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A S H RA E JOURNAL

The following article was published in ASHRAE Journal, January 1999. Copyright 1999 American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-
Conditioning Engineers, Inc. It is presented for educational purposes only. This article may not be copied and/or distributed electronically or in paper
form without permission of ASHRAE.

Practical Tips for Operation

Effective Steam Tracing


By Thomas M. Kenny following a cold weather shutdown
where the tracing heat is considered un-
necessary during the shutdown.
team tracing is the application of steam heat to piping and vessels

S for the purpose of maintaining desired process temperatures, freeze


protection, viscosity control or to obtain a temperature control point
within a fluid for its chemical interaction in a process.
Sizes and Lengths
The most common diameters of steam
tracing are 3/8 in. (10 mm) and 1/2 in. (13 mm)
OD copper or stainless steel tubing. Diam-
eters of 5/8 in. (16 mm) and 3/4 in. (19 mm)
OD tubing have been used; however, this
Steam tracing is usually accomplished temperature (relative to water), yet excess entails greater expense. Tubing that is 3/8
by running steam lines in direct contact heating can lead to product degradation in. (10 mm) is more easily plugged by sedi-
with the piping or vessels to be heated. and increased pipeline corrosion. This ment and/or debris, so it is less frequently
The entire assembly is then insulated to situation exists in the paper industry. used. Type K and Type L are popular cop-
direct the heat into the process fluid. Thus, temperature control on steam trac- per tubing materials. Copper is preferred
Many technical articles have been writ- ing takes on more significance than just for its heat transfer characteristics, while
ten concerning steam tracing along with energy conservation. stainless steel displays better resistance in
their associated heat loss equations and Self-acting temperature control corrosive environments.
graphs. In the authors experience, valves are one method of temperature
younger engineers, maintenance person- control. Other methods exist; however, Runs
nel, pipe fitters and others who steam trace these are more expensive than the self- Most steam tracing has a run length
do not always use effective methods for operating units. These methods in- between its supply valve and terminat-
winterization and process temperature clude electric/pneumatic, all pneumatic ing steam trap of 75 ft to 150 ft (23 m to 46
maintenance. This article presents some or all electric temperature control. Such m). This length is influenced by the con-
of the basics in this art. systems include a positioner, a setpoint figuration of the tracing, the supply header
controller, a temperature sensor and a locations and the location suitable to
Applications power supply. traps and return lines. Horizontal runs of
Process applications for tracing gen- We have all heard the comment: Its process pipe can have tracers on the
erally revolve around three main areas of as thick as molasses in January. Yet, en- sides (see Figure 1) or at the bottom,
concern: freeze protection, product qual- gineers in the process industry frequently depending on the heat transfer load. In
ity and ease of transport. Outdoor ex- are asked to move such materials. The addition, thermal transfer cement, a graph-
posed water lines where water may be- most common response is to heat it, be- ite-filled medium, is used to enhance heat
come stationary and freeze during peri- cause most materials become less viscous transfer from the tracer to the process pipe
ods of low usage can lead to costly re- as their temperature is increased. The en- (bonding).
placement of piping, as well as downtime ergy used in heating will be more than Many times the tracing can develop a
for the areas of the plant they service. It compensated by using less power to droop between bands holding it to the
is important to keep the water above the move the material around, as well as al- process line. These should be avoided
freezing point. However, excess heating lowing the use of smaller, cheaper pumps. because the condensate formed by the
is a waste of energy and money. One often-overlooked situation is that
Concentrated aqueous solutions such high viscosity materials do not transmit
About the Author
as sodium hydroxide present a two-fold heat well when they are cold. Thermal
problem: they will solidify at an elevated currents of warmer material through the Thomas M. KKenny
enny
enny, chairman of Ogontz Corpora-
cooler portion are slow to form in vis- tion, Willow Grove, Pa., holds three patents on tem-
cous substances and the lack of heat perature actuated valves. He has a bachelors de-
transmission gives rise to localized over- gree in mechancial engineering from Villanova Uni-
heating. This can arise during a restart versity.

42 ASHRAE Journal January 1999


STEAM

heat transfer process can form puddles 100F 200F 300F 400F 500F 600F
in the drooped lengths. These puddles
can impede steam flow as well as freeze Fiber Glass 0.26 0.30 0.34
during outages and times when a tem- Polyurethane 0.16 0.16 0.16
perature control valve may be closed.
Vertical runs can pose special prob- Calcium Silicate 0.33 0.37 0.41 0.46 0.57 0.60
lems where the steam is flowing uphill
Cellular Glass 0.39 0.47 0.55 0.64 0.74 0.85
while the condensate formed is pulled
downhill by gravity. Such a case exists These are representative values and should be confirmed by the insulation manufacturer.
where process lines must be elevated
to clear a roadway. At this point, a con- Table 1: Thermal conductivity typical of insulation materials, Btuin. (hftF).
densate-separating chamber should be
installed. The inlet tracer comes in hori- Control Valves Pressure Temperature, F
zontally and leaves from the top of the In all three of these application cat-
chamber. A steam trap is connected to egories, an automatic temperature sens- 30 psig 274
the bottom drain port, allowing the ing control valve can be of great utility. 50 psig 298
removal of condensate. As the pipe and By sensing the appropriate relevant tem-
tracer drop to a normal height after perature (ambient atmosphere, surface 75 psig 320
bridging over the roadway, a second wall or material insertion), the valve can
100 psig 338
steam trap may be installed as an op- judiciously regulate when and how much
tional device. It is not mandatory in the steam should be supplied to the traced 150 psig 366
vertical drop situation since the con- process line. It can avoid overheating as
densate and steam are co-current. well as set-up or freezing. Its automatic 200 psig 388
operation replaces the manual setting of Table 2: Low-pressure steam generally
Insulation steam valves. Avoiding overlooking an is used for steam tracing.
Process lines are routinely insulated to obscure valve and reducing maintenance
conserve the energy required to maintain are additional benefits.
the desired temperature. Tracers are in- Modulating temperature control 50 psig [345 kPa] condensate 0.02 f3/lb
cluded inside the insulation, requiring the valves can reduce shocks on the steam [0.27 kg/m3]). This process creates a
insulation to be stepped up in ID to ac- system by opening and closing slowly. vacuum in the tracer. To eliminate the si-
commodate the tracer. Where the process Abrupt pressure changes, water hammer phon effect, a vacuum breaker installed
pipe has a flange, tracers are frequently and thermal shock are reduced. after the control valve lets air in to re-
brought outside the OD of insulation and place the volume formerly filled with
a joint is installed in the tracer. While this Traps steam. Thus, condensate is able to drain
leads to extra costs in installation, it On the other end of the tracer, the type freely through the trap. It is not held back
makes replacement of a pipe section of steam trap used is significant. Where by the vacuum created at the valve end
easier in the future should repairs or al- temperature control valves are used, it of the tracer. The siphon effect is broken
terations be necessary. is predictable that they will be in a closed and the condensate drains out.
Insulation thickness is usually opti- position when the tracing duty is satis-
mized as a balance between energy loss fied. This means that the pressure driv- Supply Line Trap
and cost of insulation. Thicker insulation ing condensate through a trap will de- The steam supply line should have a
conserves energy but costs more for ma- crease to zero. Hence, traps should be trap immediately before the temperature
terial and takes more time to install. Fi- selected that do not require pressure to control valve. On branch lines, which are
berglass or calcium silicate are the most operate or are classified as free drain- distant from the steam header, or in cold
common insulation materials. Other ma- ing. An example of this is a temperature climates, a trap on the supply line helps
terials are used depending on process sensing or thermostatic trap. In addition, to prevent freezing in the steam line as
temperature (see Table 1). it must be oriented in a free draining po- well as insure that dry steam is supplied
It should be remembered that steam sition. Failure to select and install the to the valve and tracer.
temperature is necessarily hotter than proper trap will plug the tracer line and
the process maintenance temperature ultimately render the tracer useless. Steam Pressure
and that all materials should be quali- The choice of steam to be used for
fied for the steam temperature. An outer Vacuum Breaker tracing must be consistent with the tem-
cover of aluminum or stainless steel Just after the control valve closes, the perature to be maintained in the process
provides weatherproofing. The cover steam in the tracer will condense to water line. Generally, low pressure steam (less
should be installed to prevent rain or at a much lower specific volume (com- than 100 psig [690 kPa]) (see Table 2) is
moisture from ruining the insulations pare the specific volume of 50 psig [345 used unless maintenance temperature re-
heat loss resistance. kPa] saturated steam 7 f3/lb [109 kg/m3] to quirements are very high. Tracing duty
January 1999 ASHRAE Journal 43
makes use of the heat liberated in the conden-
sation of steam. Low-pressure steam is pre-
ferred because it actually has a higher amount
of heat liberated through the condensation pro-
cess per pound of steam used. It also is cheaper
to produce.

Subcooling Traps
Subcooling traps, which release condensate
only after it has cooled well below the satura-
tion temperature, can enhance the energy effi-
ciency of tracer systems by allowing sensible
heat to also contribute to the heating duty.
Normally, saturated steam pressure is used
for steam tracing (winterization), varying from
input pressures of 15 psig to 125 psig (100 kPa
to 860 kPa), depending upon the temperature
requirements of a process or the utility lines Figure 1: ST valve controls steam tracing to maintain constant product
being traced. Usually steam supply manifolds temperature.
are used with a manual valve controlling the
feed from the steam header to the steam supply manifold. art. IEEE Transactions on Industry and General Applications. IGA-
Generally, the manifold will consist of a 1 in. (25 mm) or 2 in. 5(4):476.
(50 mm) header and will handle from three to 20 trace lines, 2. Raychem Corp., Chemelex Division. 1988. Chemelex Auto-Trace
depending upon the applied pressure. Each trace line coming Design Guide, p. 7. Menlo Park, Calif.
from the supply manifold should have its own isolation valve,
which is in turn connected to the trace line and may be either 3. Dixon, G. 1987. Steam Versus Electric Process Heat Tracing, p.
3
/8 in. (10 mm) or 0.5 in. (13 mm) copper tubing. 3. Mississippi Department of Energy and Transportation Annual
Care should be taken in regard to the location of the trace Conference.
lines so the manual stop valves will not interfere with one an- 4. Fisch, E. 1984. Winterizing process plants, Chemical Engineer-
other while still providing a compact arrangement. All trace ing. Aug. 20, p. 130.
lines should have a strainer installed with a blow-down valve
ahead of the steam trap at the end of the run. 5. Henry, K. June 1986. Introduction to Heat Tracing. p. 1. Cold Re-
Sufficient care should be taken when running the trace lines gions Research and Engineering Lab, Report No. CRREL-TD-86-1.
to insure there are no pockets to collect condensate and that 6. Kohli, I. 1979. Steam tracing of pipelines. Chemical Engineer-
the condensate has a free fall or pitch from the trace header to ing, March 26, p. 156.
the condensate trap at the far end of the trace line. All steam
trace tubing bends should be made using a tube bender to pre- 7. Lonsdale, J. and L. Mayer. 1988. Heat-Tracing Technologies, Energy
vent crimping the tubing. Tracers should be secured to the pro- Use and Temperature Control, p. 5. Raychem Corp. Draft Report.
cess piping with banding installed 12 in. to 18 in. (300 mm to 8. Lonsdale, J. and J. Mundy. 1982. Estimating pipe heat-tracing
460 mm) apart. costs. Chemical Engineering, Nov. 29, pp. 8993.
Tracing should be banded on the bottom of the line being
traced (see Figure 1); however, if shoes for linear expansion 9. Nayyar, M., ed. Piping Handbook, Sixth Edition, chap. B6, Heat-
are provided, the tracer should be located near the web of the tracing of piping systems. Lonsdale, J. T., and Erickson, C. J. pp.
shoe, as close to the center of the pipe as possible. B.205B.245
When heat transfer cement (bonding) is required, tracers 10. Ohlson, R. A users experience with current self-limiting heat
with bonding should be placed along the top of the pipe to aid tracing cable. IEEE Paper No. PCI-80-25, p. 180.
in the installation procedures. It is normal practice to provide
an expansion loop wherever a union is installed or where the
tracer interferes with flanges. The union should be located
outside the insulation material.
Where required, heat transfer cement should be utilized and Please circle the appropriate number on the Reader Service Card at the
applied according to the manufacturers instructions. All valves, back of the publication.
wraps and strainers should be individually tagged using stain- Extremely Helpful ........................................................................................................ 466
less steel wire for future reference.
Helpful ........................................................................................................................ 467
Bibliography Somewhat Helpful ...................................................................................................... 468
1. Bilbro, J. and J. Levines. 1969. Electric heat tracingstate of the Not Helpful ................................................................................................................. 469

44 ASHRAE Journal January 1999