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Albrecht Kaupp

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Commissioning and purchasing of boilers

The quality of a boiler is also judged by its system efficiency (). But different norms of how to calculate , make comparison difficult and confuse the issue.

Learning Objectives

Understanding different methods calculate system efficiencies


Knowing the difference between the lower and higher heating value of a fuel Appreciation for the difference between the indirect and direct method of measuring the system efficiency Establishing a list of losses Understanding the basic mathematics behind efficiency calculations Converting between norm efficiencies

Commissioning and purchasing of boilers

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1. Definition of system efficiency

A boiler is an equipment that is sold with a guaranteed system efficiency. Some people call it design efficiency to distinguish it from the operational efficiency. For instance saying a boiler has a guaranteed efficiency of 83 % means 17 % of the energy input in the boiler (mostly fuel energy) is lost and was not used to generate steam. The trouble with this practice is that there are several norms how to determine and calculate efficiencies. Based on the norm efficiency the same boiler may have at least two design efficiencies. Any consultant involved in boiler testing should therefore have at least some understanding how thermal efficiencies based on measured data, are calculated. This lecture will give an overview. The most basic equation everybody agrees is
Efficiency = = E out E in


Adsorbed heat = Eout = The energy the feedwater has picked up Energy Input = Ein = The energy going into the boiler.

There is no disagreement of what adsorbed heat means. It is the energy needed to convert feedwater entering the boiler at a specific pressure and temperature to steam leaving the boiler at a specific pressure and temperature. This includes the energy picked up by the blow down and not converted into steam. Disagreement among national norms exist of what is considered an energy input. Unfortunately any fuel has two widely published energy contents: The Higher Heating Value (HHV), also called Gross Calorific Value (GCV) The Lower Heating Value (LHV), also called the Net Calorific Value (NCV)

The functional relation between HHV and LHV is

LHV = HHV mH 2 O 2.4425

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where mH 2 O is the mass of water (in kg) generated by one kg of fuel during the combustion process. mH 2 O = with H= weight percent of Hydrogen in the fuel xH2O = weight percent of physically bound water in the fuel It is assumed that all water is evaporated at 25 C (the temperature of the system boundary). As will be explained in lecture 4, a fuel contains physically and chemically bound water. The physically bound water can be driven off by drying the fuel, while the chemically bound water is formed through the reaction of Oxygen with the atomic Hydrogen of the fuel. Contrary to common believe and the notation in the American norm, there is no molecular Hydrogen(H2) or Oxygen(O2). The LHV is always smaller than the HHV. Table 1 gives an overview of how much LHV and HHV differ.
Table 1: HHV and LHV in MJ/kg
Fuel type HHV MJ/kg LHV MJ/kg % change


9 H + xH 2 O 100

Light fuel oil Coal A Wood, very dry (10% H2O) Wood, freshly cut (70% H2O) LPG (90% Propane) Carbon Bagasse (50% H2O)

44.003 21.693 17.739 5.913 50.250 34.095 9.855

41.255 20.236 16.308 3.808 46.256 34.095 7.974

6.24 6.72 8.07 35.61 7.95 0 19.08

A detailed assessment of fuel properties including their energy content is given in lecture 4. Be aware that the adsorbed heat is a measured value and does not depend on the fuel energy input (LHV or HHV). How much heat can be adsorbed by the feedwater is a matter of boiler design and operation.

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Assume 1 ton of light fuel is fired in a boiler and the adsorbed heat has been measured as 36,500 MJ. Using either the HHV or LHV as energy input we have HHV = 36,500/44,003 = 82.95 % (1) LHV = 36,500/41,255 = 88.47 % (2)

Consequently this boiler if tested by the German norm will be advertised with a design efficiency of about = 88%. because this norm uses the LHV for calculation, while the same boiler sold by an American company would have an = 83% because the American norm uses the HHV as a basis for the energy input. Due to the very large difference internationally known boiler manufacturers report both efficiencies in sales brochures. Another method to avoid any misunderstanding is to report the rated capacity in MW and the associated fuel consumption based on a given HHV or LHV of the fuel.
Note 1:

Calculating the thermal efficiency directly as suggested in equation (1) and (2) would require to simultaneously measure the fuel flow, the steam flow, and the feedwater flow. The procedure does not only involve to measure flows (kg/h or m3/h) but also to record the fuel temperature and pressure of the steam and feedwater. In particular with solid fuel fired boilers it is impossible to measure the fuel flow correctly. The direct method is therefore very seldom used to determine the efficiency of a boiler in the field. It is used as a confirmation of the measured losses if fuel, feedwater and steam meters are installed.

Note 2:

Most performance testing and commissioning of smaller and medium sized boilers is done by the indirect method measuring the losses and calculating the efficiency as
HHV = 1

E in


This is the preferred choice, because the method is based on the measurement of losses, and shows opportunities to reduce them. The HHV of the fuel is used as the relevant energy input.

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Note 3:


In case of a performance contract, verification of fuel cost reduction should be done by the direct method. This implies that performance contracting of solid fuel fired boilers is complicated due to difficulties in measuring fuel flow. The correct derivation of the efficiency equation for the indirect method is
Efficiency = = E in Losses E out Losses = = 1 E in E in E in

Note 4:

In the case of hot water boilers, that may have stack gas temperatures below 90 oC, we observe system efficiencies of larger 100 % if the LHV is used as energy input in the direct method calculation. It is therefore recommended to avoid the LHV as energy input, because it would violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics which says the energy output of a system(boiler) cannot be larger than the energy input. In other words it is not possible to create energy in a boiler

2. The Losses
Using the direct method one does not have to list losses, because they dont enter the calculation. With the indirect method an agreement off what we consider a loss must be reached. The most logical way to do this is to draw a system boundary around the boiler and declare all energy flows (except steam) that leave the boundary a loss. A sample list of losses is 1. The chemical energy of unburned carbon monoxide (CO) in the stack gas 2. The sensible and latent heat of the dry stack gas and the water in the stack gas 3. The radiation and convection losses from the boiler surface 4. The blow down losses(Optional. Some norms dont consider it) 5. The sensible heat losses of the residue (ash) 6. The unburned carbon losses (LOI) in the residue 7. All other combustible gases and solids in the stack gas such as Higher Hydrocarbons (Cn Hm), H2, and solid carbon (C)

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Only losses 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 are measurable without too much effort and complications. One mainly tries to reduce losses 2 and 6. Loss 6 is important in solid fuel fired boilers. There are a few other losses, such as steam used for oil preheating and atomization in larger installations fired with Bunker C oil.

4. The % fuel savings concept.

All our efforts to reduce energy consumption should be expressed in terms % fuel saved. In case the efficiency of a boiler is determent and measures are recommended to increase efficiency from an as is situation old to an new improved efficiency new the percent savings if fuel consumption are given as
% fuel savings =

new old 100 new

In the literature you may find all permutations of this equation such as

new old 100 new new old S3 = 100 old

S1 =

old new 100 old new S 4 = old 100 new

S2 =

A definitely wrong but often used approximation is S = new - old Note that S1 = - S4 and S2 = -S3 Let us assume that the as is situation is given as

old =

E out E in

Reducing losses means for the same level of energy output Eout less energy input Ein is needed. Consequently

new =

E out E in E in

where Ein is the amount of energy saved. A positive number. Applying equation S1 will lead to

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E in 100 E in Consequently S1 is the only correct equation. A positive number means fuel savings while a negative number means additional fuel consumption. In lecture 13 it will be explained that the above equation cannot be used to calculate fuel savings from reduction of blow down or condensate return, since both are not considered losses. S1 =

5. The loss concept and energy savings

Many times the loss is expressed in % fuel energy lost. Unfortunately this expression has an ambiguous meaning. Consider the case where CO losses are referenced as 0.5% of the fuel energy. For most people it means that if the HHV of a fuel is 42 MJ/kg then 42 0.005 = 0.21 MJ of energy are lost through incomplete combustion per kg of fuel fired. Another logical but nevertheless not always correct conclusion would be that 0.005 1kg = 5 gram of fuel are needed to compensate for this loss. Assume


Isolate the CO loss from the sum of all losses Consequently = 1

LCO + Losses HHV f

Assume the CO loss is given as percentage fraction, xCO of fuel energy Consequently = 1 Or

+ Losses


= 1 x CO


It has been shown that the percent of fuel savings in improving the efficiency from old to a larger new is given as

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new old 100 new


% fuel savings =

Using this equation with old referring to a CO loss of xCO and new referring to no CO loss will result in fuel savings of
x CO 100 new

% fuelsavings =

It is therefore important to recognize the difference between the phrases The loss is equivalent to x % of the fuel energy, or The loss is equivalent to x % of the fuel

In the literature the phrase The loss is equivalent to x % of the fuel energy is overwhelmingly used, and therefore this percentage figure must be divided by the boiler efficiency to derive the all important percent of fuel savings

5. The PPM concentration concept

Some gas species are measured in ppm or mg in stack gas. Examples are concentrations of CO, NOx or soot in the stack. The term ppm refers to parts per million in volume units. One volume percent equals 10,000 ppm. Soot or solid particle concentration of stack gas is measured in mg per volume unit of stack gas. In order to compare these numbers it must be clearly stated to what excess air or % oxygen level of the stack gas these numbers refer to. An example is given. As a convention concentrations of these species are referenced to 3% oxygen in the dry stack gas. Refer to lecture 9 for details. Example: A manufacturer claims the solid particle load is 200 mg @ 3% oxygen while another one claims 300 mg @ 10 % oxygen. To express the given concentration of 200 mg @ 3% O2 in terms of ??? mg @ 10 % O2 use the following equation:

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21 x1 21 x 2


Cnew =

where x1 = the smaller % O2 x2 = the larger % O2 In the above case Cnew = 200
21 3 = 327 mg 21 10

Consequently the boiler referenced at 200 mg @ 3% O2 is more polluting than the boiler referenced at 300 mg @ 10% O2. In particular in the environmental impact assessment of a boiler it is important to reference measurements of environmental pollutants correctly to a base level expressed as ??? mg @ % O2 or ??? ppm @ % O2 in the stack gas.

6. Summary
Operational efficiency testing or commissioning of boilers requires that you clearly state the following: The method used to determine the efficiency (direct or indirect) The norm and technical guidelines applied to calculate the operational efficiency (national norms or your own) A description of the system boundary and its reference temperature (usually 25 oC)

The type of measuring equipment used.

Note that the objective is to identify opportunities to reduce energy losses and express the potential in terms of Percent of Fuel saved. It is therefore not so important what norm or technical guidelines one uses to calculate an operational or design efficiency as long as the relative improvement in efficiency is correctly assessed.

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Exercises are tailored to give the reader a feeling about the relative importance of various losses and to develop skills in rules of thumb assessments.

Task 1
Carbon Monoxide (CO) in the stack gas is a sign of incomplete combustion, because complete combustion of Carbon would yield Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Assume 1000 ppm of CO were measured in the stack gas. Calculate the loss in % of fuel input for a boiler fired with light fuel oil.
Hint: Select scenario # 1 and follow the steps in the table. Note that % volume is equal to % kgmol and 10,000 ppm = 1 % volume. The HHV of CO equals 283.181 MJ/kgmol (= 10.11 MJ/kg).

Step The HHV of the fuel (MJ/kg) The kmol of dry stack gas per kg of fuel The kgmol of CO per kg of fuel The energy lost in MJ/kg fuel Percentage loss of fuel energy


Is this loss significant? How could it be avoided? What range of CO levels are considered normal for Liquid fuel combustion systems Coal fired combustion systems A car Environmental reasons Dangerous to boiler operators _________ ppm CO _________ ppm CO _________ ppm CO _________ ppm CO _________ ppm CO

Task 2
In published guidelines about energy conservation in combustion systems one may find rule of thumb assessment such as:

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Every 20 oC decrease in stack gas temperature will reduce fuel consumption by 1 %. Such rules are very helpful to give engineers an idea about the fuel saving potential and when talking to clients. Verify to what extend this rule of thumb is roughly correct. To test the rule a light fuel oil is combusted at 3 % and 10 % Oxygen in the stack gas.
Hint: Select scenario # 2 and follow the steps.


Step The system efficiency is (%) Lower the stack gas from 250C to 230 oC New system efficiency is (%) Fuel savings are (%)

Result 1(3 %O2)

Result 2(10% O2)

Fuel savings are calculated as

%Savings= 100

old %Savings = new new Furthermore increase the Oxygen content (dry basis) from 3% to 10%. Repeat the above steps and record results under column Results 2. Is this rule of thumb a good one for liquid fuels ?

new old new

Task 3
Establish a rule of thumb for the level of Oxygen in the stack gas. Every % point of less Oxygen in the stack gas will reduce fuel consumption by ______ %
Hint: Select scenario # 2 and follow the steps.
Step Increase oxygen content to 10 % The new efficiency is (%) Lower the Oxygen content by 1 % New system efficiency is (%) Result 1(250 C) Result 2(350 C)

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Fuel savings are (%)

Increase stack gas temperature from 250C to 350C. Repeat the steps and record results under column Results 2. Is there a rule of thumb or due results differ too widely?

Task 4
1. Results of rule of thumb were established for fuel oils in task 2 and task 3. Is it justified to use these rules of thumb in these cases, or is the difference between Result 1 and Result 2 too large? Explore to what extend such rules of thumb are very fuel specific. Repeat exercises in task 2 and task 3 for Bagasse.


Hint: Select scenario # 3.

Task 5
In coal fired boilers, losses occur through the sensible heat of the residue discharged from the boiler and the unburned Carbon left in the residue. It is common practice to sample the residue and determine the Loss of Ignition (LOI) in percent. The LOI is assumed to be the remaining combustibles (mostly carbon) in the residue. Knowing the LOI one can recalculate the amount of residue in case the ash content of the fuel is known. It is therefore not necessary to collect all residue and measure its weight. See lecture 15 for details. Explore the change in system efficiency for a high ash coal, with LOI of 5 %, 10 %, and 30 %.
Hint: Load scenario # 4 and follow the steps.
Step System efficiency (%) at 0 % LOI, 8% O2 Change LOI from 0 % to 5, 10, and 30 % New System efficiency Increase in fuel consumption (%) Results



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Furthermore explore to what extend the discharge temperature of the residue influences the result, by changing the discharge temperature from 150 oC to 250 oC.


Task 6
Condensate return at a high temperature will reduce fuel consumption because the feedwater enters the boiler drum at a higher temperature. In addition costs for feedwater treatment are reduced because a large feedwater fraction is returned steam condensate. Explore the influence of condensate return on the boiler efficiency. Does the efficiency change?
Hint: Select scenario # 1 and use the CR-Return spinner to adjust the condensate return conditions. Set blow down to 0.

Step Change condensate return to 0% New system efficiency (%) Increase CR-Return from 0 % to 80 % New system efficiency (%) Fuel savings (%)


Task 7
You are asked to judge the design efficiency of two boilers, both operate on light fuel oil. Boiler A is advertised with a design efficiency of 85 % based on the HHV of the fuel while boiler B is advertised with a design efficiency of 88 % based on the LHV of the fuel. Which boiler will generate more steam per kg of fuel input?
Hint: Select fuel light fuel oil and follow the steps.
Steps HHV of fuel MJ/kg LHV of fuel MJ/kg Boiler A Boiler B

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Adsorbed heat MJ/kg fuel

Boiler ______ will generate more steam. How much more steam will it generate:______% more steam The design efficiency of boiler A, based on the LHV would be equal to _____ %. The design efficiency of boiler B, based on the HHV would be equal to ______ %. Which design efficiency based on the LHV should be quoted for boiler B to match boiler A performance. _____%

Task 8
Recall that design efficiencies are usually calculated by the direct method equation and either based on the HHV or LHV of a fuel. Consider the case where the reported efficiencies stated in task 7 are based on the indirect method equation. Which boiler is the more efficient one?
Hint: Use the indirect method equation to calculate. losses.

Steps HHV of fuel MJ/kg LHV of fuel MJ/kg

Boiler A

Boiler B

losses , MJ Boiler _____ has the smallest losses. Compare the results with results of task 7. Are there any contradictions?

Task 9

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Comparing the direct and indirect method of measuring the operational efficiency of a combustion system it was pointed out that the direct method requires expensive and complicated measurement instrumentation. Can you think about another even more important reason why the indirect method is preferred for field testing by energy consultants.


Task 10
A European boiler manufacturer does not state the efficiency of its boiler but advertises its performance as follows Rated steam generation: 20,000 kg/h of steam based on 10 bar(g) saturated steam and feedwater temperature of 103 C. Rated capacity: 13,026 kW Fuel: Light Fuel Oil (LFO) with NCV= 11.86 kWh/kg Fuel Consumption: 1,258 kg/h at rated capacity Evaluate this data for consistency and calculate the efficiency for NCV and GCV. Assume the fuel has 12 % Hydrogen on a weight basis.