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Best Practice

SABP-A-007 12 March 2011


Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency
Document Responsibility: Energy Systems Unit, P&CSD

Steam Trap Management


for Energy Efficiency

Developed by: Energy Systems Unit


Process & Control Systems Department

Previous Issue: 11 April 2006 Next Planned Update: TBD


Revised paragraphs are indicated in the right margin Page 1 of 45
Primary contact: Qahtani, Ali Hussain on 966-3-8746157

Copyright©Saudi Aramco 2011. All rights reserved.


Document Responsibility: Energy Systems Unit, P&CSD SABP-A-007
Issue Date: 12 March 2011
Next Planned Update: TBD Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

Table of Contents
Page
1 Introduction 4
1.1 Purpose and Scope 4
1.2 Intended Users 4
1.3 Conflicts with Mandatory Standards 4
1.4 References and Related Documents 4

2 General 5
2.1 Steam System Basics 5
2.2 Function of Steam Traps 6
2.3 Estimating Steam Loss 8
2.4 Cost of Steam & Condensate 9

3 Steam Traps 14
3.1 Classification 14
3.2 Selection and Sizing 18
3.3 Trap Installation 22
3.4 Failure Modes and Rates 22
3.5 Safety Issues 23

4 Recommended Management Practices 25


4.1 Inspection Frequency 26
4.2 Inspection Techniques and Tools 27
4.3 Record-keeping and Reporting 35
4.4 Organizational and Management Issues 37

APPENDICES
A Armstrong Steam Trap Handbook (TOC) 39
B Spirax-Sarco Steam Trap Handbook (TOC) 40
C Armstrong Steam Trap Testing Guide 41
D Internet Resource Directory 45

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Document Responsibility: Energy Systems Unit, P&CSD SABP-A-007
Issue Date: 12 March 2011
Next Planned Update: TBD Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

List of Exhibits
Exh. No Title Page
2-1 Steam System Schematic 5
2-2 Condensation in Heat Transfer Equipment 6
2-3 Water Hammer in Distribution Piping 7
2-4 Temperature Reduction Caused by Air 7
2-5 Steam Loss Rates from New Traps 8
2-6 Leakage Rates from Defective Traps 8
2-7 Steam Cost Calculation Template 9
2-8 CHP Simulation Model 11
2-9 Savings Achieved from Steam Trap Management 13
3-1 Thermostatic Traps 14
3-2 Thermodynamic Traps 15
3-3 Disc-type Thermodynamic Trap with Integral Strainer 16
3-4 Mechanical Traps 17
3-5 Steam Trap Features and Characteristics 18
3-6 Steam Trap Service Applicability 18
3-7 Steam Trap Performance Characteristics 19
3-8 Steam Trap Selection Guide 20
3-9 Operating Limits Chart for Ball-Float Steam Traps 19
3-10 Sample Capacity Chart for Inverted Bucket Traps 21
3-11 Typical Trap Failure Positions 22
4-1 Historical Approach to Steam Trap Management 25
4-2 Pro-active Approach to Steam Trap Management 26
4-3 Steam Trap Discharge Characteristics 27
4-4 Flash Steam versus Live Steam 28
4-5 Pipe Surface Temperatures versus Steam Pressure 28
4-6 Using a Contact Pyrometer for Closed Condensate Return Systems 29
4-7 Typical Operating Sounds of Various Types of Traps 30
4-8 Situation Where Acoustic Testing Cannot be Used 31
4-9 Conductivity-based Trap Sensors 32
4-10 Automatic Conductivity-based Trap Monitoring System 32
4-11 SpiratecTM R16C Trap Monitor 33
4-12 SteamEye® Sensor/Transmitter and SteamStarTM System 34
4-13 Sample Transmitter/Repeater/Receiver Layout for Typical Plant 34
4-14 Sample Reports from SteamStarTM Software 35
4-15 Condensate Line Sizing Chart 36
4-16 Sample Steam Trap Status Report 37
4-17 Sample Steam Trap Inspection Report 38
4-18 Recommended Steam Trap Management Strategies 38

Page 3 of 45
Document Responsibility: Energy Systems Unit, P&CSD SABP-A-007
Issue Date: 12 March 2011
Next Planned Update: TBD Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

1 Introduction

1.1 Purpose and Scope

All major industrial facilities use steam as the principal source of thermal energy to drive the
process. Once the steam has delivered its latent heat content to the process, it condenses
back into a liquid, which must be recovered for recycle to the boilers. The device used to
recover steam condensate is called a steam trap. Steam traps have a notoriously high failure
rate, typically 20% per year. A trap that has failed open will leak steam and cost money; a trap
that has failed closed will prevent the steam from delivering the required amount of heat to the
process. Proper working of traps is critical to efficient management of the plant steam system.
The purpose of this Best Practice manual is to describe the current recommend procedures for
monitoring and managing steam traps towards this end.

The focus of this manual is on managing the existing steam traps. It does not address the
steam and condensate piping system, nor whether the steam trap type and size have been
correctly specified for the intended application. It is assumed that these have all been done
correctly.

1.2 Intended Users

This Best Practice manual is intended for use by plant engineers working in Saudi Aramco
plants, who are responsible for safe and efficient operation of their steam condensate recovery
system.

1.3 Conflicts with Mandatory Standards

There are no conflicts with existing Saudi Aramco mandatory standards, or with any other
standard operating practices with respect to reliability, safety, etc.

1.4 References and Related Documents

PEDD course ChE107: Plant Utilities, Chapter 6 – Steam Distribution


Improving Steam System Performance – a Sourcebook, US Dept of Energy, Washington, DC.
Steam Trap Handbook, James F. McCauley, Fairmont Press, Lilburn, Ga.
Steam Distribution Systems Deskbook, James F McCauley, Fairmont Press, Lilburn, Ga.
Design of Fluid Systems: Steam Utilization, Spirax-Sarco Inc, Allentown, Pa (2004).
Design of Fluid Systems: Hook-Up Designs, Spirax-Sarco Inc, Blythewood, SC (2004).
Steam Conservation Guidelines for Condensate Drainage, Bulletin N-101, Armstrong
International Inc, Three Rivers, Mich (1997).
Industrial Steam Trapping Handbook, Yarway Corp, Blue Bell, Pa.

Page 4 of 45
Document Responsibility: Energy Systems Unit, P&CSD SABP-A-007
Issue Date: 12 March 2011
Next Planned Update: TBD Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

2 General

A Best Practice is defined as a process or method that, when correctly executed, leads to
enhanced system performance. The focus of this Best Practice manual is on the management
of the steam traps in large industrial plants, recognizing that they are only a part of the
condensate recovery system, which in turn is only a part of the overall steam generation and
distribution system. Proper trap performance also depends upon the following corollary
issues:
 Trap selection and sizing
 Trap installation (piping and controls)
 Steam distribution piping and controls
 Condensate collection vessels, piping, and controls

These corollary issues are not addressed in detail in this manual, as it is assumed that the
systems have been designed correctly and are already being managed in the optimal fashion.

2.1 Steam System Basics

A steam system consists of five principal sub-systems:


 Generation (boilers)
 Distribution
 End Users (process applications)
 Condensate recovery
 Boiler feedwater treatment

Exhibit 2-1: Steam System Schematic

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Document Responsibility: Energy Systems Unit, P&CSD SABP-A-007
Issue Date: 12 March 2011
Next Planned Update: TBD Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

Physically, steam traps are a component of the condensate recovery system, but they also
affect the ability of the distribution system to effectively deliver the required thermal energy to
process applications. Also, in some cases, improper design or operation of the steam
distribution piping and controls could affect steam trap performance. It is important therefore
to distinguish between the functioning of the trap itself and the effects of poor design/operation
of other interrelated sub-systems.

2.2 Function of Steam Traps

Steam traps have three principal functions:

(a) safely and quickly drain steam condensate while maintaining thermal efficiency.
(b) maintain the steam back-pressure in the pipe or heat transfer process equipment.
(c) vent air and other non-condensable gases from the equipment after startup.

Condensate forms in the steam distribution piping system because of unavoidable heat losses
due to radiation, convection, and conduction. It also forms in process equipment that is being
heated with steam, such as heat exchangers, vessel jackets, etc. Once the steam has
condensed, the hot condensate must be removed at once for two reasons:
 to maintain the heat transfer capacity of the exchanger or process heating vessel, and
 to prevent water hammer (a safety issue)

Exhibit 2-2: Condensation in Heat Transfer Equipment

Source: Armstrong Steam & Condensate Guide (1997)

Condensate in the heat transfer equipment (eg. the coil shown in Exhibit 2-2) takes up space
and in effect reduces the surface area available for process heat transfer. The drainage
problem involves more than just condensate removal, as non-condensable gases must be
cleared from the system as well.

Another reason for minimizing the amount of condensate in the equipment is that if steam
comes into contact with cold condensate (ie. below the temperature of steam), it can produce
a kind of water hammer known as thermal shock, which can collapse the equipment shell.

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Document Responsibility: Energy Systems Unit, P&CSD SABP-A-007
Issue Date: 12 March 2011
Next Planned Update: TBD Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

Condensate accumulating at the bottom of steam distribution lines can cause another type of
water hammer. As high-speed steam flows over condensate at velocities of up to 100 miles
per hour, it will cause waves that could form a dangerous slug when the crest of the wave
reaches the top of the pipe (point A in Exhibit 2-3), growing increasingly larger as it picks up
liquid in front of it (area B). Anything obstructions in the flow path – pipe fittings, valves, tees,
elbows, blind flanges – will be destroyed. Water hammer is a serious safety issue, as it can
damage the piping, even ripping it off its anchors, and ultimately leading to a steam explosion
if left unattended.

Exhibit 2-3: Water Hammer in Distribution Piping

Source: Armstrong Steam & Condensate Guide (1997)

When air and other gases infiltrate the steam system, they reduce the partial pressure of
steam and therefore its effective condensing temperature (see Exhibit 2-4), which in turn
reduces available temperature driving forces for heat transfer. Worse still, non-condensable
gases reduce the film heat transfer coefficient dramatically. As little as 0.5 - 1% air by volume
can reduce heat transfer rates by as much as 50%, effectively causing a production capacity
bottleneck.

Exhibit 2-4: Temperature Reduction Caused by Air

Source: Armstrong Steam & Condensate Guide (1997)

In addition to their primary function, steam traps should meet the following criteria:

(a) wear-resistant parts, to minimize downtime for repair


(b) low steam blow-by (leakage) rates for good energy efficiency
(c) ability to operate against back-pressure in the condensate return system
(d) tolerance to dirt and scale carried over from the boiler and steam piping
(alternatively, they should be protected by upstream strainers).

Page 7 of 45
Document Responsibility: Energy Systems Unit, P&CSD SABP-A-007
Issue Date: 12 March 2011
Next Planned Update: TBD Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

2.3 Estimating Steam Loss

There are two ways that steam loss can occur – one is through the trap (ie. leakage) and the
other is from the trap due to radiation and convection. A properly manufactured and installed
steam trap will have little or no steam loss due to leakage under normal operation. However
some blow-by will occur if the trap is operating at no-load conditions, eg. when the heat
exchanger to which it is connected is down, but steam is on. Extensive testing by the National
Engineering Laboratory in the UK led to the publication of international standards for trap
leakage rates, as shown in Exhibit 2-5 [Ref. Spirax-Sarco bulletin TI-F01-27].

Exhibit 2-5: Steam Loss Rates from New Traps in lb/h (P = 5 bar = 71 psi)

Legend: BPT = Balanced Pressure Thermostatic, BM = Bimetallic ,


FT = Float and Thermostatic, IB = Inverted Bucket, TD = thermodynamic

If the actual P is higher, the ―through‖ rates have to be adjusted as follows:


5/9
 ActualP, psi 
Correct leakage rate (through) = Tabulated leakage rate x  
 71 

Strictly speaking the ―from‖ rates should also be adjusted, based on the radiant and convective
loss correction factors due to operation at different temperatures, but typically they are not.

When the trap is worn or damaged, steam leakage rates can increase dramatically, as seen
from the table below.

Exhibit 2-6: Leakage Rates from Defective Traps

The problem with Exhibit 2-6, of course, is that one does not know (indeed, cannot possibly
know) the ―size‖ of the hole, especially since it is never a conveniently circular orifice as
assumed. Therefore these figures must be treated as indicative only.

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Document Responsibility: Energy Systems Unit, P&CSD SABP-A-007
Issue Date: 12 March 2011
Next Planned Update: TBD Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

In addition to saving boiler fuel, steam traps reduce other system costs as well. For example,
higher condensate recovery levels directly translate into lower requirement for boiler feedwater
makeup, with consequent savings in both raw water and BFW treatment chemicals. Also, the
boiler can be operated at a lower capacity, thus reducing maintenance costs and extending it’s
useful life.

2.4 Cost of Steam and Condensate

In addition to knowing the steam loss rates, it is necessary to know the cost of steam and
condensate at different pressures. This can be conveniently done according to the procedure
developed by Energy Systems Unit of CSD, using the spreadsheet templates available from
the CSD web-site on the intranet. Sample input and output tables from this spreadsheet are
displayed in Exhibits 2-7a and b. The cost of steam is displayed in bold numbers. The cost of
condensate is shown under the heading ―condensate loss penalty‖; note that this is the cost
per 1000 lb of condensate, not 1000 lb of steam. The cost of demineralized water used as
BFW makeup must be supplied as input data, which can vary significantly from site to site.

Exhibit 2-7a: Steam Cost Calculation Template – Input Data

The economic benefits of increasing condensate recovery can be calculated by using the plant
CHP model, as illustrated in Exhibits 2-8a and b.

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Document Responsibility: Energy Systems Unit, P&CSD SABP-A-007
Issue Date: 12 March 2011
Next Planned Update: TBD Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

Exhibit 2-7b: Steam Cost Calculation Template – Calcs & Output

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Document Responsibility: CSD/ESD/Energy Systems Unit SABP-A-007
Issue Date: 11 April 2006
Next Planned Update: 11 April 2009 Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

Exhibit 2-8a: CHP Simulation Model – without Steam Trap Management Program

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Document Responsibility: CSD/ESD/Energy Systems Unit SABP-A-007
Issue Date: 11 April 2006
Next Planned Update: 11 April 2009 Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

Exhibit 2-8b: CHP Simulation Model – with Steam Trap Management Program

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Document Responsibility: CSD/ESD/Energy Systems Unit SABP-A-007
Issue Date: 11 April 2006
Next Planned Update: 11 April 2009 Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

Exhibit 2-9: Savings Achieved from Steam Trap Management

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Document Responsibility: CSD/ESD/Energy Systems Unit SABP-A-007
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Next Planned Update: 11 April 2009 Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

3 Steam Traps

There is no universal steam trap technology that is ideal for all applications. Rather, several
technologies and design options are available to accommodate the various different situations.
Each trap design has different strengths and weaknesses, and must be carefully selected for
the intended application (see section 3-2).

3.1 Classification

Steam Traps are generally classified first according to their operating principle and second by
their mechanical design:

1. Thermostatic – balanced pressure (bellows), bimetallic


2. Thermodynamic – disc, orifice
3. Mechanical – float & thermostatic, inverted bucket

There are innumerable variations in design offered by the trap manufacturers, each targeted at
a specific type of application or solving a particular operating problem, but the basic principles
are the same.

3.1.1 Thermostatic Traps

Thermostatic traps use temperature differential to distinguish between condensate and live
steam. This differential is used to open or close a valve, which means that the condensate
must cool down to below the steam condensing temperature before the valve will open.

Balanced-Pressure (Bellows) Traps include a valve element that expands and contracts in
response to temperature changes. Often a volatile chemical such as ethanol or water is inside
the element. Evaporation provides the necessary force to change the position of the valve. At
start up, the bellows trap is open due to the relative cold condition. This operating condition
allows air to escape and provides maximum condensate removal when the load is the highest.
Bellows traps can fail either open or closed.

Exhibit 3-1: Thermostatic Traps (a) Bellows type (b) Bimetallic type

Source: Improving Steam System Performance: A Sourcebook for Industry, US Dept of Energy (2003)

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Document Responsibility: CSD/ESD/Energy Systems Unit SABP-A-007
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Next Planned Update: 11 April 2009 Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

Bimetallic Traps rely on the bending of a composite strip of two dissimilar metals to open and
close a valve. Air and condensate pass freely through the valve until the temperature of the
bimetallic strip approaches the steam temperature. After steam or relatively hot condensate
heats the bimetallic strip and causes it to close the valve, the trap remains shut until the
temperature of the condensate cools sufficiently to allow the bimetallic strip to return to its
original shape and thereby open the valve. Bimetallic traps can fail in either the open or closed
position.

3.1.2 Thermodynamic Traps

Thermodynamic traps use the difference in kinetic energy (velocity) between condensate and
live steam to operate a valve. They are small in size, relatively inexpensive, and resistant to
water hammer. There are three basic types – disc, piston (or impulse), and orifice – and many
variations. The disc type with an integral strainer is the most common, although orifice types
are gaining in popularity. Thermodynamic traps are not suitable for applications that pass a lot
of dirt, air, or are frequently in and out of service.

Exhibit 3-2: Thermodynamic Traps (a) Disc type (b) Orifice type

Source: C B Oland, Review of Orifice Plate Steam Traps, US Dept of


Energy publication # ORNL/TM-2000/353/R1 (Jan 2001)

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Document Responsibility: CSD/ESD/Energy Systems Unit SABP-A-007
Issue Date: 11 April 2006
Next Planned Update: 11 April 2009 Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

Disc Traps use the position of a flat disc to control steam and condensate flow. When
condensate flows through the trap, it forces the disc to rise inside the control chamber until it is
discharged. As the last of the condensate flows out, it flashes across the narrow gap between
the raised disc and the seat, causing the pressure beneath the disc to fall, and the trap to
close.

Orifice Traps come in either plate or ―short tube‖ designs, both of which operate on exactly
the same principles. Condensate that accumulates on the upstream side of the orifice or tube
is continuously removed due to pressure gradient. Once all condensate has been passed, a
limited amount of steam continues to flow through the orifice. The main advantage is that they
are extremely cheap. The disadvantage is higher steam loss under variable load conditions.

Exhibit 3-3: Disc-type Thermodynamic Trap with Integral Strainer

3.1.3 Mechanical Traps

Mechanical traps use the difference in density between condensate and live steam to produce
a change in the position of a hinged float or bucket. This movement causes a valve to open or
close. There are a number of mechanical trap designs that are based on this principle.
Although there are many different designs – e.g. inverted bucket, open bucket, ball float, float
and lever, and float & thermostatic, etc – the F&T and IV designs are the most popular.

Ball Float Traps rely on the movement of a spherical ball to open and close the outlet opening
in the trap body. When no condensate is present, the ball covers the outlet opening, thereby
keeping air and steam from escaping. As condensate accumulates inside the trap, the ball
floats and uncovers the outlet opening. This movement allows the condensate to flow
continuously from the trap. Unless they are equipped with a separate air vent, ball float traps
cannot vent air on start up.

Float and Lever Traps are similar in operation to ball float traps except the ball in connected
to a lever. When the ball floats upward due to accumulation of condensate inside the trap
body, the attached lever moves and causes a valve to open. This action allows condensate to
continuously flow from the trap. If the condensate load decreases and steam reaches the trap,
down-ward ball movement causes the valve to close thereby keeping steam from escaping.

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Document Responsibility: CSD/ESD/Energy Systems Unit SABP-A-007
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Next Planned Update: 11 April 2009 Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

Unless they are equipped with a separate air vent, float and lever traps cannot vent air on start
up. (See the discussion on float and thermostatic traps)

Float and Thermostatic (F&T) Traps combine a thermostatic bellows type air vent with a
hinged –float mechanism. The thermostatic air vent senses changes in temperature. Upon
startup it vents air from the trap. Once operating temperature is reached, the bellows close, at
which point the float takes over. F&T traps are best suited for applications that are frequently
in and out of service and require immediate discharge of varying condensate loads.

Exhibit 3-4: Mechanical Traps (a) Float & Thermostatic (b) Inverted Bucket

Inverted Bucket Traps are somewhat more complicated than float and lever traps. At start
up, the inverted bucket inside the trap is resting on the bottom of the trap body and valve to
which the bucket is linked is wide open. The trap is initially filled with condensate. As steam
enters the trap and is captured inside the bucket, it causes the bucket to move upward. This
upward movement closes the valve and keeps steam from escaping. When the condensate
collects and cools the steam, the bucket moves downward. This movement causes the valve
to open thereby allowing the condensate to escape (intermittent discharge).

Inverted Bucket traps are well suited for applications containing high dissolved or suspended
solids, as they are resistant to pipe-line scale, rust, and dirt.

Inverted bucket traps must be ―primed‖ (ie. filled with water) before they are put into service.
Otherwise, the float mechanism will not function, and the trap will pass live steam (fail open).
If this happens, the moving parts could break, requiring trap replacement. If these traps are
applied in superheated steam service their ―condensate seal‖ can be depleted, and the trap
will continuously discharge live steam. Therefore they are not recommended for superheated
steam service, unless special installation conditions are met.

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Document Responsibility: CSD/ESD/Energy Systems Unit SABP-A-007
Issue Date: 11 April 2006
Next Planned Update: 11 April 2009 Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

Open Bucket Traps consist of an upright bucket that is attached to a valve. At start up, the
bucket rests on the bottom of the trap body. In this position the trap is wide open. As
condensate accumulates in the trap outside of the bucket, the bucket floats upward causing
the valve to close. When sufficient condensate has accumulated outside the bucket, it spills
over the top and fills the inside of the bucket, causing it to sink and the valve to open. This
design is not suitable for superheated steam service because of the loss of condensate seal.
Like inverted bucket traps, open bucket traps have intermittent discharge.

3.2 Selection and Sizing

No single steam trap technology is ideal for all applications. Rather, the trap type must be
selected by matching its performance characteristics against process requirements for each
individual application.

Exhibit 3-5: Steam Trap Features and Characteristics

Source: G. Page, ―Steam Traps‖, Chem Eng Prog (Jan 2006), p16

Exhibit 3-6: Steam Trap Service Applicability

Source: G. Page, ―Steam Traps‖, Chem Eng Prog (Jan 2006), p16

Performance characteristics of the common steam trap designs are summarized in Exhibit 3-7.
Trap selection guidelines are provided in Exhibit 3-8, which indicates which type of trap has
been found to be most effective in different applications under typical field conditions.

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Document Responsibility: CSD/ESD/Energy Systems Unit SABP-A-007
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Next Planned Update: 11 April 2009 Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

Exhibit 3-7: Steam Trap Performance Characteristics

Source: Armstrong Steam & Condensate Guide (1997)

Trap manufacturers generally publish the operating ranges over which a particular trap will
operate properly, as illustrated in Exhibit 3-9. If the actual operating conditions subsequently
exceed the specified limits, this could lead to trap failure.

Exhibit 3-9: Operating Limits Chart for Ball-Float Steam Traps

Source: Spirax-Sarco bulletin SB-P145-03, issue 2

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Document Responsibility: CSD/ESD/Energy Systems Unit SABP-A-007
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Next Planned Update: 11 April 2009 Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

Exhibit 3-8: Steam Trap Selection Guide

Source: Steam Utilization – Design of Fluid Systems, Spirax-Sarco (2004)

Trap sizing is a complex function of condensate load, available differential pressure across the
trap, and operating temperature. All reputable manufacturers will supply ―capacity charts‖ as
illustrated in Exhibit 3-10. It is critically important to ascertain whether the trap will be
operating under ―hot‖ or ―cold‖ conditions when selecting trap type and size. If the condensate
upstream of the trap orifice is a superheated liquid at discharge side pressure, then it will flash
as it passes through the orifice, resulting in two-phase flow. Trap capacities are significantly
lower under such hot conditions as opposed to non-flashing cold conditions.

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Next Planned Update: 11 April 2009 Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

Exhibit 3-10: Sample Capacity Chart for Inverted Bucket Traps

Source: Spirax-Sarco bulletin TI-S03-04 ST issue 3

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3.3 Trap Installation

Steam traps do not function in isolation. To a very large extent, their effectiveness depends
upon proper installation, which varies from application to application. Installation guidelines
are available in manufacturers’ literature (see Appendices A and B).

3.4 Failure Modes and Rates

Trap failure modes are generally classified into four categories:


 Blocked
 Low-temperature
 Leaking
 Blowing

The difference between leaking and blowing is one of degree. Blowing is the term used when
the trap has failed in a fully open position, whereas leaking implies that the trap is passing
some steam even when it is supposedly closed and should be passing no steam. Leaking and
blowing traps cost money because of steam loss.

Blocked and ―low temperature‖ conditions, on the other hand indicate that condensate is not
being properly drained. There is no steam loss, but rather production capacity is lost in the
equipment, such as a heat exchanger, that is being ―trapped‖.

Excluding design problems, the two most common causes of trap failure are over-sizing and
dirt. Over-sizing invariably leads to premature erosion and leakage. Dirt is always being
generated in a steam system. Excessive build-up can cause plugging or prevent a valve from
closing. Dirt is generally produced from pipe scale or from over-treating of chemicals in a
boiler.

Understanding what will happen to the steam system when a trap fails is very important. A
trap can fail either open (ie. passing steam) or closed (ie. blocking condensate drainage). The
failure position depends on the operating principle and mechanical design of the trap.
However, sometimes traps designed to fail closed may actually fail open due to abnormal
conditions such as dirt, back-pressure, or operator action. For example, although F&T traps
usually fail closed, they could also fail in the open position if the ball float becomes damaged
and sinks or if the thermostatic element fails.

Exhibit 3-11: Typical Trap Failure Positions


Trap type Failure Position
Thermostatic – bellows Open or closed depending on bellows failure mode
Thermostatic – bimetal Open or closed depending on strip
Thermodynamic (all) Open
Float & Thermostatic Closed
Inverted Bucket Open
Ball float closed
Source: Applications Newsletter, www.nicholsonsteamtrap.com

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Next Planned Update: 11 April 2009 Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

The longevity of a trap is affected by a variety of factors including operating conditions


(pressure, temperature, load), suspended solids (rust, dirt, scale), system dynamics, and
neglect. A much under-appreciated cause of premature trap failure is improper sizing for the
actual load. Both under-sized and over-sized traps will begin leaking well before a correctly
sized trap [Ref. F A Hooper and R D Gillette, ―Comparison of Three Preventive Maintenance
Strategies For Steam Trap Systems‖, www.trapo.com].

The US Dept of Energy has reported [Ref. Steam Tip Sheet #1 – January 2006] that modern
steam traps have an aggregate failure rate of around 5-7% per year in their first five years of
service, down significantly from 15-25% for older designs.

Published data in the literature indicate that without an active steam trap management
program, about 17% of generated steam is lost on average due to defective traps. Thus a
facility consuming 100 Klb/h of steam in the process will lose 17 Klb/h. Assuming a marginal
cost of $2.50/Klb for steam, and 8400 equivalent hours per year of full rate operation, this is
worth $357,000 per year.

Typically, steam trap failure rates increase dramatically after 3-4 years.

3.5 Safety Issues

It is also important to be cognizant of safety issues associated with trap failure.

When steam traps are either blocked or undersized, they can cause a backup of condensate
in the steam mains. This has two negative consequences – (a) steam will become de-
superheated, and (b) the potential for water hammer increases as high speed steam comes
into contact with and picks up slugs of water (Ref. section 2-2). When the slug of condensate
being carried along the steam line reaches an obstruction, such as a bend or a valve, it can
cause tremendous damage such as blowing out a valve or a strainer.

Condensate in a steam system can also cause valves to become wiredrawn and unable to
hold temperatures as required. Little beads of water in a steam line can eventually cut any
small orifices the steam normally passes through. Wiredrawing will eventually cut enough of
the metal in a valve seat that it prevents adequate closure, producing leakage in the system.

On October 10, 1986, a condensate-induced water hammer at a major US government


research facility injured four steamfitters — two of them fatally. One of the steamfitters
attempted to activate an 8-inch steam line located in a manhole. He noticed that there was no
steam in either the steam line or the steam trap assembly and concluded that the steam trap
had failed. Steam traps are devices designed to automatically remove condensate (liquid)
from steam piping while the steam system is operating in a steady state. Without shutting off
the steam supply, he and another steamfitter replaced the trap and left.

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Later the first steamfitter, his supervisor, and two other steamfitters returned and found the line
held a large amount of condensate. They cracked open a gate valve to drain the condensate
into an 8-inch main, but this was too far open to control the sudden onrush of steam into the
main after all the condensate had been removed. A series of powerful water hammer surges
caused the gaskets on two blind flanges in the manhole to fail, releasing hot condensate and
steam into the manhole. All four steamfitters suffered external burns and steam inhalation.
Two of them died.

A Type A Accident Investigation Board determined that the probable cause of the event was a
lack of procedures and training, resulting in operational error. Operators had used an in-line
gate valve to remove condensate from a steam line under pressure instead of drains installed
for that purpose.

The board also cited several management problems. There had been no Operational
Readiness Review prior to system activation. Laboratory personnel had not witnessed all the
hydrostatic and pressure testing, nor had all test results been submitted, as required by the
contract. Documentation for design changes was inadequate. The board also determined that
management had not been significantly involved in the activities of the steam shop.

In June 1991, a valve gasket blew out in a steam system at a Georgia hospital. Operators
isolated that section of the line and replaced the gasket. The section was closed for 2 weeks,
allowing condensate to accumulate in the line. After the repair was completed, an operator
opened the steam valve at the upstream end of the section. He drove to the other end and
started to open the downstream steam valve. He did not open the blow-off valve to remove
condensate before he opened the steam valve. Water hammer ruptured the valve before it
was 20% open, releasing steam and condensate and killing the operator.

Investigators determined that about 1,900 pounds of water had accumulated at the low point in
the line adjacent to the repaired valve, where a steam trap had been disconnected. Because
the line was cold, the incoming steam condensed quickly, lowering the system pressure and
accelerating the steam flow into the section. This swept the accumulated water toward the
downstream valve and may have produced a relatively small steam-propelled water slug
impact before the operator arrived. About 600 pounds of steam condensed in the cold section
of the pipe before equilibrium was reached.

When the downstream valve was opened, the steam on the downstream side rapidly
condensed into water on the upstream side. This flow picked up a 75 cubic foot slug of water
about 400 feet downstream of the valve. The slug sealed off a steam pocket and accelerated
until it hit the valve, causing it to rupture.

The accident could have been prevented if the operator had followed accepted Best Practices,
allowing the pipe to warm up first, and using the blow-off valve to remove condensate before
opening the downstream valve.

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4 Recommended Best Practices

Despite the fact that most companies recognize poor steam trap management as a cause of
significant energy losses, very few are able to sustain a systematic and effective management
program. Key features of typical current practice are as follows:

(a) Trap survey is performed once a year


(b) Evaluation of survey data and necessary replacements take place over the next 3-6
months
(c) Trap replacement is completed in between other facility priorities
(d) During the 1-year span between surveys, additional traps fail and lose steam for an
average of six months
(e) Traps are replaced ―in-kind‖, ie. like for like, without root cause failure analysis or
evaluation of changed process conditions
(f) Management receives feedback on steam losses only once a year

Exhibit 4-1: Historical Approach to Steam Trap Management

Predictably, the results are not satisfactory. With a reactive approach, failure rates and steam
losses are doomed to be high. As an example, a steam trap survey conducted by CSD at
Juaymah Gas Plant in June 2003 [ESA# NGO-042] showed that 53% of the 336 traps
evaluated were malfunctioning. The full range of failure modes was encountered – low
temperature, leakage, blow-through, and blocked. The report recommended that all traps
should be inspected every six months using a portable device known as TrapManTM.

The fundamental flaw in the historical approach is that steam trap management is treated as a
series of projects, not as a continuing program. A project has a beginning and an end; a
program is on-going. The recommended best practice is to take a pro-active approach
towards managing the trap population to provide:

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 Instant detection of steam trap failures with minimal labor allocation


 Quick diagnosis (based on root cause analysis) and action plan for trap repair or
replacement based on ROI
 A reporting system that provides performance measurement, tracking, and easy
company-wide communication

Exhibit 4-2: Pro-active Approach to Steam Trap Management

Ref: L. Schavey and J. Stout, ―Achieving Operational Excellence


in Gas Plants‖, Hydrocarbon Processing (Jan 2005)

Industry is currently at the beginning of a transition phase from the manual mode to the
automatic mode. Fortunately, the technology for early detection and systematic reporting is
now available through at least two reputable vendors (see section 4-2).

4.1 Inspection Frequency

The US Dept of Energy [Ref. Steam Tip Sheet #1 – January 2006] recommends steam trap
testing intervals based on the operating pressure:

Steam pressure, psig Testing frequency


> 150 psig weekly – monthly
30-150 psig monthly-quarterly
< 30 psig annually

In reality traps fail every day, but it is not economically feasible to inspect traps on a daily
basis. The above table balances the cost of steam loss and equipment damage against the
cost of manpower, taking into account that steam losses and water hammer from LP steam
applications are considerably less than those from HP applications.

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4.2 Inspection Techniques and Tools

If the steam system is extensive, as in most Saudi Aramco plants, it is usually preferable to do
the surveys section by section rather than all at once. There are two fundamental approaches
to trap monitoring:
(a) manual inspection and testing (see Appendix C)
(b) automatic electronic surveillance

Exhibit 4-3: Steam Trap Discharge Characteristics

Source: Steam Utilization – Design of Fluid Systems, Spirax-Sarco (2004)

Before testing a steam trap, inspectors should first understand the specific function of the trap
in that particular application, and review the actual versus design operating conditions to help
avoid misdiagnosis and properly interpret trap performance. There are four basic ways to test
steam traps – visual, thermal, acoustic, and electrical conductivity. All will be described.

4.2.1 Visual Method

Visual observation of condensate discharging from a trap is the simplest, though not the most
reliable, indication of its performance, as it depends heavily on the knowledge and experience
of the inspector. In Exhibit 4-4, the picture on the left shows lazy vapor flashing off from
discharged condensate. This is natural, and does not imply waste or trap failure. On the other
hand, the picture on the right shows steam emanating from the trap discharge as a high-
velocity high-temperature steam plume, which indicates the trap has failed open. A rough
estimate of steam loss rate can be made from the length of the steam plume:

Steam Loss, lb/h = 2 x (length, ft)2.35

If the trap does not discharge to the atmosphere, but into a closed condensate return system,
a test valve should be installed downstream of the trap. To check trap performance, the
isolation valve is closed to shut off the condensate return line, and the test valve is opened to
the atmosphere. If it discharges condensate instead of live steam, the trap is working.

4.2.2 Thermal Method

Thermal inspection relies on upstream/downstream temperature variations in a trap. It includes


pyrometers, infrared guns, heat bands (wrapped around a trap, they change color as
temperature increases), and heat sticks (which melt at various temperatures).

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Exhibit 4-4: Flash Steam versus Live Steam

Source: ―Simple Techniques for Surveying Steam Traps‖, Yarway Corp (1996)

To use this method, one requires either a contact pyrometer or an infrared radiation pyrometer
(infrared ―gun‖) to measure pipe surface temperature, and a knowledge of the line pressures
upstream and downstream of the trap. Exhibit 4-5 shows typical pipe surface temperature
readings (un-insulated) corresponding to several operating pressures.

Exhibit 4-5: Pipe Surface Temperatures versus Steam Pressure

Source: ―Simple Techniques for Surveying Steam Traps‖, Yarway Corp (1996)

The procedure is to first measure the pipe surface temperatures about 12 inches upstream
and 12‖ downstream of the trap. If using a pyrometer, the pipe surfaces should be cleaned by
filing or wire-brushing to provide good contact for the pyrometer tip. If using a non-contact
radiation pyrometer, it is important to point it accurately, without obstructions in the line of
sight. Let’s say the values are 335° and 270°F. Suppose the steam pressure is 150 psig, and
the condensate return line pressure downstream of the trap is 50 psig. Since the measured

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temperatures are within the ranges specified in Exhibit 4-5, we can conclude that the trap is
operating properly.

Now let’s consider a scenario with the same line pressures, but pyrometer readings of 335°
and 300°F respectively. The elevated downstream temperature would suggest that steam is
blowing through.

Finally, suppose that the upstream and downstream temperatures were 250°F on both sides
on the trap. This is too low for steam at 150 psig, indicating that some sort of restriction (such
a clogged strainer) in the line that is causing a very high pressure drop. If the upstream
strainers had already been blown down before conducting the test, per good practice, it means
that condensate has probably backed up into the upstream side of the trap (a safety hazard)
due to a piece of metal or dirt stuck in the trap, which would require it to be isolated,
dismantled, and cleaned.

Exhibit 4-6: Using a Contact Pyrometer for Closed Condensate Return Systems

Source: ―Simple Techniques for Surveying Steam Traps‖, Yarway Corp (1996)

Radiation pyrometers are more convenient for evaluating traps that are either dangerous (due
to high pressure) or difficult to access (due to location). A wide variety of devices are
available, some of which are neither rugged nor accurate. A good pyrometer should have an
accuracy of within 2°F over the temperature range 100-800°F under field conditions.

4.2.3 Acoustic Method

Steam traps emit very distinct sound patterns; each trap type having a particular signature.
These sounds are not audible to the unaided ear. Using an ultrasonic detector, the analyst is
able to isolate the frequency of sound being emitted by the steam trap, compare it to trended
sound signatures, and make an assessment. Changes in these ultrasonic wave emissions are
indicative of changes in steam trap function.

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Although various listening devices ranging from screwdrivers to mechanical stethoscopes


have been used in the past, ultrasonic detection instruments are best, especially for closed
condensate return systems, as they enable users to listen to the sounds of steam trap
operations (high-frequency short-wave signals) while screening out most ambient and stray
pipe sounds. Also, ultrasonic sensors are highly directional in their pick-up, enabling users to
hear and see on meters the exact operations of steam traps.

Ultrasonic detectors usually include a stethoscope module, which contains an ultrasonic


transducer attached to a metal rod that acts as a "wave guide". The wave guide is touched on
the downstream side of a trap to determine trap condition such as mechanical movements or
steam and condensate flow. Most ultrasonic detectors amplify the signals and translate them
into the audible range where they are heard through headphones or seen as intensity
increments on a meter. Some also feature frequency tuning to allow users to tune into desired
trap sounds.

Exhibit 4-7: Typical Operating Sounds of Various Types of Traps

Source: ―Simple Techniques for Surveying Steam Traps‖, Yarway Corp (1996)

The most popular device used for acoustic testing in Saudi Aramco is the TrapmanTM. For
those plants using the manual method, it is recommended to have at least two such working
devices, with at least three engineers from the Utilities Division trained in its proper use. As an
alternative to having in-house steam trap inspection and testing capability, it is possible to
outsource this function. Both trap manufacturers and independent consulting firms offer a trap
survey and reporting service. Although using an independent consulting firm may cost more, it
is the preferred option because their recommendations are more likely to be free of bias.

If a number of traps are installed in close proximity (see Exhibit 4-8), acoustic testing is not
reliable because the sonic signature of each trap cannot be easily isolated. In such cases, the
thermal method should be used.

4.2.4 Conductivity Method

Conductivity-based diagnostics are based on the difference in electrical conductivity between


steam and water. A conductivity probe could be integrated with the steam trap or inserted just
upstream of the trap into a sensing chamber. Under normal operation, the tip of the probe is
immersed in condensate. If the trap is either blowing or leaking excessively steam will sweep
the condensate away and the measurement will show the value corresponding to water.

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Exhibit 4-8: Situation Where Acoustic Testing Cannot be Used

Source: ―Simple Techniques for Surveying Steam Traps‖, Yarway Corp (1996)

Conductivity measurement must be accompanied by temperature measurement to ensure a


correct diagnosis. For example, a false indication of trap failure could occur if the trap has not
been used recently and has filled with air. A low temperature measurement combined with low
conductivity would therefore indicate air (requiring venting, at best), while a high temperature
combined with low conductivity would indicate steam (and therefore trap failure). Similarly
high conductivity combined with high temperature would indicate the trap is working properly,
but high conductivity combined with low temperature would indicate that the trap has water-
logged because (a) it has failed closed, (b) something has blocked the line, (c) it is undersized.

Internal switches for various parameters must be set properly for each application to indicate
failure accurately, eg.

A major advantage of conductivity method is that it puts out an unambiguous signal that can
be interpreted without resorting to experience or personal judgment. Also, it lends itself very
easily to continuous remote monitoring, as described in the next section.

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Exhibit 4-9: Conductivity-based Trap Sensors

Source: Spirax-Sarco bulletin SB-S34-01 MI issue 8 (2006)

4.2.5 Automatic Continuous Surveillance

Round-the-clock electronic surveillance based on conductivity measurement is the latest and


most sophisticated approach to steam trap performance monitoring. It is recommended as
Best Practice for large industrial plants with trap populations of 500 or more.

Automatic electronic surveillance systems are currently being offered by only two vendors –
Armstrong, and Spirax-Sarco. Each takes a slightly different technical approach, but the basic
concept is the same, as in Exhibit 4-10. The appropriate solution in terms of system selection
depends on the application.

Exhibit 4-10: Automatic Conductivity-based Trap Monitoring System

Source: Steam Utilization – Design of Fluid Systems, Spirax-Sarco (2004)

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The SpiratecTM R16C from Spirax-Sarco is a remotely mounted electronic scanner that can
continuously monitor up to 16 steam traps fitted with Spiratec R1C sensors. When all traps
are working correctly, a single green light will be illuminated. If one or more traps has failed,
then the corresponding red or orange lights come on, and the green light goes out. The unit
can be interfaced with most plant DCS systems.

Exhibit 4-11: SpiratecTM R16C Trap Monitor

Source: Spirax-Sarco bulletin SB-S34-01 MI issue 8 (2006)

Armstrong International has a similar system that can remotely monitor a virtually unlimited
number of traps. It consists of transmitting data via a radio-frequency signal from individual
traps fitted with their SteamEye® (conductivity + ultrasonic+ temperature measurement)
sensor to a receiving station that logs the information into a computer program (SteamStar TM).
The software instantly generates the following reports through a web-based platform that
makes it easily accessible to all authorized company personnel:

 Executive summary
 Steam Loss report
 Defective Trap report
 Trap Evaluation by application
 Prioritized Maintenance Work Order

See Exhibits 4-12 through 4-14.

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Exhibit 4-12: SteamEye® Sensor/Transmitter and SteamStarTM System

Source: Armstrong bulletin 300 (2005)

Within line-of-sight, the transmitter range is 400 yards, but when the signal must travel through
walls or vessels, a more typical range is 100 yards. If the receiver is out of range of the
transmitter, up to seven ―repeating‖ stations can be used.

Exhibit 4-13: Sample Transmitter/Repeater/Receiver Layout for Typical Plant

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Exhibit 4-14: Sample Reports from SteamStarTM Software

4.2.6 Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting guidelines are provided in the literature available from trap manufacturers
(see Appendices A & B). Occasionally, a non-performing trap that has been pulled out of
service will be found to be fully operable upon mechanical examination. In such a case, the
most likely cause of malfunction is misapplication, of which the following examples are the
most common:

 Over-sizing. Match condensate load to trap size, and use a smaller trap.
 Freeze-proof Installation. Thermostatic and thermodynamic (disc-type) traps should be
installed in a self-draining configuration, thus making them freeze-proof in case of cold
weather. Use a vacuum breaker if necessary to ensure gravity flow.
 Proper Direction. Sometimes traps may be installed backwards. Look for the arrow or
in/out markings on the body of the trap, and install accordingly.
 Condensate Piping. Condensate discharge piping should be properly sized (Exhibit 4-15)
and connected, to prevent submergence of heating surfaces.
 Gravity Flow. Slope the drainage line away from the equipment downwards to ensure
gravity flow towards the trap.
 Short Drainage Legs. The shorter the length, the fewer the problems.
 Individual Traps. Do not try to drain more than one piece of equipment with a single trap,
as it is likely to short-circuit (one of the equipment will over-whelm the others).
 Incorrect trap type and size. Make sure the trap type and size is properly matched to the
actual condensate load profile, which may not be the same as the design assumptions.

4.3 Record Keeping and Reporting

Good record-keeping is essential. It is one thing to just inspect traps, another to be able to
determine costs, efficiencies, inefficiencies and trouble spots. To begin with, traps should be
tagged, inventoried, and mapped with respect to geographical location. All too often, many
traps in a system are forgotten. A mapping and tagging system will assure that these traps
are maintained.

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Exhibit 4-15: Condensate Line Sizing Chart

Source: Steam Utilization – Design of Fluid Systems, Spirax-Sarco (2004)

There are many ways to systematize data and to keep records. The result should be useful
records such as cost analysis of the work performed. Also, analytic ability is needed to
determine the status of all the traps within a system including those failed, blocked, leaking,
out of service or operating well. Rather than trying to "reinvent the wheel," take advantage of
commercially available software packages that can help successfully implement a good steam
management system.

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At a minimum every facility should maintain the following records:


 List of Traps, with basic data
 Inspection History

Sample reports (in spreadsheet format) are presented in Exhibits 4-16 and 4-17. Commercial
Steam Trap Management software basically shows the same information in alternative
formats.

Exhibit 4-16: Sample Steam Trap Status Report

4.4 Organizational and Management Issues

Steam trap management should be an integral part of the energy management function in all
large industrial facilities with steam consumption of more than 100 Klb/h. The recommended
approach to trap management depends upon the trap population and geographical distribution
(see Exhibit 4-18).

The system consists not only of hardware (traps, instruments) but also software (computer
programs, trained personnel, and management practices). Management must fully support
the program by committing adequate resources, including proper training for the responsible
plant staff, and keeping an adequate inventory of spare parts and emergency replacement
valves at the plant site. Otherwise the program will fail.

The cost of trap inspection will obviously vary depending on trap type and method employed.
Published figures for the USA indicate a range of $15-25 per test per trap [Ref. F. A Hooper
and R. D Gillette, ―Comparison of Three Preventive Maintenance Strategies for Steam Trap
Systems‖ (1997), www.trapo.com].

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Exhibit 4-17: Sample Steam Trap Inspection Report

Exhibit 4-18: Recommended Steam Trap Management Strategies

Revision Summary
12 March 2011 Revised the "Next Planned Update". Reaffirmed the contents of the document, and reissued
with editorial changes.

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APPENDIX A
Table of Contents
―Steam Conservation Guidelines for Condensate Drainage‖, Armstrong Intl Inc (1997)
Available as free download from www.armstrong.be/prod/traps/hb

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APPENDIX B
Table of Contents
―Design of Fluid Systems: Steam Utilization‖, Spirax-Sarco Inc, (2004)
Available as free download from www.spiraxsarco/us/navigation/register.asp

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APPENDIX C
Steam Trap Testing Guide
Excerpted from Armstrong Bulletin 310-C (2002)

Steam Trap Testing Procedure

CAUTION: Valves in steam lines should be opened or closed by authorized personnel only,
following the correct procedure for specific system conditions. Always isolate steam trap from
pressurized supply and return lines before opening for inspection or repair. Isolate strainer
from pressurized system before opening to clean. Failure to follow correct procedures can
result in system damage and possible bodily injury.

Tips on Listening (Acoustic method) –


1. Some flow noises are best picked up with high frequency electronic listening devices, but
these devices are not sensitive to mechanical sounds.
2. Low frequency meters, stethoscopes or even screwdrivers can be used to detect
mechanical sounds, for example: bucket dance, or the bubbling through the bucket vent.
3. Before purchasing a listening device, check it out on known conditions to see that it serves
your purpose.
4. When checking traps on a manifold, be sure to check them all. A good trap can telegraph a
bad trap’s signal. Check to see at which trap the signal is the loudest. That’s probably the
faulty trap.

I. Inverted Bucket

1. If trap is cold, then:


a. Is steam shut off? Yes, then turn on steam to check trap. If still cold after allowing
sufficient time for purging of initial air, shut off steam.
b. Is there a plugged strainer up stream of trap? Yes, then clean strainer. If no
plugged strainer, open trap.
c. Is it over-pressured, orifice too large for applied differential? Yes, then replace
mechanism with one for right pressure.
d. Is bucket vent plugged? Yes, clean it.
e. Is inlet or outlet plugged or mechanism jammed with dirt? Yes, then clean it.
f. Is bucket unhooked (worn mechanism) ? Yes, then replace mechanism.

2. If trap is hot, then listen to it.


a. Is it discharging intermittently? Yes, then it is OK.
b. Is it relatively quiet, so you can hear the steady ―bubbling‖ through the bucket
vent? Yes, then it is OK, light load.
c. Does bubbling sound increase and decrease in a kind of ―rolling‖ sound? Yes,
then it is handling air. Check trap in an hour. If it is still handling air, replace the
standard bucket with a thermic bucket. If air problem persists, replace inverted
bucket trap with a float and thermostatic trap.

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d. Is it discharging steadily with no bucket sound? Yes, then it is too small. Replace
trap with larger one.
e. Is it discharging steadily with bucket dancing up and down? Yes, then it has lost
its prime. Close a valve upstream or downstream of trap for a few minutes and
then re-open. If trap does not catch its prime, mechanism is worn (replace), or
guide assembly is misaligned (align. See instructions.) Internal check valve on
tube and coupling may be necessary to cure chronic prime loss.

3. If trap is capsule construction, non-repairable, remove it from the line in case of any
malfunction, and apply compressed air or a water stream to its outlet and then its inlet.
If this does not correct the problem replace the trap.

II. Float & Thermostatic Trap

1. If trap is cold, then:


a. Is steam shut off? Yes, then turn on steam to check trap. If still cold after allowing
sufficient time for purging of initial air shut off steam.
b. Is there a plugged strainer up stream of trap? Yes, then clean strainer.
c. If no plugged strainer, open trap.
d. Is it over-pressured, orifice too large for applied differential? Yes, then replace
mechanism with one for right pressure.
e. Has thermostatic element failed shut? (Open trap at room temperature,
thermostatic valve should be open.) Yes, then replace.
f. Is float collapsed? Yes, then replace.
g. Is float mechanism free to move open and shut? No, then clean or ease binding
parts of mechanism or replace mechanism.
h. Is trap inlet or outlet plugged? Yes, then clean it.

2. If trap is hot, then listen to it.


A float and thermostatic trap modulates to the load, so it discharges constantly. There
is always flow if there is a condensate load. If the trap is passing live steam, this not
only adds to flow noise, but it also raises the pitch of the sound because of the higher
velocity.
If a valve upstream or downstream of the trap is closed for a few minutes there will be
a back-up of condensate. When the valve is reopened, the float valve should move to
wide open until the back-up condensate is clear. If the mechanism is OK, there
should now be a reduction in noise. If the mechanism is faulty, live steam will be
passed at this time, which can be detected by a higher pitch in the flow noise.

3. Is live steam discharge suspected? Yes, then shut off steam, allow trap to cool and
open trap.
a. Has thermostatic element failed open? To check, remove element from trap and
place in boiling water. It should close. Mounting the discharge connection of the
element on the end of a tube permits blowing into the tube to see if the valve is
shut.
b. Is foreign material in trap preventing free operation of mechanism? Yes, then
clean it.
c. Is mechanism binding open or is valve not seating squarely on orifice? Yes, then
ease binding parts, align mechanism, or replace mechanism.

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III. Disc Trap

1. If trap is cold, then:


a. Is steam shut off? Yes, then turn on steam to check trap. If still cold after allowing
sufficient time for purging of initial air, shut off steam.
b. Is there a plugged strainer up stream of trap? Yes, then clean strainer.
c. If no plugged strainer, open trap.
d. Is disc free to be lifted from seats? No, then clean it so it is free.
e. Is it plugged with dirt at inlet or outlet? Yes, then clean it.

2. If trap is hot, then listen to it:


a. Is it discharging intermittently, about six (6) time/min.? Yes, then it is OK.
b. Is it discharging intermittently, about twelve (12) times/minute or discharging
steadily? Yes, then it is worn and wasting excessive steam and should be
replaced OR it is too small and should be replaced by larger trap. (New trap of
proper size will discharge intermittently about six (6) times/ minute.) Or there is
excessive back pressure.

3. If a disc trap is connected into a return line, don’t check visually by discharging it to
atmosphere through a test valve. This removes the back pressure, which can cause
problems if it exceeds 50% of the inlet pressure. The temperature of the return line
indicates its back pressure.

IV. Thermostatic Trap

1. If trap is cold, then:


a. Is steam shut off? Yes, then turn on steam to check trap. (Allow sufficient time for
purging of initial air.) If still cold, shut off steam.
b. Is there a plugged strainer up stream of trap? Yes, then clean the strainer.
c. If no plugged strainer, open trap.
d. Has thermostatic element failed shut (Valve should be open at room
temperature)? Yes, then replace it.
e. Is it plugged at inlet or outlet? Yes, then clean it.

2. If trap is hot, then listen to it.


a. Is it discharging intermittently? Yes, then it is OK.
b. Is it discharging constantly? Yes, then spray with water.
(i) If it discharges more heavily briefly and shuts off, it is OK.
(ii) If there is no change in sound — close a valve upstream or downstream or a
few minutes. A short time after reopening, is there a sudden rise in pitch of
the flow noise?
If Yes, then trap has failed open. Shut off steam and allow to cool. Open it
and clean it if dirt is preventing proper functioning. If no dirt, remove element
from trap and place in boiling water. It should close. Mounting the discharge
connection of the element on the end of a tube permits blowing into the tube to
see if the valve is shut.
If No, then trap is too small. Replace with larger trap or add another of same
size in parallel.

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Document Responsibility: CSD/ESD/Energy Systems Unit SABP-A-007
Issue Date: 11 April 2006
Next Planned Update: 11 April 2009 Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

3. If trap is capsule construction, non-repairable, remove it from the line in case of


malfunction, and apply compressed air or a water stream to its outlet and then its inlet.
If this does not correct the problem replace the trap. (Element must not experience
more than 40 psi pressure when cold.)

V. Sub-Cooling Trap

1. If trap is cold, then:


a. Is steam shut off? Yes, then turn on steam to check trap. If still cold after allowing
sufficient time for purging of initial air, shut off steam.
b. Is there a plugged strainer up stream of trap? Yes, then clean strainer.
c. If no plugged strainer, open trap.
d. Is valve on seat at room temperature? Yes, then replace element.
e. Is it plugged with dirt at inlet or outlet? Yes, then clean it.

2. If trap is hot, then observe trap discharge to atmosphere (This is the best way to check
this trap). Is there live steam? If Yes, then replace trap; if No, trap is OK.

Traps on Superheated Steam


Do not use thermostatic or float and thermostatic traps, which employ balanced pressure
bellows, where superheated steam will contact the element. Inverted bucket traps can be
used successfully on superheated steam. When functioning properly they will be at the
saturation temperature of the pressure involved. If one fails open it will be at the superheat
temperature. An inverted bucket trap on superheated steam is one of the few combinations
that can be checked successfully by temperature alone.

Testing Schedule
For maximum trap life and steam economy, a regular schedule should be set up for trap
testing and preventative maintenance. Trap size, operating pressure and importance
determine how frequently traps should be checked.

Page 44 of 45
Document Responsibility: CSD/ESD/Energy Systems Unit SABP-A-007
Issue Date: 11 April 2006
Next Planned Update: 11 April 2009 Steam Trap Management for Energy Efficiency

APPENDIX D
Internet Resource Directory

Listed below are several useful web-sites from which much of the material in this BP manual
was drawn:

Steam Trap manufacturers

www.spiraxsarco.com

www.armstrong-intl.com or www.armintl.com

www.yarway.com

www.tlv.com

www.gestra.com

www.sterlco.com

www.nicholsonsteamtrap.com

www.trapbase.com

www.trapo.com

Others

www.oit.doe.gov/bestpractices/steam

www.eere.energy.gov

www.etsu.com

www.steamonline.com

www.plantsupport.com

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