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Heat Tracing

system also requires special fittings, skilled


Learning the basics of steam tracing welders and more trapping stations than
either conduction tracing with tubing and
allows processors to review and heat transfer compounds, or clamp-on pipe
compare options for each application. heating jackets. Additionally, construction
time and final testing for jacketed piping is
quite long, and the installed system cannot
By Peter Baen and Lance Bielke, Thermon Industries Inc. easily be modified.
Conduction tracing with tubing and

I t has been estimated that the current


installed base of steam tracing world-
wide is 360 million feet (110 million
Conduction tracing with tubing and heat
transfer compounds.
Clamp-on pipe heating jackets.
heat transfer compounds as well as clamp-
on pipe heating jackets frequently are
installed on industrial piping systems for
meters), with the installed base in North Fully jacketed piping. high-temperature heating applications.
America at approximately 150 million feet However, conduction tracing with com-
(45.7 million meters). However, most pub- Fully jacketed piping provides the highest mercially available tubing can be reliable
lished articles discuss steam tracing with heat transfer rates and will melt a material and cost effective, and it can reduce the
tubing without defining whether the tub- faster than other methods. However, plants installation time for a piping system by
ing is bare convection, isolated, internal or frequently use tubing with heat transfer eliminating welding of piping, jacketing or
conduction tracing. compounds or clamp-on pipe heating jack- modification of clamp-on jackets.
As has been the case for decades, differ-
ent steam trace methods can provide differ- Preformed, flexible heat transfer compound is
ent levels of heat: light, medium and high designed for rapid, consistent installation on
straight piping runs. The heat transfer
heat. Proper references to the various steam compounds provide an efficient
tracing methods and whether the applica- thermal connection between
tion is winterization or high-temperature the tracer and the process
maintenance should help reduce confu- equipment.
sion or misunderstandings. It also should
increase confidence and reliability in this
common method of heat tracing in refin-
eries, chemical plants and other process
plants around the world.
The primary purpose of this article is to
review and compare common steam trac-
ing methods. Although there are clearly
advantages and limitations to each, it does ets because the heatup and melt-out times Modern Conduction
not attempt to compare steam and electri- are sufficient and these methods eliminate Tracing Systems
cal heat tracing methods. cross-contamination problems that occur Prior to the advent of heat transfer com-
frequently with fully jacketed piping. pounds, the process industry had to rely on
High-Temperature With jacketed piping, cross-contamina- fully jacketed piping or multiple bare tubes
Steam Tracing tion risks are due to leaks that develop in to maintain high process temperatures on
High-temperature application for materials the process pipe without any warning until piping. Today, conduction tracing systems,
such as asphalt, phthalic anhydride and sulfur steam is detected in the process. A typical including clamp-on steam-heating jackets,
generally suggests temperatures above 225F problem would be where steam leaks into rely on heat transfer compounds to maxi-
(110C) and often involves heating mediums molten sulfur, causing a very undesir- mize heat transfer rates.
such as steam or heat transfer fluids. able reaction. Once the contamination is Heat transfer compounds became com-
Basically, three methods are used for detected, there is still no easy means of mercially available in 1954. Tracers installed
high-temperature heating in process plants detecting the leak location. with these compounds have been highly
where melt-out or reasonably fast hea- In addition to the risk for cross contami- reliable in replacing many fully jacketed
tup requirements must be met. The three nation, the installed cost of fully jacketed piping systems and multiple bare or con-
methods include: piping is high. The fabrication of such a vection tracing systems. The performance

www.process-heating.com J a n u a r y 2 0 1 0 | 27
Heat Tracing
A single tube-type conduction tracing Tracing With Heat Transfer Compound vs. Bare Tracing
system can replace three or more bare
tracers, with a cost savings in labor Pipe Size Mineral Wool 0.5" OD Number Temperature
as well as reductions in steam and Thickness Tracer Type of Tracers Held on Pipe
condensate-handling equipment.
4" (100 mm) 1" (25 mm) Heat Transfer Compound 1 314F (157C)
4" (100 mm) 1" (25 mm) Bare 4 281F (138C)
results are notable as are the reductions in
6" (150 mm) 1.5" (40 mm) Heat Transfer Compound 1 311F (155C)
installed costs by minimizing steam traps
and overall distribution costs. 6" (150 mm) 1.5" (40 mm) Bare 4 280F (138C)
Today, the cost savings for conduction 8" (200 mm) 2" (50 mm) Heat Transfer Compound 1 309F (154C)
tracing over fully jacketed piping can be 8" (200 mm) 2" (50 mm) Bare 6 301F (149C)
in the 50 to 90 percent range, depending
10" (250 mm) 2" (50 mm) Heat Transfer Compound 1 293F (145C)
upon the piping system complexity. By
comparison to other methods, a single 10" (250 mm) 2" (50 mm) Bare 6 295F (146C)
tube-type conduction tracing system can Steam Pressure 150 psig; Ambient Temperature 0F, Wind 25 mph
replace three or more bare tracers, with a (Steam Pressure 10.34 bar g; Ambient Temperature -18C; Wind 11 m/s)
cost savings in labor as well as reductions
in steam and condensate-handling equip- The Facts. Literally thousands of valves,
ment. Table 1 compares bare convection pumps and other types of plant equip-
tracing and conduction tracing. ment have been successfully steam traced
The hand-toweled method of apply- with good quality heat transfer compounds.
ing heat transfer compound continues to When properly installed on tube tracing,
be a convenient way to cover tracing on these can last as long as the equipment on
valves, pumps or other types of equipment. which it is installed. Properly selected heat
However, todays heat transfer compound transfer compounds can also resist mechani-
is likely to be a preshaped extruded materi- Fully jacketed piping provides the high- cal shock well. If cracking or bond separation
al that is snapped over the tube-type tracer est heat transfer rates and will melt a does occur, it generally is due to improper
and held in place by a galvanized steel or material faster than other methods. selection or poor quality heat transfer com-
stainless steel channel. The heat transfer pounds, poor surface preparation or improp-
compound material melts and cures when er startup and curing procedures.
steam is supplied to the tracer. In conclusion, steam tracing can be
designed to maintain a range of process
Debunking Tracing Myths temperatures, even from a common steam
Even though steam tracing has been used pressure/temperature. Some companies
in the process industry for more than 100 offer design software for steam tracing
years, there is still misinformation that piping, tanks or instrument tubing while
attempts to make steam tracing appear to others offer design support or proven heat
be inferior to other methods. The metallic tracer tube is covered with transfer calculations.
composite materials that lower thermal
Myth 1. Tube-type tracing is not a good conductance to reduce heat output and But, beyond reliability, the real issue
alternative to steam jackets because it does temperature. with all heat tracing systems is ensuring the
not result in uniform temperatures along lowest total cost of ownership with mini-
the process pipe wall. mal operating and maintenance expense.
The Facts. If the myth statement relates to if it relates to tubing installed with heat Calculating condensate loads and knowing
bare convection tracers, it is true. However, transfer compounds, it is untrue. Modern the maximum vertical rise for every steam
methods of thermal analysis such as finite trace design is critical to optimizing circuit
element analysis (FEA) and computational lengths to reduce the number of steam
WEB EXCLUSIVE fluid dynamics (CFD) commonly are used traps and arrange the lowest installed cost
by engineers and designers of steam trac- possible for each application. PH
ing systems to closely predict temperatures
Steam Tracing Method Definitions
System components can include bare around the circumference of a traced pipe Peter Baen is the senior product manager for
or convection tubing, conduction tub- wall as well as at pipe shoes and supports, steam heating and instrument tubing and Lance
ing, clamp-on jackets, fully jacketed risers and other areas of concern. Bielke is the web/literature manager with Thermon
piping and heat transfer compounds. Myth 2. Heat transfer compounds crack Corp., San Marcos, Texas, a manufacturer of heat
or break off when used on valves, pumps tracing systems and components. For more infor-
READ MORE @ WWW.PROCESS-HEATING.COM and other equipment. mation, call (512) 396-5801 or www.thermon.com.

28 | J a n u a r y 2 0 1 0 Process Heating