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Steam Trap Failure Issue

As I read through the "Expert Q and A - Timely Detection of Steam Trap Failure" post in the Chemical Engineering Blog, I was called to share my opinion and experience. This is because I also have similar problem in my plant regarding maintaining the steam trap functionality. (P/s: For those who don't have an idea what is steam trap and how does it work, and what is the importance of steam trap, learn about it from Maintenance Resources). In the post, a question was asked:

Q: A steam trap tested as operational during an annual survey can fail at any point after the test. These failures go undetected until there is some type of system failure or until the next time a steam trap survey is performed. What is the most effective approach to detect failure and maintain a best-in-class steam system?

Tracy Clupper from Armstrong International (Specialist in utility system solution) responded and provided an answer which from my opinion is good.

A: When evaluating methods of testing steam traps, it is important for companies to be realistic about their current needs and capabilities. A company with plans to implement an annual in-house trap-management program with no dedicated or trained personnel is wasting time and money. Hiring a third party to test traps and provide a condition and savings report can be a more effective way to manage a trap population when in-house labor is not available. This approach, however, does not solve the problem of system-related emergencies due to undetected trap failure, nor does it afford the ability to truly capitalize on energy-related savings. One failed-open, high-pressure drip trap can cost a company thousands of dollars in annual steam losses. These losses are shown on a static report as a function of a trap that has failed for an unknown period of time. There is no cost avoidance in this situation, only the potential to stop losses that have already occurred. In addition, the impact of high-pressure steam traps discharging into lower pressure parts of the condensate system can be detrimental to the overall efficiency of the entire system. A 24/7 monitoring system can more effectively detect and identify points of failure for immediate maintenance response. Both hard wired and wireless systems are available on the market. The key to implementing any continuous monitoring system successfully is to identify the costly, critical or dangerous areas of the steam system and target those areas first. Then evaluate the continuous monitoring system’s reporting capabilities; keeping in mind that immediate notification of trap failure is critical, but savings validation is also important toward proving the monitoring system’s effectiveness toward true cost avoidance.

Here I just want to add up some points to what Tracy Clupper has mentioned above (which I added inside the post comment section).

Initially, in my plant, there are nobody monitoring the steam traps. As a result, the steam consumption increase and our vacuum system became inconsistent. After realizing the situation (effect of steam trap failure), we assigned one manpower (from maintenance department) to inspect and record the steam trap temperature inlet and outlet every 2 months. We can know the steam trap is failing if the inlet and outlet temperature is different. However, this is still not enough, because the steam trap may fail in between those two months. Therefore, I asked my supervisors to check all the steam traps every time they round the plant during shift. They don't have to carry with them a temperature gun to check the temperature. They just need to feel the steam trap inlet and outlet by their bare hand (just a touch and it's not dangerous!). If the outlet is colder than usual, that means the steam trap is not working!!! Because steam is not flowing through. It is a simple practice, however, ensuring them to continuously doing the inspection on a daily basis is another challenge. I'm thinking of making a checklist, so they can follow the checklist and feel all steam traps available in the plants, and have the black and white record.

Hiring a third party is also a good option, but why need to pay them if we can enforce or ask our own people/staff to do it. Well, if the company have the luxury, than that's another story! Well, those are just my opinion about the steam trap failure issue.

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posted by Kipas Repair JB @ 10:48 AM,


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The Author


I’m Zaki. I used to be a project, process and chemical engineer. Few years ago I successfully became a Chartered Engineer (IChemE) and Professional Engineer (BEM). I'm now employed as a chemical engineering educator/researcher/consultant. Hope you like reading my blog. I welcome any feedback from you. My email: zaki.yz[alias]gmail.com. TQ!

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