Methods Used in Automatic Boiler Tube Cleaning

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For power plants that burn anything other than LPG or natural gas, boiler cleaning is an integral part of maintaining the plant and keeping it working more efficiently. Over time, boilers will build up slag deposits on their pipes. These slags serve as an insulation that protects the tubing from the boiler heat, creating the need to use more power source like fuel than usual to reach the same temperature to produce the same result as a clean system. 

Cleaning slag deposits can help increase the boiler’s efficiency by up to 4%. Clean furnaces can also minimize emissions produced by power plants since they are using less fuel required to provide the same amount of heat and power. 

While the relevance of cleaning the system is pretty clear, a lot of power plant experts have different options when it comes to methods used to clear ashes and slag buildup. These cleansing practices differ from offline cleansing, which requires planned outages, to online cleaning, while the plant is still running. Methods in cleaning can use anything from sound waves and water to dynamites. 

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Acoustic cleaning

One way to clean boilers is by using acoustic systems. It can knock slags from boiler tubes using acoustic energy without damaging or risking fatigue to the system. While it can be done using acoustic horns that are retrofitted into the boilers, there are companies that use other acoustic devices specially designed for certain plants. 

These acoustic instruments are part of the integrated system where the frequency that was produced by acoustic instruments are determined by 3-dimensional element modeling. The method is similar to the flow modeling, except that it looks at how acoustic waves behave in an enclosed space. 

Cleaning with the help of acoustic devices works well in dusty and dry deposits. It works where ashes are below the fusion points like in horizontal tube banks in utility boilers. This technology is not as productive and effective in systems that use superheaters or in areas where the slags are partially molten.

According to experts, power plants have seen excellent results on using this cleaning method, whether they are using different fuel sources like pet-coke, powder river basin, sub-bituminous or bituminous coals. Sound fields can penetrate through tube banks using acoustic cleaners. This kind of system is used to clean convection passes that have at least 50 rows of tubes using one or two acoustic devices.

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Water lances

Another way to clean slags is by using pressurized water jets. Some companies use specialized and high0-volume hydro blasting equipment, with water pumps that can send a large amount of water per minute through specialized hoses. Some companies also use remote-controlled cleaning systems and different tools to help clean their boiler pipes. 

They can use water lances for both offline and online cleansing, although it still depends on what type of boiler companies are using whether online cleansing can be used or not. Companies have to do online cleansing from a very strategic position since they need to be very careful, spraying a large amount of water directly into their boilers while still running. 

This cleaning method is a very critical process. Whether it can be cleaned while the furnace is running depends on the type of boiler being used. Although companies routinely flush their boilers without shutting it off, experts said it is impossible for all situations. Online cleaning has a lot of advantages, but if you take the boiler down, it takes a lot of energy and time to bring it back up. 

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It saves companies a lot of money and time to have their boilers up and running if they do their desludging online. Because of its high-volume pumps, companies using water lances are able to clean difficult-to-reach places using their lances and can be very effective since the lance can go more than 40 feet.

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Soot blowers

Soot blowers use steam, compressed air, or water to help keep slag buildups from occurring without taking the whole plant offline. This method of cleaning has been used for some time now, but, like other aspects of power plants, are starting to be more sophisticated. Modern technology does the minimum requirement – it will keep boilers clean, at the same time, keep it running and online. 

Advanced technology is where industries get into targeting areas of furnaces that need to be cleansed with the right intensity. That is why companies are monitoring boiler performances while adjusting cleansing parameters in real-time. That is where plants can gain maximum efficiency from using advanced technologies. 

Smart blowing systems have advantages over traditional ones. Advanced technology can help increase its efficiency by at least 1% over conventional methods. Smart blower systems also only perform boiler tube cleaning when required, which avoids tube erosion.

Traditional systems are blind to what is going on inside the machine. There may be clean areas, but they are running soot blowers because it is time in the sequence, so blowing pressurized steams on tubes, can eventually lead to erosion in the future. Not only that, but there may also have areas in the boiler that erodes quicker than other areas because of how the sequence was set up. 

Blowers may not be able to hit it for several hours.  During those idle hours, this area could erode significantly and plug pipes and can cause clinkers or restrict the transfer of heat, forcing the plant to shut down their system. A lot of coal-powered boilers designed in the past decade were installed with smart soot blowers. Some manufacturers are even designing systems with retrofitted blowers for plants that were not traditionally equipped with smart soot blower technology.

Conclusion

All in all, the method of cleansing the blower of the plant still depends on what type of boilers the plant is using. Some ways are effective in certain boiler tubes. That is why companies need to know the ins and outs of their furnaces to ensure that the cleaning method they are using is suited for their system.

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