Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
1 | How steam is made?
In the steam production process, (liquid) heat is added to water until it reaches the boiling point. Adding more (latent) heat will evaporate water into steam. This process happens in a bi-phase coexistent area with constant pressure and temperature until all liquid is converted into saturated steam. This saturated steam is ready to be used in heat exchanging processes. Adding more heat will superheat the steam which can be interesting for dry steam transport.
2 | Where does condensate come from?
As you can add latent heat to transform water into steam, so you can extract this latent heat which will transform steam into water (condensate) again. This effect happens from heat transfer in process heaters, or from radiation losses from steam distribution pipes, or any other application that extracts latent heat from saturated steam.
3 | Why drain condensate from steam applications?
As steam is giving up latent heat, it will gradually condense into condensate again. The occurring vacuum will immediately aspirate fresh steam, which keeps you in the bi-phase coexistent area to preserve a heat transfer at constant pressure and temperature. It is important not to flood the condensate because liquid has a slow heat transfer. That is why we drain all the hot condensate as it forms, but not want to lose steam. This is where steam traps come into the picture.
4 | What is the difference between mechanical and venturi steam traps?
Mechanical steam traps and venturi steam traps do the same job: they remove condensate from steam installations. The difference is found in the working principle. Mechanical traps are a kind of valve operated by an open-close mechanism while Steamloc are ever open and base on a constant venturi flow.
There are always pros and cons for any system, but it is our belief the lack of mechanical parts initiates a sequence of advantages.
5 | Why this sudden focus on venturi, while we already have steam traps?
Until venturi technology appeared, nobody cared much about the operational steam consumption of traps. Traps are expected to be open for condensate and closed for steam. Possible failures were seen as normal. The energy loss justifies budgets to find and fix them. And the repeat failures are just a logical consequence which are inherently linked to the mechanicals. Widely accepted, even today.
The ever-open venturi principle finally triggered it.
It questioned the consumption of traps at daily operations and put attention to the financial and climate impact of steam waste from trap failures. It also proved it is possible to do exactly the same job as steam traps, but without the mechanical parts to fail. The benefits are obvious. The options are endless.
6 | I work with traps for ages. Why change now?
It's great that your condensate is well-removed by mechanical traps. Unfortunately, we all know they regularly fail and can pass lots of steam. We fully understand a like-for-like change is easy, it fits, it’s by the book, and it's backed up by history.
But do we really want this repeated maintenance and all the spare part stuff? Or the frequent energy losses? And do we want to burn extra fuel and create extra greenhouse gasses to make fresh steam to compensate these losses? People who want their condensate removal really going forward are turning to Steamloc.
7 | What is the main drive to apply this technology?
Savings. In quadruplicate.
Less maintenance. Less energy losses. Less burning compensating fuels. Less environmental impact.
But also stability, reliability, efficiency, circular economy, meet your ISO-50001 goals, ...
8 | What kind of industries can benefit from Steamloc?
For about 4 decades Steamloc is successfully applied in all production processes where steam is involved: Refineries, Chemical Plants, Textile, Pharmaceutical, Waste treatment, Rendering, Power Plants, Pulp and Paper, Corrugated Carton, Laundry, Food like Breweries, Starch/Sweeteners, Seed oil, Beverage, French Fries, Conserves, Dairy, ... too many to list.
9 | Can Steamloc be applied for all kinds of applications?
Yes, in fact, all steam applications benefit from Steamloc.
We safeguard the heart of production processes like Reboilers, Autoclaves, Air heaters, Serpentines, Dryers, Heaters, Batch reactors, … And we also serve large numbers of drips and tracings to avoid energy losses and maintenance costs.
10 | What material Steamloc is made of?
Standard Steamloc are all made from Austenitic Stainless Steel. Housing as well as internals.
In case your project prescriptions require specificities, we apply higher grades, special alloys, chemical resistant, … We will meet your extreme pressures, temperatures and environmental conditions.
All of our Steamloc help you to reach a circular economy.
And after a lifetime job, since Steamloc is only 1 material, it can easily be recycled.
11 | Is Steamloc limited in capacity and pressure?
There are no limitations for steam inlet pressures, condensate outlet pressures nor capacities. We can always provide a suitable Steamloc for every application, even if you drain into vacuum. Of course for both mechanical traps and Steamloc, a positive pressure drop is required to remove condensate - but we might have a few nice tricks to serve some specific cases.
12 | Which data is required for a correct Steamloc sizing?
Three data relate to the Steamloc design: Inlet pressure, condensate return pressure and condensate load. In addition, the physical dimensions (size, rating, schedule and built in length) would be of help. Request a template datasheet for your application by mail.
13 | What if my process can have very high and very low loads?
Each Steamloc will be calculated to cover all possible conditions over the whole process range. The wide operational range ensures that even when designed for your maximum conditions, the steam slip at minimum flows will be limited and very acceptable. The eventual presence of a control valve will facilitate a matching response of Steamloc.
Not sure how we do this? Please ask detail.
14 | Can Steamloc handle pressure and load variations?
Yes, Steamloc can.
Most variations are initiated by the process itself, depending on required production capacity and conditions. Bigger processes usually have control valves at the steam inlet. Higher steam flows to meet the requested higher temperature result in higher pressure in the equipment. Since Steamloc capacity is pressure dependent, it can follow these variations very well. In fact, Steamloc operates perfectly in conjunction with the control valve.
For process applications that work with other types of controls and variations in steam/condensate flow, like batch processes, the wide condensate range of the Steamloc with constant pressure will allow to operate also at these conditions. For more details, please do contact us.
15 | Will Steamloc suffer erosion in time?
Erosion in steam installations requires two conditions: High velocity and a two-phase flow with primarily steam and few small particles of condensate.
This is best demonstrated with a steam leak. In little time the leak becomes bigger and bigger due to the high velocity of steam flow, incorporating a small spray of condensate that blasts the opening wider.
Steamloc venturi-nozzles will not operate under such conditions because they are calibrated for the given condensate loads with a very small amount of steam present. The condensate keeps the velocity relatively low, while the water itself does not cause erosion as a function of time.
16 | Will Steamloc easily block from dirt?
Dirt in the steam system is usually captured by an incorporated or external upstream standard strainer. For traps as well as for Steamloc. So both suffer a similar risk of plugging and require a similar cleaning frequency. If gunk or dirt particles can pass the first loaded filter, they can obstruct the operating of mechanical mechanisms as well as our venturi. The venturi can easily be cleaned by pricking or sniffing out with compressed air.
To extra protect, our utility traps have a double incorporated filter protection in the upstream zone and special shaped venturi sets to reduce the risk of plugging. To exclude such happenings, it certainly deserves a closer look how or why such dirt ended up in a clean steam installation. For sure, we advise for mud legs with a flush valve prior to all type of traps.
17 | Do all condensate removal devices consume live steam?
Yes, all condensate removal devices are subject to energy losses. They can originate from radiation from the surface, or as a result of the various working principles. Steamloc does not do worse than steam traps, probably better. And our energy consumption remains constant and negligible over years of operation.
18 | Can Steamloc work under negative pressure condition?
No it cannot. Just like mechanical traps cannot.
If always negative, you need a pump and likely a check valve to prevent backflow of condensate. For specific cases, a Steamloc-pump combination is recommended. Too much to detail here. Please ask.
If the negative dP is only temporarily and Steamloc remains the preference, there are some options like a cycled vacuum play or partly flooded heater surface. Let us know details, so we can check options for your case.
19 | Can Steamloc replace level controlled vessels and valves?
Before Steamloc existed, it was common practice large process applications were equipped with level tanks and control valves to remove their big condensate loads. Steamloc can avoid such expensive solutions easily and without the cost of returning pressure equipment inspections or eroded valve outlet seats.
20 | Can Steamloc replace parallel trap layouts?
Steamloc perfectly handles most parallel trap layouts with only one unit in linear piping. We will be glad to look over your shoulder and assist for the best possible and economical layout with respect to correct pipe sizes and a minimum on pipe changes.
21 | Can Steamloc organize a normal process start-up like I'm used to?
Yes it does.
At start-up, the incoming hot steam will easily push the cold air out first through the Steamloc (it's gas only), followed by the fast formed (sub-cooled) condensate. The wide condensate range permits Steamloc to handle these maximum loads in a time that is competitive with mechanical systems, even if they face an eventual pressure drop during start-up.
From then, we drain the design condensate loads as expected.
22 | What about the range of start-up and normal running loads for utility traps?
ISBL drains serve a relatively short steam network. Start-up condensate loads do not differ much from the ones during normal operation. Steamloc can perfectly handle the total range.
OSBL drains serve a big network which generates a lot of heat-up condensate at start. Such amounts of water create a considerable risk if only drained via mechanical traps or Steamloc. It is generally known to better bring such networks up to pressure via flush techniques. Once up to pressure, the flush valves can be closed. From then, traps face the normal condensate amounts from radiation losses.
23 | Can Steamloc be used on superheated services?
1. Even if a heat exchanger receives superheated steam at the inlet, its outlet will always be saturated condition. This is valid for all process applications.
2. Superheated steam distribution lines have limited to no condensate. It is not really our first choice to install Steamloc here. But many of our innovative clients tried and actually saw the consumption was much smaller than initially expected. Guess we can conclude: yes, also superheated utility services are possible, but under reserve of verifying the data.
24 | How to inspect traps and Steamloc?
Closed failure detection is rather easy. Everything will be cold, so the upstream filter might need cleaning. This is similar to traps as well as for Steamloc, and mainly depends on the condition of your steam network.
Open failure of mechanical traps cost energy. To detect one can use sight glasses, thermographic camera’s, ultrasonic tools, up to even a continuous monitoring. At the end, the broken trap will be replaced, ever again.
Happily, Steamloc has no such open failures. It is always open, but well-designed. This simplifies the inspection to cold (clean the filter) and hot (= OK).
25 | How many Steamloc models do I need for my plant?
For process, we design a specific Steamloc each. It sounds logical to do this little effort to ensure the right one is ready to serve the lifetime of your equipment.
For utility, our experience proved it is easy to group pressure networks and applications. Most of our (petro)chemical clients standardized on 3 different models to serve all drain/tracing applications throughout their whole plant.
26 | Where do you see limitations for this technology?
The only limitation is the fact we need a minimum of condensate and a positive pressure drop.
No matter how little or small, if both are there, this technology barely holds limitations. Pressures over 100 barg, loads over 150.000 kg/h. But more interesting is how we anticipate to almost zero loads, or what is done if pressure drops flirt with vacuum? This often leads to expensive pumping traps. We might hand you a few tricks to simplify. Just ask!
27 | What about the payback of a conversion?
A payback indicates the time it takes to recover the cost of an improvement based on the cost today, the investment cost and the future savings. Typical payback times for daily conversions are 1-3 months. New projects <1-2 years. Or even faster if you planned to put spare traps on the shelf.
It starts with adding up all related costs linked to the current steam traps like work, spares, energy, climate and production impacts. Then you look at the same items to install Steamloc. This allows to finish the equation of the payback time.
If you like, our engineers can help to compose the current costs and provide you a glimpse of the future Steamloc details, so you can evaluate decisions beforehand.
28 | How much steam will I save if I install Steamloc?
For sure, you will save. How much is hard to tell since every case is different. We never claim fix energy savings at daily operational working conditions. Some put a number on it. In fairness, we don’t.
Don't let anybody lead you down the primrose path of guaranteed energy savings 10-30%. You know full well a good trap with a drain capacity of 15.000 kg/h sure is not consuming such 1.500 to 4.500 kg/h as to be the so-called 'saving' afterwards. Let's keep things realistic.
The true saving comes from the avoidance of leaks from failing traps. This will generate a more than sufficiently short payback time to go on with Steamloc.
We can help you with conservative calculations for your plant. To this you can add the savings for maintenance, spare parts, production impact and CO2 exhaust. This is usually well-documented in your plant, so we better leave it to you to add realistic numbers, or we estimate them together.
29 | How to organize a change into Steamloc?
Most plants perform trap inspections or have it done via an external company. With the list of broken traps, a like-for-like exchange is followed by hopefully a long period of working. Perhaps it makes sense to consider a like-for-Steamloc change and only using the maintenance budget?
Just an idea, if the traps of which we all know failure is coming, will subsequently be replaced by something that cannot fail anyway, perhaps it’s better to do it today in a well-controlled project rather than puring every old trap until the very end. Then you also eliminate the unexpected and unknown failures, energy losses and climate impacts + all the efforts of ever-returning inspections?
30 | Can Steamloc provide sufficient global support for all our sites?
Steam traps have many parts and pieces to fail. Since you want to restart your suffering production soonest, it is logical you want them to be near all of your sites, everywhere.
The whole concept of Steamloc relies on the fact it requires no maintenance. Once designed and well installed, there is nothing inside to fail. In fact, you don’t need us anymore.
Applications that unexpectedly require a change in capacity for whatever reason can benefit from our flexible design. Venturi sets can easily be exchanged and are at your site within a limited time by express courier. These can be replaced very easily by your own plant personnel. Instructions are always included.
31 | We encourage your next question
Any question related to condensate removal? Let's discuss. Together we know more.