies to hot water boiler plant.

Typical Arrangment Level 1 relates to a fully-manned boilerhouse where An operator is on

site at all times that the boiler is in operation and can respond immediately to an alarm

Typical Arrangment Level 2 stipulates that A suitably trained person is on site at all times
the boiler is in operation who can respond to an alarm condition. As a minimum the person
must ensure that the boiler is safe, and notify the operator of the alarm condition. The
operator should check the boiler at least daily. The trained person is usually able to do
their task by supervising a basic alarm panel, and, upon being aware of the alarm, can press
an emergency stop button to ensure shutdown of the affected boiler, and then contact the
boiler operator.

Typical Arrangment Level 3 is the highest level of automation, requiring a much greater level
of safety controls and alarms, but permits checks by the boiler operator at maximum 72
hour intervals.

The following pages are an extract from BG01, and illustrate the typical arrangements.

It is important not to read the pages in isolation; nor without consideration

of the more general requirements of a formal Risk Assessment.

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Typical Arrangement Level One

This shows the minimum equipment required for the lowest level of automation. This level
does not meet the requirements of boiler standard BS EN 12953.

With Typical Arrangement Level 1 the following factors need to be considered:

Attendance. A boiler operator should be on-site at all times that the boiler is operating and
be able to repsond immediately to an audible and/or visual alarm condition.

Equipment Integrity. All control equipment should be fail-safe.

Boiler House Fire Protection. Fire detection, fire alarm and automatic shut-off of the fuel
should be provided. For gas firing, gas detection and alarm should also be considered.

Minimum Frequency of Routine Testing.

o Low water level devices in external chambers:
Daily Checks: External chambers should be manually blown down at least
deaily and the low water cut-out and lock-out tested
Weekly Checks: In addition, the low water level cut-out and lock-out should
be tested by lowering the boiler water level by evaporation and controlled
blowdown. Note: Discharge temperature to drain should not exceed
permissable limits.

o Low water level devices in internal prection tubes in the boiler:

Daily Checks: The low water cut-out and lock-out should be tested at least
daily by lowering the boiler water level or by an integrated test device.
Note: At the beginning of each shift if a shift pattern is used.
Weekly Checks: In addition, the low water level cut-out and lock-out should
be tested by lowering the boiler water level by evaporation and controlled
blowdown. Note: Dishcarge temperature to drain should not exceed
permissable limits.

o Level Indicators (gauge glasses):

Daily: Manually blown down

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Typical Arrangement Level 2
This shows the minimum equipment required for a boiler with critical alarms monitored on-
site by a remote panel located in a manned area such as a gatehouse. New installations
should be manufactured to BS EN 12953, which requires additional limiters to be fitted.

With Typical Arrangement Level 2, the following factors need to be considered:

Attendance: A suitably trained and instructed person should be on-site at all times that the
boiler is operating and should be capable of responding to an alarm condition. As a
minimum, the person should ensure that the boiler is safe and notify the boiler operator of
the alarm condition. The boiler operator should check the boiler at least every day.

Equipment Integrity: Low water level devices of the high integrity self-monitoring type
should be fitted. All control equipment should be fail-safe.

Boiler House Fire Protection: Fire detection, fire alarm and automatic shut-off of the fuel
should be provided. For gas firing, gas detection and alarm should also be considered.

Minimum Frequency of Routine Testing:

o Low water level devices fitted directly to the boiler:
Weekly: the low water level cut-out should be tested by lowering the boiler
water level by evaporation and controlled blow down. Note: Discharge
temperature should not exceed permissible limits.

o Low water level devices in external chambers fitted with automatic blowdown
Daily: external chambers should be automatically blown down at intervals
typically of at least every six hours
Weekly: in addition, the low water level cut-out and lock-out should be
tested by lowering the boiler water level by evaporation and controlled blow
down. Note: Discharge temperature should not exceed permissible limits.

o Level Indicators (gauge glasses):

Daily: Manually blown down

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Typical Arrangement Level 3
This shows the minimum equipment requirements for the highest level of automation, for
instance; lowest degree of supervision, where no boiler operators are on-site and with
status monitoring by remote location / telemetry system.

Equipment for the boiler:

With additional equipment in the boiler house:

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Where this additional is not provided this must be supported by a Risk Assessment and
other control measures as necessary.

Attendance: The site should be visited and checked by a boiler operator at least every 3 days
(unless Risk Assessment determines otherwise). Boiler status is monitored from either an
on-site of off-site location.

Equipment Integrity: This arragement is the higest level of automation requiring the
greatest degree of confidence in the boiler controls and equipment. Low water level devices
should be high-integrity. Self-monitoring combustion control system should be high-
integrity. All control equipment should be fail-safe.

Boiler House Fire Protection: Fire detection, fire alarm and automatic shut-off of the fuel
should be considered. For gas firing, gas detection and alarm should also be provided.

Minimum Frequency of Routine Testing:

o Low water level devices fitted directly to the boiler:
Weekly: The low water level cut-out and lock-out should be tested by
lowering the boiler water level by evaporation and controlled blow down.

o Low water level devices in external chambers fitted with automatic blow down
Daily: External chambers should be automatically blown down at intervals
typically every six hours. Note: Discharge temperature should not exceed
permissable limits.
Weekly: in addition, the low water level cut-out and lock-out should be
tested by lowering the boiler water level by evaporation and controlled
blowdown. Note: Discharge temperature should not exceed permissable

o Level Indicators (gauge glasses):

At least every three days manually blown down

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Section 21
Safe Isolation

Steam and pressurised hot water are particularly dangerous because of the amount of
stored energy. A small leak can cause serious or indeed fatal injury. It is therefore necessary
to employ secure methods to ensure that steam and other services are safety isolated.

The best method is to disconnect a section of pipework and fit a blanking flange or to use a
line blind sometimes known as a spade, or perhaps using a spectacle blind.

Of course, in order to safely fit any of the above, it is necessary to make a safe isolation in
the first place. The HSEs guidance note HSG253 supports the use of a double block and
bleed system, whereby two isolating valves are used, and the space between them vented
using a small bleed valve.

The arrangement can consist of two separate isolating valves and a separate bleed valve,
but some one-piece valves are also available with all three valves incorporated on a
common body.

It is essential that the bleed is discharged to a safe point, so that no-one is endangered by its
discharge, and that the discharge is visible to the operator.

Under no circumstances should a pressure gauge be used to prove that there is no

pressure in a system. Pressure instruments are not sufficiently accurate at low readings, and
significant pressure could remain in the system to cause serious injury.

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Section 22
The Boiler Inspection

The statutory examination of a boiler is often referred to as the insurance inspection

however it must be understood that whilst this may well be undertaken by a company
which provides commercial insurance, its legal basis is its requirement under the Written
Scheme of Examination.

It consists of two parts:

a) The Thorough Examination, undertaken as stipulate by the Written Scheme, but usually
annually. The certificate will have a maximum valididy of 14 months. It is a criminal offence
to operate a pressure system without a Written Scheme, or without a valid Inspection
Certificate against that Written Scheme. This is a visual examination of the boiler by an
inspector, who will enter the boiler if it is practiable for him to do so.

b) The Supplementary Examination. Performed within a prescribed interval after the

Thorough Examination, this will enable the Inspector to verify that all of the automatic
safety controls are correctly operating. It will include the accumulation test whereby the
burner controls are locked-out, and the boiler deliberately pressurised such that the safety
valve lifts, following which there must be no accumulation of pressure.

c) There is also a requriement (typically every 5 years) to perform NDT on critical weld
seams (longitudinal weld seam, and shell-to-endplate welds. Most boiler manufacturers
provide removable sections of cladding for this purpose.

The Written Scheme will list separately each boiler, and other items such as economisers,
superheaters, the blowdown vessel, and any air receivers used in conjuction with pneumatic
controls on the boiler if fitted. It may also include a peaking test, which uses a profile
gauge to confirm that the areas adjacent to the longitudinal weld seam have been rolled to
a near-perfect cylinder. Should excessive peaking be present, there is the risk of the peak
progressively creeping during operation, and the boiler spontaneously failing.

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Appendix 1
Steam Table Metric

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Pressure Temp Sensible heat Latent heat Total heat content Specific
Enthalpy Volume
Gauge Absolute
Pressure Pressure
Bar kPa Bar kPa C kJ/kg kcal/kg kJ/kg kcal/kg kJ/kg kcal/kcal/kg m3/kg
(g) (g) (a)
0.01 1 7.0 29.34 7.0 2485 594 2514 601 129.2
0.05 5 32.9 137.8 32.9 2424 579 2562 612 28.19
0.1 10 45.8 191.8 45.8 2393 572 2585 618 14.67
0.2 20 60.1 251.8 60.1 2358 53 2610 623 7.650
0.3 30 69.1 289.3 69.1 2336 558 2625 627 5.229
0.4 40 75.0 317.7 75.9 2319 554 2637 630 3.993
0.5 50 81.3 340.6 81.4 2305 551 2646 632 3.240
0.6 60 86.0 359.9 86.0 2294 548 2654 634 2.732
0.7 70 90.0 376.8 90.0 2283 545 2660 635 2.365
0.8 80 93.5 391.7 93.6 2274 543 2666 637 2.087
0.9 90 96.7 405.2 96.8 2266 541 2671 638 1.869
0 0 1.0 100 100.0 417 100 2258 539 2675 639 1.691
0.1 10 1.1 110 102.3 429 102.5 2251 538 2680 640 1.549
0.2 20 1.2 120 104.8 439 104.9 2244 536 2683 641 1.428
0.3 30 1.3 130 107.1 449 107.2 2238 535 2687 642 1.325
0.4 40 1.4 140 109.3 458 109.4 2232 533 2690 642 1.236
0.5 50 1.5. 150 111.4 467 111.5 2226 532 2693 643 1.159
0.6 60 1.6 160 113.3 475 113.5 2221 530 2696 644 1.091
0.7 70 1.7 170 115.2 483 115.4 2216 529 2699 644 1.031
0.8 80 1.8 180 116.9 491 117.3 2211 528 2702 645 0.977
0.9 90 1.9 190 118.6 498 118.9 2206 527 2704 646 0.929
1.0 100 2.0 200 120.2 505 102.6 2201 526 2706 647 0.885
1.5 150 2.5 250 127.4 535 127.8 2181 521 2716 649 0.718
2.0 200 3.0 300 133.5 561 134.0 2163 517 2724 651 0.606
2.5 250 3.5 350 138.9 584 139.5 2147 513 2731 652 0.524
3.0 300 4.0 400 143.6 605 144.5 2133 509 2738 654 0.462
3.5 350 4.5 450 147.9 632 148.8 2120 506 2743 655 0.414
4.0 400 5.0 500 151.8 640 152.9 2107 503 2747 656 0.375
4.5 450 5.5 550 155.5 656 156.7 2096 501 2752 658 0.343
5.0 500 6.0 600 158.6 670 160.0 2085 496 2755 658 0.316
6 600 7 700 165.0 697 166 2065 493 2762 659 0.2727
7 700 8 800 170.4 721 172 2046 487 2767 659 0.2403
8 800 9 900 175.4 743 177 2029 485 2772 662 0.2148
9 900 10 1000 179.9 763 182 2013 481 2776 663 0.1943
10 1000 11 1100 184.1 781 186 1999 477 2780 663 0.1774
11 1100 12 1200 188.0 798 191 1984 474 2782 665 0.1632
12 1200 13 1300 191.6 815 195 1971 471 2786 666 0.1511
13 1300 14 1400 195.0 830 198 1958 468 2788 666 0.1407
14 1400 15 1500 196.3 845 202 1945 465 2790 667 0.1317
15 1500 16 1600 201.4 859 205 1933 462 2792 667 0.1237

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Questions and Answers

CITB Examination

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