The Benefits of Steam Trap Inspection and Maintenance  

November 11th, 2019
webinar, mobile learning, internet education

UE Systems regularly presents in-depth industry information and updates to help clients save money through premature failure detection, elimination of downtime, increased productivity, and overall lower replacement costs. One educational webinar covered outcomes from various intern projects using ultrasound for steam trap testing. 

In this webinar, two interns with the 2018 Iowa Pollution Prevention Intern Program, discussed using ultrasonic leak detection to conduct assessments and identify inefficiencies for steam system optimization at their host companies. Through the intern program, interns complete projects at a host company, after an initial training session. The webinar highlights two steam reduction and boiler efficiency projects students completed to provide actionable information from in-depth data collection and research efforts: 

  • Andrew Nurse was assigned to Cambrex in Charles City, IA in 2018. Cambrex is a small molecule company that provides drug substance, drug product and analytical services across the entire drug lifecycle. Andrew’s project was to study the Cambrex steam trap system, and to provide recommendations to improve efficiencies and reduce associated costs. An Ultraprobe 9000® Ultrasonic Leak Detector (ULD) and infrared thermographic camera were used to determine whether the company’s steam traps were functioning at their full capacity. Andrew found that using an Ultraprobe can take practice in learning what to listen for in the various steam traps to provide accurate results. He also noted that he needed to learn whether a trap was blocked, or had failed and closed completely. By fixing or replacing failed traps, a facility can realize significant savings in water, energy, natural gas and chemical usage. The steam system audit produced recommendations which could save the company over $20,000 annually. 
  • Badrinath Balasubramaniam worked with JBS Swift & Co. in Marshalltown, IA. JBS® USA is a leading processor of beef and pork in the United States, and a leading processor of beef in Canada. His project was to reduce steam usage and recommend a plan to improve the company’s steam system preventative maintenance program. He assessed approximately 400 steam traps in the facility using the Ultraprobe 9000® Ultrasonic Leak Detector. His challenges were that the facility is large and old. Without a proper preventative maintenance plan for the steam traps, the company could experience downtime, as well as decreased revenue through increased use of water, energy and treatment chemicals. He appreciated the various sensitivity settings of the Ultraprobe in making his assessment of the source of steam leaks that are not apparent to the eye. He designed a maintenance plan to identify sources of potential problems, and recommended a bi-monthly inspection system to reduce steam trap failure. The estimated cost savings from implementing his two projects totaled almost $90,000 annually in water and natural gas savings by focusing on specific processes and ways to reduce steam usage and emissions, while improving efficiencies. 

UE Systems also summarized a case study of a large steam project that completed implementation at the Woodward Resource Center, a 100-year-old Iowa state facility, in 2019. The mission of Woodward Resource Center (WRC) is to prepare and support individuals to live in the community of their choice. The 2017 intern project for Ethan Moran was to assess campus facilities, research opportunities and make recommendations to improve the efficiency of two 50-year old boilers and their associated steam delivery systems. Complications for the project included the age of the system, size of the facility, and state documentation requirements. Ethan used the Ultraprobe and infrared thermographic camera to conclude that trap and insulation repair would yield the highest energy saving opportunities, and assess the efficiency of the distribution system. He concluded that more than 75% of the steam produced was being lost. Estimated cost savings from trap repair and replacement, and a preventative trap maintenance program were estimated at over $1 million per year, along with the ability to add demand to the boiler. 

UE Systems, located in Elmsford NY, has produced thousands of ergonomically designed portable, and accurate airborne/structure borne ultrasonic instruments which are used primarily for leak detection, mechanical analysis and electrical inspection, Visit our website at http://www.uesystems.com, call 800-223-1325, or email info@uesystems.com for more resources on the latest in ultrasonic products and applications, or preparing steam traps for winter. 

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