In order to ensure the safe and efficient operation of any combustion equipment it is necessary to carry out both preventative and responsive maintenance, explains Steve O’Neill, Technical Specifications Engineer at EOGB Energy Products Ltd.
This can be performed by either in-house maintenance teams or by asset management companies and the degree of service necessary is usually dependent upon the hours of operation the appliance/burner is put through and the conditions that it is operating in.
Endeavors should always be made to consult with manufacturer’s instructions for the plant prior to commencing any works to ensure safe operation and full compliance with the plant’s requirements. The maintenance schedule should be designed around the manufacturer’s requirements and incorporate any specific requirements relevant to the plant.
If a well implemented maintenance schedule is in place, and the correct amount of time is allocated to perform the work, this can significantly reduce the downtime of the plant by minimising breakdowns and reducing the amount of responsive maintenance required. This approach can improve plant efficiency and productivity in the long run as well as providing the customer with financial savings.
Depending upon the size of the plant and the amount of appliances/burners, supervision should also be put in place to ensure complete compliance with the maintenance schedule and to provide support for the engineers.
It is vital that all operatives whom are designated with the maintenance of the plant are provided with the appropriate level of training necessary for them to perform their tasks in a safe manor and to comply with all protocol specific to their job.
Manufacturers usually offer varying levels of training either on site or at designated training facilities to educate operatives and provide hands-on training and support relative to their level of involvement with the plant. It is strongly recommended that further ongoing training and education is also considered to ensure operatives are kept fully up to speed with design or legislative changes, which may occur over time.
Health and safety should be the top priority for all persons involved in the maintenance of any process plant. The same maintenance protocol designed to ensure the health and safety of all plant and personnel can also improve plant efficiency.
With the correct level of training and the provision of the appropriate equipment, engineers are able to identify the difference between good and bad performance. When discussing fuel-burning equipment, bad performance can translate to both poor efficiency and potentially unsafe situations.
The minimum requirements of any work being carried out on a gas burning appliance as per the gas safety installation and use regulations (GSIUR) is described by Regulation26 (section 9):
‘Where a person performs work on a gas appliance he/she shall immediately thereafter examine—
(a) The effectiveness of any flue
(b) The supply of combustion air
(c) Its operating pressure or heat input or, where necessary, both
(d) Its operation so as to ensure its safe functioning
And forthwith take all reasonable practicable steps to notify any defect to the responsible person and, where different, the owner of the premises in which the appliance is situated or, where neither is reasonably practicable, in the case of an appliance supplied with liquefied petroleum gas, the supplier of gas to the appliance, or, in any other case, the transporter.’
The engineer should always follow these criteria in order to perform the above checks anytime that he/she works on a gas-burning appliance. Other essential checks include:
Gas rate/correct fuel rate
With all combustion equipment it is essential that it is receiving the correct volume of fuel. This will ensure the correct operating conditions for the process and allow the combustion to be set up accurately as well as ensuring complete combustion. Wherever possible the gas rate/ fuel consumption must be confirmed to be correct for the plant being maintained.
It is important to provide the correct volume of combustion air to ensure the complete oxidization of the fuel.
The level of combustion efficiency can be predicted by comparing the quantity of O2 in the stack gases to that of theoretical or stoichiometric combustion conditions (assuming complete combustion). The lower the amount of O2 (or excess air), the higher the combustion efficiency.
Under normal operating conditions, the combustion engineer will set up the burner with a degree of excess air to ensure that there is always adequate combustion air to ensure complete combustion under all barometric conditions.
It can be seen that by adhering to a strict maintenance schedule, there is a correlation between ensuring the safe operation of the appliance/plant and optimum combustion efficiency.
Therefore, in order for customers to benefit from maximum plant efficiency and reduced costs, it’s essential that maintenance engineers are provided with a regular and comprehensive training regime.