You are on page 1of 5

Page 1 of 5

Water Tube Boilers


Whether it is -10°F or 95°F outside, heating of air The boilers at MSU produce saturated steam, but
or water is always required somewhere on the many boilers are made to produce superheated
MSU campus. Campus building heating and steam (implying the temperature is above the
water heating is all done using steam. The boiling point).
facilities plant located at
the northwest corner of Picture of a Superheating Drum Type Boiler [1]
campus houses four boilers
that provide all of the If you think the paperwork you have to fill out as
heating required on a student is cumbersome, consider this. The
campus. The first two permit acquired by Minnesota State will allow for
boilers were installed in steam production up to a total of 100 MBTUH. A
1959, with the third in MBTUH is an abbreviation for one million
1968, and the original BTUs/hr. If the fourth boiler is to run at full
fourth boiler in 1972. In capacity the campus would exceed its permit
2004 the fourth boiler was limit. However, running the boiler at only 80,000
replaced with the one in lb/hr satisfies the campus demand and the permit
operation today. Watch the video below to see requirements. Therefore, the fourth boiler was re-
what the boiler room looks like from the inside. rated. De-rating the boiler by physically changing
the spud burners (a device used to bring in fuel to
Water Tube Boiler Walkthrough Video the furnace) was an easier solution than applying
for a new permit from the state!
Each of the four boilers is a "D" type water tube
boiler. Each water tube boiler includes two drums Operation
connected by steam
generating tubes, The basic purpose of a boiler is to turn water into
producing steam at steam, in this case saturated steam. This operation
150 psig. A boiler is sounds relatively
rated by how many simple but is
pounds of steam it actually more
produces per hour. complicated. Other
The first two boilers components and
are rated for 35,000 processes such as the
lb/hr, the third is rated for 75,000 lb/hr, and the deaerator and
fourth boiler was originally rated for up to 90,000 economizer are
lb/hr. An elevated view of the boiler room is necessary to help the
shown in the picture at above. overall operation run more efficiently. The boilers
utilized on campus are of the stack drum type,
Page 2 of 5

Water Tube Boilers


which means there are drums within the boilers due to its decreasing density. Boiling to 100%
stacked one above the other. In these particular quality in the tubes is undesirable because water
boilers there are two drums. The upper drum is vapor has different heat transfer characteristics
called a steam drum (shown in the picture above) than liquid water. This can lead to high wall
and is where saturated steam leaves the boiler. temperatures and eventual tube burnout. Once it
While the lower drum is called the mud drum and reaches the steam drum the majority of saturated
is where liquid feed water enters. It is also where vapor will be
sediment carried into the boiler settles. Tubes removed from the
called risers and downcomers are used to connect two-phase mixture;
the two drums. thereby increasing
the remaining
All of the energy required within the boiler is mixtures density.
produced by the combustion of a fuel. The burner The increase in
acts very similar to the gas stove at home, just density will initiate
more complicated. It is comprised of a windbox, its descent in the downcomers back to the mud
air register assembly, drum. This natural circulation occurs
igniter, fuel manifold continuously allowing for a constant flow of
and/or atomizing gun, saturated steam exiting the boiler.(In the picture
observation port above, a size perspective of the boiler is shown)
(shown in the picture)
and flame safety Deaerator
scanner. Currently the
boilers can burn Another component used in the production of
either No. 2 fuel oil or natural gas. As drivers steam is the deaerator.
with Flexfuel cars are finding out, the option of Dissolved gases such as
changing fuels is a large benefit. Fluctuating oxygen and carbon
prices of fuel can raise or lower the cost to dioxide are initially
produce steam. Having the choice between two present in the feed water.
different fuels gives the option of burning the If these gases are not
lower cost fuel. removed, they can line the
surfaces within the boiler
Operation of the boiler begins with feed water and cause accelerated
entering the mud drum where it is heated. The corrosion. Because these
combustion of fuel within the furnace provides gases cannot be condensed
the required energy which is imparted by a out, a different procedure
combination of convection and radiation. A two- must be used. There are several different types of
phase water mixture forms within the riser and deaerators used today. The
begins to ascend to the steam drum
Page 3 of 5

Water Tube Boilers


one employed at Minnesota State is a tray-type improve overall efficiency in the boiler(shown in
(shown in the picture). The tray-type consists of a picture). Flue gas
series of internal cascading trays in which feed exiting the
water is directed. Steam bled off from the steam combustion
drum is run through a regulator to 10 psig and is chamber is still
allowed to rise over the trays. When it comes in very hot and can
contact with the feed water a "scrubbing" action be used as a pre-
occurs which causes the non-condensable gases to heater for the feed
be driven out of the water and released. Non- water. The
condensable gases then vent to the atmosphere. economizer used
The most important purpose of the deaerator is for these boilers is a horizontal counter current
the removal of dissolved gases. It also functions shell and tube heat exchanger. Feedwater enters
as a feed water heater, feed water storage, and for finned tubes while hot flue gases pass over the
feed water surge prevention. Feed water surge is outside. This allows for the recovery of energy
when there is a large and sudden increase in feed which would otherwise be wasted.
water flow to the boiler.
Sootblower
Blowdown
When combustion occurs, the flue gas contains
Blowdown is a common procedure for a boiler to numerous compounds. Some of these compounds
control the contaminants in the boiling water. will collect on surfaces within the furnace and
Two types of blowdown exist, manual and start to buildup (the inside of the furnace is shown
continuous. For a continuous blow down, a in the picture). Soon the buildup will start to
calibrated valve continuously takes water from affect the overall
the top of the boiling surface in the steam drum. performance of the
In this case, many of the contaminants consist of boiler by obstructing
oils floating on top of the water. Once a shift, the the heat transfer. To
collected blowdown water is cooled in a tank and cure this problem,
returned to the city’s waste water. To replace the two sootblowers are
water removed from the system, conditioned city installed inside the
water is added to the holding tank where the furnace. One is a
condensate is collected after returning from rotating sootblower,
campus. while the other is a non-rotating sootblower. Both
the rotating and non-rotating sootblower will
Economizer extract steam from the steam drum and spray the
internal components of the boiler. The rotating
An economizer is employed to utilize the waste blower is positioned on a
heat generated from the combustion process to
Page 4 of 5

Water Tube Boilers


power screw which cleans the steam generating were emitted. If they exceed their allotted
tubes and the non-rotating blower is in a fixed amount, additional
position to clean the duct blower and induced fines are added on.
draft fan. Imagine if you were
charged for the
Emissions exhaust emissions of
your personal car?
Special attention must be made to the flue gas When the boilers
temperature within the exhaust stack. Sulfur were still running on
dioxide and trioxide are formed during No. 6 fuel oil, the emissions had to be very
the combustion process. If the flue gas closely monitored. The high sulfur content in this
temperature lowers below the dew point of the fuel resulted in the facility almost exceeding their
exhaust, sulfuric acid will condense on the stack sulfur discharge limit on a regular basis.
walls causing corrosion. The exhaust stack is
shown in the picture below. A procedure used to Safety and Inspection
reduce nitrogen oxide
(NOX) emissions is One of the biggest maintenance and inspection
called flue gas issues for the facilities plant concerns the boilers.
recirculation (FGR)
where exhaust from Boiler explosions were quite frequent and
the combustion is re- extremely dangerous in the late 1800's and early
circulated into the 1900's. Hundreds of people were killed due to
combustion chamber boiler failures. In large part this led to the creation
again. FGR reduces the NOX emissions, and adoption of industry standards such as the
decreases the peak combustion temperature, and ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (a
lowers the percentage of oxygen in the picture of the hole the
combustion air/flue gas mixture, thereby slowing inspector would need
down the formation of NOX caused by high to crawl into for
flame temperatures. inspection). The
majority of the
The amount of emissions produced by the boilers boilers in the late
is closely monitored by the utility plant staff and 1800's and early
the state government (emission towers are shown 1900's were a fire
in the next column). Minnesota State University tube type. This
is allotted a certain quantity of emissions to expel design is very similar to the water tube type
each year. At the end of the year, MSU must pay except that the hot combustion gases used to heat
per ton of emissions the water were
Page 5 of 5

Water Tube Boilers


passed through tubes within the boiler surrounded For Extra Information:
by water. The problem which arose was that the
boiler could not be safely pressurized and The Mechanical Engineering magazine published
explosions resulted when the pressure vessel by ASME has several interesting articles
failed. This design issue helped usher in the describing the history and development of the
current water tube boiler. With the water inside ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code. "The
the small diameter tubes, the water can reach Origins of ASME's Boiler and Pressure Vessel
extremely high pressures with a greater degree of Code" (Feb. 2000) [2] and "The True Harnessing
safety. Below is a picture of the hole a boiler of Steam" (Jan. 2005) [3] tell some interesting
inspector must crawl up to check. It seems pretty stories such as the explosion of the steamship
small! The boilers at Minnesota State are Sultana in 1865.
inspected once a year by a State Boiler Inspector.
As part of this inspection individuals with
contortionist-like abilities will actually crawl into
the boiler. Click on the picture to hear Jeff
Rendler, the State Boiler Inspector, talk about
what happens with inadequate sized boiler tubes.

Jeff Rendler, State Boiler Inspector talks about what happens with
inadequate sized tubes.