As the leaves change color it is time to start thinking about getting ready for the cold weather. In the industrial world, that means preparing the plant’s heating systems, namely the steam tracing and heating systems.
Part of the preparation has to include starting the systems up, and starting them up safely. It is important to remember that a large number of incidents in the steam world occur when the systems are started up, especially when the start-up procedures are not thought out, followed, or current. It is critical to have a start-up procedure that brings the system up to operating conditions safely. At a minimum the procedure should outline the steps to complete the start-up, how the start-up crew is going to communicate, the number of people required, as well as the safety equipment and personnel protective equipment required.
Once the system is up and running it is important to walk the system to make sure there are no obvious issues – leaks, water hammer, etc. See Best Practices 24 & 11.
The colder weather will put a heavier load on the steam system and all its components. It is crucial at this time of the year that the steam be at its highest quality level and the boiler be running as efficiently as possible to minimize any steam quality issues and maximize system reliability. See Best Practices 4 & 6.
The tracing lines are the components that most people think of when discussing winterization, and it is imperative that they be running at maximum effectiveness to minimize down time due to freeze ups. Ensure that the system has started up correctly, and that lines are not plugged or leaking. Keep tracers to 100 foot maximums, insulate the jumpers between the supply and return headers and the process piping, and ensure that the steam trap stations are running correctly – these techniques can go a long way to reduce the number of freeze-up related issues during the winter season. See best practices 9, 16, 29 and 30.
Remember that it is much easier to make repairs and take corrective action before lines start to freeze , and that your maintenance personnel will be much happier making the repairs in warmer weather!