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Steam: The Most Effective Way to Transfer Heat or Energy

With the COVID-19 pandemic upon us, there has been a lot of talk about essential businesses. What is it that actually deems a business essential? In short, businesses that people rely on in everyday life are essential, while nonessential businesses are generally recreational in nature.

Many consumers may not understand the necessity of steam in everyday life, however, steam plays a major role in many industries including hospitals, food processing, refineries, and pulp and paper manufacturing. Let’s dive into exactly how steam is used in some of these processes.

Hospitals
One of the most obvious groups of essential workers right now are those in a hospital, and steam is utilized extensively in all hospital settings. There are five major uses of steam in a hospital: comfort heating, humidification of air, sterilization of surgical instruments and medical waste, laundry, and food preparation.  

Food Processing
Steam used by food processors commonly falls into two distinct categories: Clean Steam or Utility Steam. Clean Steam, also known as “sanitary” or “culinary” steam, is typically used for direct injection into a product or to clean and sterilize product contact surfaces. Utility Steam, also referred to as “plant” steam, can be used in most applications that do not involve direct contact with food products or the surfaces that the food might contact. It is often utilized to supply energy for heating, cooking, or mechanical work. 

Some other examples of where steam is typically utilized in food processing is the tomato canning process, deodorizing cocoa butter, puffing up cereal, and sanitization of yogurt cups.

Electricity Generation
Most of the electricity generated in the United States is from electric power plants that use a turbine to drive electricity generators, and many of these turbines are driven by steam. Steam turbines use high-pressure steam to rotate the blades of a turbine and create mechanical or rotational energy. As the steam turbine spins, the generator spins and creates electricity.

Pulp & Paper
Steam is used heavily in the production of paper products because energy drives the papermaking process. In fact, it is estimated nationally that steam accounts for approximately 43% of the total energy demand at a paper facility.

Most paper mills have a steam turbine to generate electricity. Steam is also used to cook wood chips and cook fibers for improved sheet strength, to evaporate moisture from pulp, to heat rotating dryer drums to dry the paper stock, and to heat chemicals for other processes. The steam from a boiler is also commonly used in other locations of the mill, like heat exchangers, steam-traced piping, and stock chests. Due to its usefulness, steam is the primary input used to evaporate moisture from a sheet, allowing for desirable and profitable sheet characteristics to be created.

Petroleum Refining
Petroleum refining is an energy-intensive process, with energy accounting for approximately 50% of refining costs. Steam is used in many ways in a refinery and is necessary to keep plants running.  Some uses include:

  •   - Steam turbines for electricity generation and running pumps and compressors.
  •   - Steam tracing and jacketing to keep viscous processes fluid in pipes.
  •   - As a heating source to break up oils and distribute for the manufacturing of different products.
  •   - As a heating source for lube oil systems for large pieces of equipment.
  •   - As a heating source for reboilers.
  •   - Plant cleanup.
  •   - Stripper column injection to aid in stripping separation of different processes.
  •   - Minor leak suppression by use of steam lances.
  •   - Steam flares to aid in complete combustion of processes.

Chemical Processing
Steam also plays a large role in chemical processing and is used as both a process fluid and a utility. Common uses include process heating, power generation, atomization, cleaning and sterilization, moisturization, and humidification. Because it is so versatile, there are some major advantages to using steam in chemical processing:

  • Control. By controlling the pressure of steam, you can control the temperature at which the heat is released. Having good control over the temperature is necessary in a number of chemical processes.
  • Efficiency. Steam is an efficient heat source because it has a high output per mass of utility at a constant temperature.
  • Safety. It is non-flammable, non-toxic, and inert to several process fluids.

Although steam is often hidden from our daily lives, it is the most effective way to transfer heat or energy and offers unique features that you just cannot duplicate with other systems. The simplicity and adaptability of steam makes it a reliable medium and first choice for many processing operations.

Nationwide Boiler takes pride in supporting many essential businesses with a reliable source of steam, whether for temporary or permanent use. As our own Walter Heussmann put it, “The heartbeat of America is driven by steam. The power industry, oil and gas, chemical, hospitals, food and beverage…. We are here to keep America going.”

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The Cost of Renting a Boiler

The rental boiler industry is unique and operates nowhere near the e-commerce business model; you may find it near impossible to find and compare pricing online. With that said, how can a user understand the potential cost of renting a boiler in the preliminary stages of their project, before they are ready to start reaching out and gathering information and pricing from vendors?

To get you started on the journey, these six major costs categories should be considered when looking at renting a boiler.

Equipment. Your process, as well as the steam capacity requirement, will often dictate which type of boiler is best fit for your operation. A watertube boiler, often best for larger capacity needs, will run at a higher cost than a firetube. If additional equipment is required like a deaerating boiler feedwater system, water softener, or SCR system for reduced emissions, additional costs will be realized.

You can save on costs if you are able to connect to existing auxiliaries, however, that is not always an option. A mobile boiler room, which includes a firetube boiler installed with a feedwater system, water softener, and blowdown separator, is a convenient option for customers needing an entire steam plant. Because it is a complete, pre-piped and wired system, the cost would be higher than that of a boiler-only option.

Freight. Often coordinated and re-billed by the rental boiler supplier, this will be a separate cost billed after each time the equipment moves (from the storage facility to your site, and then back to the storage facility). Costs will vary based on number of shipments required and how far the boiler must travel. Some companies, like Nationwide Boiler, have multiple maintenance yards to help facilitate quick and lower-cost shipments.
 
Installation. This is a piece of the process that is typically coordinated by the end-user and with a third-party supplier. Installation costs can vary greatly depending on the size of a project. The cost to install a mobile boiler room for a temporary project, as close as you can get to a “plug and play” system, would likely be much lower than the cost to install a large watertube boiler. Watertube boilers are more commonly installed in industrial applications along with economizers, SCR systems, and ductwork – heavy equipment that requires forklifts and/or cranes for installation.
 
Start-up. Most often, your rental boiler vendor will supply a technician for start-up with costs billed on a time and material basis. It’s important to ensure that the equipment is completely ready for start-up with all utilities piped and available, to reduce extra time costs. You will also want to consider any time required for site-specific safety training.
 
Utilities. Obviously, the utilities are the responsibility of the end-user, however, it is an expense that should not be overlooked. You will incur costs associated with the fuel, water, and electricity required to produce steam. Rental economizers and blowdown heat recovery systems can be utilized to help reduce these costs.
 
Water Treatment. This is an extremely important part of maintaining a rental boiler, and if not done properly can lead to extreme costs for equipment repairs. The cost of contracting with a water treatment supplier will be much less than what it would be to replace or repair damaged rental boiler equipment.
 

Ultimately, reaching out to your supplier of choice and obtaining a detailed proposal will be the best way to understand all costs involved with renting a temporary steam plant. Call or email your trusted Nationwide Boiler sales representative for a detailed cost proposal at 800-227-1966 or info@nationwideboiler.com.

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Advantages of Renting a Mobile Boiler Room

Temporary steam will be necessary at some point in the lifetime of a boiler, so boiler owners should be prepared and know what rental boiler options are out there. Let’s review one of the most convenient rental boiler types available on the market today: The Mobile Boiler Room.

Mobile Boiler Rooms come in a wide range of sizes, typically ranging from 50 to 1,000 hp with design pressures of up to 290 psig. They are completely pre-piped and wired and incorporate all necessary auxiliary equipment for a functioning mobile steam plant. This typically includes a feedwater system, duplex water softener, chemical feed system, blowdown separator, and motor control center. Some units are dual-fuel fired, while others are natural gas only to achieve ultra-low NOx emissions compliance. In addition, Nationwide Boiler maintains multiple units that are pre-permitted for use in the SCAQMD to help simplify the air permitting process for our customers.

Mobile Boiler Rooms are often utilized in heavy commercial and industrial applications for added capacity or for supplemental steam. Some of the main advantages to this type of system include:

   - A Mobile Boiler Room is permanently mounted to a highway-legal trailer, so there is no time lost locating a suitable trailer
     for transportation.
   - Being permanently mounted to a trailer also avoids the need for cranes for loading and un-loading, saving both time and money.
   - Mobile Boiler Rooms are completely enclosed and fully weatherproof – no need for temporary enclosures.
   - No expensive and time-consuming foundations are necessary. Only a reasonably level surface is required.
   - All the necessary auxiliary equipment is included, pre-piped and wired. This saves valuable field time and expense.
   - Customers only connect the steam, fuel, water, and electricity drains, everything else is assembled and ready to go.

A Mobile Boiler Room is the closest you can get to a “plug-and-play” rental boiler system. They provide a packaged temporary steam plant that can be up and running in hours if an emergency need arises.  In fact, units have been installed and operational in just eight hours after arrival.

Visit our website to see all rental boilers available from Nationwide Boiler and give us a call today to assist with your next planned or unplanned temporary steam project.

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Innovation in the Rental Boiler Industry

Nationwide Boiler has been on the forefront of innovation in our industry since 1967. Our founder, Dick Bliss, pioneered the mounting of a 20,000 lb/hr package watertube boiler onto a highway-legal trailer signaling the start of an entirely new business on the West Coast.

The rising of truly mobile rental boilers provided time and cost savings for those in need of temporary steam, as well as a reliable, purpose-built option for rent. Prior to this development, temporary steam supply was sourced from steam locomotives or “jury-rigging” obsolete boilers that had been scrapped. None of these early systems were efficient or easy to get to a job site.

Throughout the years we have continually upgraded and enhanced our offerings and have been a leading innovator in our industry. We were the first rental boiler company to convert our entire fleet to low NOx levels of 30 ppm back in 1995, and in 1999 we demonstrated the first SCR system for ultra-low NOx performance on a package boiler. Just two years later, we began offering our CataStak™ SCR system which has now been installed in over 200 applications.

Today, our product offerings include many one-of-a-kind systems, including the world’s largest mobile saturated and superheated steam boilers. Take a look at the list below for a complete overview of the products unique to our company.

40-75,000 lb/hr Trailer-Mounted, High-Pressure Saturated Steam Boilers
110,000 lb/hr Trailer-Mounted Superheated Steam Boiler (World’s Largest)
125,000 lb/hr Trailer-Mounted Saturated Steam Boiler (World’s Largest)
225,000 lb/hr Skid-Mounted, High-Pressure Rental Deaerators
Complete Mobile Feedwater Vans
Urea- and Ammonia-Based CataStak™ SCR Rental Units
DataStak™ Emissions & Efficiency Monitoring System

Nationwide Boiler is a well-established company that provides reliable, purpose-built rental boiler equipment and a great deal more. As a manufacturer’s representative, we supply new and reconditioned fuel-fired boilers, electric boilers, boiler burners and economizers for sale, and we have boiler systems in-stock and available for immediate requirements. In addition, our proven CataStak™ SCR system is available for ultra-low NOx solutions, and we build custom, PLC-based control systems and fuel skids at our UL-certified fabrication facility in Washougal, WA.

Give us a call today to learn how we can support your next boiler related need with, “Integrity, Dependability, and Real Customer Service”. 1-800-227-1966

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