Urban Heat Island

infra red Hong Kong Island by John A. Herbert

Here is an interesting image, the infrared of Hong Kong Island promenade, the sum has been shining all day and the path is absorbing the sun’s energy, the walkway is warmer than its surroundings. At night, that stored energy keeps the area warm, warmer than the air temperature, a good example of the urban heat island effect.

Infra-red is accurate and very sensitive, the image even shows the edges of the manhole covers!

It is not too difficult to avoid this problem (remember white reflective roof post) choose a material with a high solar reflectance index (SRI) say 80 or above, that will reduce the energy absorbed.

last large coal-fired power plant in Beijing closed by John A. Herbert

by John A. Herbert

Great news from Beijing, mark your diary, on 20 March 2017, RTHK (www.rthk.org.hk) reported that “….the last large coal-fired power plant in Beijing has suspended operations, with the city’s electricity now generated by natural gas” LINK: http://news.rthk.hk/rthk/en/component/k2/1320043-20170319.htm Meanwhile here in Asia’s World city, burning coal for power generation continues.

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E-Bus for Hong Kong? Not soon Enough

Hong Kong may have a new electric bus, sooner than you think. The new vehicle was spotted around town last week, outside HKPC in Kowloon Tong, and at the Eco Asia Expo 2015 exhibition.

Left to Right: Simon Cheung (China Dynamics), Lyndia Hui (Green Council) and John A. Herbert (HAESCO)

Left to Right: Mr Simon Cheung (China Dynamics), Ms Linda Ho (Green Council CEO) and John A. Herbert

Considering Hong Kong’s small area, this E-Bus must be killer app for Hong Kong’s urban pollution problems. I understand that many argue against EV’s because the rational is that EV’s merely move the pollution problem from our lungs to the distant electricity generating stations, and they claim that is a problem?

Repeated studies have shown the pollution at street level is often intolerable with excess PM2.5 PM10 and NOX. (nitrogen oxides). However, these power generating stations already have pollution control measures in place, and are discharged far from the lungs of busy pedestrians presently dodging the fumes in Central.

Burning diesel at street level should be a crime nowadays! Now we know, the diesel combustion (petroleum diesel not bio diesel) process the combustion is incomplete, and creates tiny microscopic soot particles, they are so small they are easily inhaled, hence the grave concern over particulates in the PM2.5-10 range. Hong Kong’s EPD in fact publish the monitoring data:
http://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/english/environmentinhk/air/data/air_data.html

Screenshot - EPD Pollution Monitoring Data

Screenshot – EPD Pollution Monitoring Data

And the source of those PM2.5 and PM10 particulates? the overwhelming majority are created by diesel engine discharged at lung (street) level. Furthermore, I understand that the E-Bus creators (designed in Hong Kong!) have useful applications in mind for the ‘used’ batteries, to avoid creating another waste problem dealing with spent batteries. I had a tour, inside it looks like every other Hong Kong bus, in fact you would find it hard to distinguish between the diesel  version, except for the tailpipe.

Another sustainability perspective to consider, beside being conceived and designed in Hong Kong, it is manufactured close to home, avoiding the related emissions caused from importing buses from Europe which I understand is the usual practice.

Let us hope it is on the road, here in Hong Kong, sooner rather than later. One of Hong Kong’s key selling points must be the fantastic low cost, public transport system, but can it be improved? Of course, there is always room for improvement, as Paul Zimmerman points out, there are water taxi’s and ferries that would improve connectivity across the harbour, however the Hong Kong public transport system is one that many cities envy.

Hong Kong’s E-Bus was also featured by RTHK 

e-bus hong kong hkpc by RTHK

credit: RTHK

short link: bit.ly/hongkong-ebus

by John A. Herbert

unintended consequences

We are all hindered by unintended consequences, Sweden one might argue a global leader for harvesting leftover heat was hamstrung by the law which prevented other suppliers accessing the district heating grid, but that changed when a law was passed last year that allows outside suppliers to deliver heat through the district heating grid. Now the town of Kiruna in northern Sweden can use waste heat from their local industry to cheaply heat homes, a neat solution when the mercury hits -30 Deg C in winter. Details are scarce in the Guardian article [1] however using waste heat whether from industry or power generation is cost-effective when the distance (where increasing distance equates causing increasing heat loss) between the source and end-user is not great.

Less commonly known is that waste heat can be used in the tropics to drive air conditioning, necessary in large parts of Asia. Low grade heat energy is often dumped into rivers or the sea, instead it can be used to change the concentration of liquid salt, e.g. lithium bromide, creating cold water for comfort cooling.

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/may/01/leftover-industrial-heat-to-warm-swedens-chilly-northern-city

Air Conditioning Leakage

by John A. Herbert
condensate

Spring has arrived, the humidity is increasing and air conditioning and their power consumption start in earnest.

Air conditioning systems rely upon converting electrical energy at the central chiller to chilled water, yet these veins, the chilled pipes are often hidden from view, deep inside the building behind locked plant room doors. The chilled water piping should deliver cold water from the chiller at approximately 7 deg. C to the AHU’s.

However, the photo above is a big problem, the chilled water piping is insulated, covered with vapour barrier, and finished with aluminium cladding. However, condensation is clearly visual and that equates to lost energy. If it not repaired the water wicks along the piping and thermal insulation, causing more condensation, increasingly wasting more energy.

To rectify the wet and damaged thermal insulation needs to be cut back and removed, piping cleaned and insulation replaced, and wrapped with a new vapour barrier, and re-clad. the new vapour barrier is key!! to prevent moist air contacting any surface, including the insulation, having a lower dew point temperature.

BEAM for Offices Training

BEAM for offices training

There is about 40 Million sqm of office space in Hong Kong, with renovation and fitting out projects representing the bulk of active projects each and every day. Because of their number and repetitive nature these projects have a significant impact on the environment and our quality of life. Responding to market demand and recognising those who choose to do this work in an environmentally friendly fashion and offer users a healthier workspace, a new green building rating tool was created locally by BEAM Society Limited: BEAM Plus BEAM for green officesInteriors. The new addition to the suite of BEAM green rating tools covers fitting out works for commercial premises, offices, hotels, and retail spaces. This two (2) hour training course is specially designed solely for BEAM Professionals. It will introduce the new framework, grading, credits and features of the new rating tool. Undertaking this training course is a prerequisite for all BEAM Professionals to submit Interiors projects for assessment and certification using the BEAM Plus Interiors rating tool.

Speaker: Mr John A. Herbert REA, FCIPHE, MASHARE, BEAM Pro
John has worked across Asia for 20 years, he is an authority on sustainable building development, GB rating tools, and energy efficiency. He is the Managing Director and Head of Sustainable Building at Kelcroft E&M Limited, and he was one of the first BEAM Professionals in Hong Kong. John led the team developing BEAM Plus Interiors in 2013, is chairman of the BEAM Technical Review Panel, and a member of the BEAM Technical Review Committee.

 

Hong Kong Greener Pastures

Here is my interview regarding potential opportunities, and outlook for businesses in the sustainable/green building space, and here it is, published in the Hong Trader Magazine Oct 2010 (Click here or on the image to read it online).

Hong Kong Trader magazine featuring an interview with John Herbert, Kelcroft

~~~ John Herbert, Consultant

 

UPDATE (4 Nov 2010):

Parlez-vous français? Also published in French, here is the link:
http://www.lepetitjournal.com/hongkong/a-la-une-hong-kong/88814-ecologie-hong-kong-affirme-son-expertise-environnementale.html


HKGBC inauguration 20 November 2009

Here is the link to the speech by the Hong Kong Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam at the Hong Kong Green Building Council inauguration on 20 November 2009 http://www.devb-plb.gov.hk/eng/press/2009/200911200000.htm

Here is the text for your reference:

Following is the speech by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, at the inauguration of the Hong Kong Green Building Council on November 20:

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It really gives me great pleasure to attend the inauguration of the Hong Kong Green Building Council. I want actually to thank, most sincerely the four founding members of the Hong Kong Green Building Council: the Construction Industry Council, chaired by Mr Keith Kerr; the Business Environment Council, chaired by Mr Stephen Fong; the Hong Kong BEAM Society, under Mr Michael Arnold’s leadership; and of course K S Wong, Chairman of the PGBC. I want especially to thank the inaugural chairman, Andrew.

I think we could not find a better chairman at this point in time to head the Hong Kong Green Building Council, partly because of Andrew’s extensive experience locally and worldwide on green building matters, but more importantly because as you will know at the same time, Dr Chan is the president of the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers and he has chosen the theme of sustainability to mark his presidency of the HKIE. So my deepest appreciation goes to Andrew.

To be positioned at this juncture to give a keynote address is very difficult because all the things that the government is doing on promoting green buildings have been said by the Financial Secretary, my boss. And all the things that you need to know as practitioners in promoting green buildings will be said by the professionals later on. So I have very little value to add to this discussion. But I’ve learnt this from my 30 years of public service that not being somebody who is professionally trained and as someone who has no expertise in anything, my greatest merit is I’m ready to learn. I learn from every job that I’ve taken in the government from public finance to social welfare, to housing and lands, arts and sports. So I would tell you that my education as the Secretary for Development, particularly in green buildings, started from a journey to Melbourne last September.

In around summer last year, I was asked to lead a delegation to take part in Sustainable Buildings 08 to be hosted in Melbourne. I think the Green Building Council Australia is here, Romilly is here, thank you very much. At first, I did have a little bit of hesitation. In this term of government, the subject of green buildings or environmental sustainability falls more on the Secretary for Environment, and not me, and somebody used to allege this government these days for trying to pass the buck around, to see where it sits better before taking on the assignment. But I have been educated in that process by a number of distinguished people who are so passionate about green buildings, and they are all here in this room. And I fortunately decided that I should take up this invitation to lead a delegation, also for a private reason because I have never been to Australia, so I thought it’s a good trip, especially when LegCo was in recess in around September.

And this trip turned out to be a very eyes-opening journey, not only in attending the SB08 and learning from the practitioners and leaders all around the world about what they are doing on promoting green buildings, but also through a lot of private luncheons and dinners where I had this privilege of sharing experience and learning from really very distinguished leaders who have driven this green building movement including Rick Fedrizzi, who was the founding chairman of the USGBC and of course Tony Arnel, who now heads the World Green Building Council, himself Victoria’s Building Commissioner. I told myself that we in Hong Kong need a bit of catching up to do, because despite the fact that I was leading a delegation, I was not representing or partnering with the Hong Kong Green Building Council to attend this very important event in Melbourne, whereas I have met counterparts from the India Green Building Council, from of course the Green Building Council Australia, the USGBC, the Singapore GBC and the China Green Building Council. So when we were there, we had some private discussions with friends and colleagues from Hong Kong. And we decided when we came back to Hong Kong, we should really give this subject a big push. And this has been very well received by the four founding members, particularly of course by Mr Keith Kerr from the Construction Industry Council. Without the Council’s support, I’m sure that this way of forming the Hong Kong GBC will be made even more difficult. So that’s the history to my involvement in the setting up of the HKGBC.

Now that it has been born, I feel a very strong sense of duty and I will make sure that it would succeed, not only in Hong Kong, not only in this region, but also in the world scene. So what I am going to say in the next five to ten minutes is a topic I just decided, these notes were jotted early this morning, is what the Hong Kong Green Building Council can do for Hong Kong, and in return what the HKSAR Government, particularly the Development Bureau that I lead, can do for the Hong Kong Green Building Council. And I have these few things to share with you.

There are four As that I expect the Hong Kong Green Building Council to do for Hong Kong, on green buildings of course. First is Advocacy. This is a subject that means a lot of public education, not only amongst the practitioners and the industry, but also amongst the building users, and also within the government. People tend to feel that since this government is executive-led, it doesn’t like to be told by other people. I can assure you that it’s not the case. That’s not the case with me particularly, as I have told you that my own strength is to learn from other people. So the Hong Kong Green Building Council needs to be a very strong advocate and champion for promoting green buildings in Hong Kong, for transforming market practices, as well as for suggesting or even pressurising us for policy changes, where justified. People may think that this will bring the Hong Kong Green Building Council into conflict or tension with government officials; that’s fine, we are quite used to this these days. And I certainly will embrace this sort of tensions because they are healthy, they will ensure that we could reach our common goal more effectively.

So right now we are actually in a very good timing for some very serious advocacy to be done by the Hong Kong Green Building Council. As FS has just announced, the Environment Bureau has rolled out a number of initiatives to promote green buildings in Hong Kong, including legislation, like mandating the compliance of energy efficiency code in buildings and also in incentives where they have set aside $450 million under the Environment and Conservation Fund to support carbon audits, as well as installation of energy efficiency measures in private buildings. But more importantly, Development Bureau is, with the support of the Council for Sustainable Development, undertaking a major review on quality building design, in order to foster a more sustainable building environment. This is a very long title, but in short, people called this inflated building (發水樓) consultation document.

The Council has completed its four-month public consultation, so the ball will be back to me pretty soon with a range of recommendations from the Council for Sustainable Development in the light of public views collected on what to do. I know that the Hong Kong Green Building Council, because of all the works involved in the setting up, might not have the time to focus on this subject yet. So I would expect you and invite you to focus on it in the next few months, so that the Council’s view will be taken fully into account in my final formulation of recommendations. And just to give you a tip, we would have a very good opportunity to make a push in things that the Hong Kong Green Building Council would like to see in Hong Kong. Somebody may not know this figure: of the 12 so-called green features that this government has promoted since 2001 through a joint practice note issued by the Director of Buildings, we estimate that they will need a total of 23% extra GFA to be granted on an exempted basis to buildings. So the GBC does have this leeway of 23% of GFA, if you want me to give it to other things, by all means, please tell me. I hope this will provide a good basis for any effective advocacy to be done.

The second A is of course a very practical one – Assessment. Green building is not a subjective matter. It needs to be assessed, appraised and rated, so that it is done in a very professional, very objective and fair manner for all to see. And it’s only when we have this sort of objective assessment and grading, that we could on that basis formulate whether it’s a policy, whether it’s a voluntary accreditation or it is financial incentive. I’m very pleased to hear Andrew in one of his interviews has already talked about this subject in terms of a BEAM Plus. I just realised that in fact the BEAM was the second to be created worldwide, but in terms of widespread application perhaps it has not been given the due credit that it should with this environment and policy and so on. So in time to come, I hope that the BEAM Plus will be not only on par with the US LEED or the Australian Green Star, but also excels. It will be applied not only in the local context, in the regional context, in Mainland and also hopefully worldwide.

Again, in assessment, we are also in a very timely environment, because some of you will know in this year’s Policy Address, the Chief Executive has mapped out a rather ambitious strategy to retrofit and revitalise over 1,000 existing old industrial buildings in Hong Kong. Age-wise they are not actually very old and they are very versatile for adaptation and reuse. But of course we would like to see enhanced value out of the reuse and conversion of industrial buildings. So if the HKGBC could in due course come up with a template or particular assessment for industrial buildings’ retrofitting, then I think that will do a lot of good to our exercise and to the Hong Kong community.

The third A is Accreditation. We need trainers, we need properly-accredited, qualified and trained professionals to do the rating to apply the tool. And I would much encourage my own professionals in my various departments to take part in any training and accreditation that the HKGBC is going to lay out for us.

Finally is Award. People need some recognition. I would put running an award scheme as one of the priorities of the Hong Kong Green Building Council. Maybe not on day one, but in time to come, we should have a landmark event on the HKGBC award presentation and assuming that I will still be the Secretary for Development, I will happily attend to preside over any award presentation scheme. I was at a MIPIM Asia Award Presentation 2009 a couple of days ago. Sitting there, I realised that among the 24 finalists — the buildings that have been chosen by the panel of jury of eight categories ranging from green buildings to business centres, shopping malls, hotel resorts and futura projects and things like that, Hong Kong has only one entry, and we did not win any award in this particular award presentation. I realised that in past award presentations for Asia regions, Hong Kong did excel in some of the winning awards. But I dare not ask why, because I was sitting in between Aedas and some of the architect firms in Hong Kong. If I tended to ask why, they would immediate say, “Oh, it’s all your fault.” It’s because of your building codes. It’s all because of the way you calculate GFA, you stifle our imagination. I would like to share this fault with developers in Hong Kong. It’s also the developers’ fault, who are so keen and anxious about every square metre in GFA that they need to build and then they sell. But never mind, I think the world is changing, Hong Kong is changing, people are now attaching a lot more importance to quality city environment, spacious living. And I’m sure that with the efforts of HKGBC, people will have a change in mindset. We will see more winning entries both in what schemes to be mounted by HKGBC in due course, and also in any Asia region and worldwide competitions.

Now the next thing for me to say is after all I have said so much about what I expect the HKGBC to do, so what Development Bureau or the HKSAR Government can do for the HKGBC? Not much, I am afraid. This is because I was told by the world leaders in Green Building Councils that any successful Green Building Council should have very little association with the government. They need to be very independent. They don’t want to operate under government’s interference. They don’t want to be just a professional group, as K S will know, the PGBC cannot become a HKGBC because it is just formed by professionals. GBC worldwide has to be industry-based, membership-based, open door policy. So having said that, I try to find something that we could do for HKGBC.

The first thing is we will listen. We will listen and we will champion on behalf of the HKGBC within the HKSAR administration. These days, it will be very naive for you to think that the whole government thinks and sings in one voice. No, we argue. We argue very fiercely within our administration in order to champion for something that we believe is right. Conserving Central will not be able to be announced if it hasn’t gone through that argument. So we will listen and we will champion within the administration, we will argue on behalf of green buildings in Hong Kong, and the Council’s initiatives and good work if we feel that it is justified. And it is in the best interest of Hong Kong.

Second thing that we could do is we will act by example. As FS has mentioned, we have already issued technical circulars requiring new government buildings as well as existing government buildings to be retrofitted to higher standards. So we will set examples once BEAM Plus is available. We will have no hesitation to request our departments to adopt BEAM Plus for the assessment of our government buildings. We will also be able to provide incentives where justified. And this is an area that we need to work hard in the next six months or so. We will not shy away from regulations for mandating certain practices, if we feel again that it is well justified, like the mandatory compliance with the energy efficiency code to be introduced by legislation, by the Secretary for Environment in due course.

The third thing that we could do is we will support and provide funding where necessary. And this funding, I must qualify. In order to have this firewall and this independence, we will not be able to provide any recurrent funding to HKGBC. But where there are good projects that the Council wants to do and you want to do it very independently, so you don’t want to go to the developers for sponsorship, then come to me, come to us, we will try to squeeze money out of very limited budget. That $450 million does not belong to me, it belongs to the Secretary for Environment, but I’m sure Edward Yau will be very sympathetic and I will still be able to find some money within my overall operating expenditure in order to fund good projects of the Hong Kong Green Building Council.

So comparatively speaking, what we can do for the HKGBC is no match of what HKGBC is going to do for Hong Kong. I look to the leaders of the HKGBC Board, and the founding members, and more new members to join this important goal. Like constitutional development, what we need now is to embrace a common goal and find common ground, and move ahead. The last thing Hong Kong wants to see is stand still, doing nothing, and then we will be caught up by cities around the world. Thank you very much.

End

Reference: YTTRUP Consulting Engineers – Structural, Civil & Geotechnical Engineering.

A Systems Approach for Total Cooling Design

I have long advocated for the “Whole Building Design” approach, it has been an uphill struggle without a doubt. The renewed interest in green building has certainly increased awareness of this important skill. Now more help is at hand the Whole Building Design Guide (http://www.wbdg.org). It is published by the National Institute of Building Sciences (USA) so is naturally it is biased towards the USA market, however it will save us acolytes tremendous effort in the longer term.

The whole building design approach is really simple. If designers conceptualise buildings without considering energy costs from day one, that building will surely become an energy hog. The WBD (Whole Building Design) approach means thinking about the whole building impacts simultaneously.  A simple example, if a west facing glazing is shaded, reduce or eliminated, both the initial capital cost, and operating cost for the cooling plant will be reduced.  Since 63% of Hong Kong’s carbon footprint, and 90% of all the electricity generated is attributed to buildings, the opportunities for improvement are obvious.

The hidden beauty is that the principle is equally applicable to other sectors, including process, industry, and even cooling systems. And the latter is one area where the WBDG has overlooked an opportunity to apply whole system design approach for cooling systems.

Too often, building codes and energy codes only specify COP (coefficient of performance) for chiller plant, yet it is one part of the cooling system cycle. In the diagram below, each circle represents a heat exchange process.

kelcroft designConsider all the electrical power consumed for every heat exchange process, and divide by the total cooling capacity gives us a common metric kilowatts per ton (Kw/Ton) defining the whole cooling system efficiency.

The whole system includes all the electrical power used by:

  1. motors driving fans in the AHU (Air Handling Units) and other air moving equipment
  2. motors driving the chilled water pumps
  3. motors powering the chiller compressor
  4. motors driving the condenser water pumps
  5. motors driving fans in the cooling tower

With the focus elsewhere many cooling systems operate inefficiency in a range between 1.0-1.2 Kw/TR, whereas an efficient system would operate nearer 0.6-0.70 Kw/TR.

energyLAB limited Hong Kong

The question is where is your system operating?  If your cooling system is operating in the red, the good news is you have opportunities for improvement.

John A. Herbert
Consultant
Kelcroft E&M Limited

helping lower the cost of doing business in Asia

Saving Energy in Steam Systems

Opportunities to lower operating costs for Steam systems using energy efficiency improvements – there are plenty opportunities to improve industrial energy efficiency for steam systems in China, and elsewhere in Asia. And some projects may also qualify to earn extra income from a carbon credit (officially known as CER – Certified Emission Reduction) under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

I see the potential for the wider application  of CDM AM0017, which is the official CDM methodology for calculating the Steam system efficiency improvements by replacing steam traps and returning condensate.

System Systems
Steam is still a marvellous high density medium for transporting heat energy, and an essential part of industrial process needs, however a high pressure fluid, at temperatures up to 500 Deg C needs to be respected.  Twenty years ago I cut my teeth on steam projects in the United Kingdom, a typical hospital project demonstrates the utility of steam, where it is used for autoclaves, sterilising, catering, cleaning, domestic hot water, humidification, and also heating systems.

A steam system, consists of four main elements:

  1. Steam Generation
  2. Steam Distribution
  3. Steam Traps
  4. Condensate Return

energy efficient steam and condensate systems

Energy Audit Opportunities
An energy audit should examine the whole steam system, from generation through to point of use to identify wasted energy, and identify any cost effective improvements. You’ll notice immediately that unlike other piped systems, the steam flow and condensate return have to be handled separately.

Steam Generation
Steam generation means creating steam using fuel typically coal, oil, or gas, although electricity is sometimes used also.  Water is heated from atmospheric pressure to the designed steam pressure for use in the facility.  Operating boilers at maximum efficiently, including monitoring air flow, improved firing controls optimise the use of fuel and can yield good results. Power stations often use coal fired boilers, and naturally have a low thermal efficiency thirty percent is common, so there are opportunities to utilise that wasted heat energy for an local industrial process.  Opportunities for energy savings would include recovering any waste heat energy for example from flue gases, or blowdown to pre-heat the any fresh (raw) water. For large industrial plants it could be possible to use higher pressure steam to drive electricity generating turbine, and use that lower pressure exhaust for process purposes.

Steam Distribution
Steam distribution is the transfer of your steam now under high pressure from the boiler to the point of use with minimising losses, Steam is not mechanically pumped, its movement driven from the inherent pressure difference, high to low pressure.

It is important that the steam distribution system does not reduce or lower the quality (dryness) of the steam because that lowers the heat energy. Unlike other piped systems the steam can travel at high velocity, upto 30m/sec, and the self drainage of the steam pipework is critical to effectively deliver dry steam, and is air vented for start up conditions.

Piping configurations that dip under obstacles such as other services and beams would create a natural low point where condensate will accumulate impacting the steam quality, and provide a source for damage by water hammer. Particular care is required for the configuration of expansion joints to ensure they are self draining.

Opportunities for energy efficiency improvements in the steam distribution system include minimising heat losses, reducing piping routes, where possible design out low points, and economic insulation.

Steam Trapping

Although Steam trapping could be considered as part of Steam Distribution, or Condensate Return, the problems are so common and distinct Steam trapping deserves a separate section.

The steam trap is the gateway between the process outlet and the condensate piping system, very often the traps leak due to internal blockage.  Most steam traps have a small orifice that can easily become blocked by debris and fail in the open position. A failed steam trap wastes energy due to causes increased heat-up time, and lengthened the product cycle times because the potential latent energy in steam passes straight though the process and is lost in to the condensate system.

Condensate

Bad design or maintenance panic (just to get production running again) causes another common problem, the wrong type of steam trap, and facility operators are unaware that the wrong type of trap is wasting energy. In some circumstance, poor management can cause injury to operators.

Traditionally,  condensate steams were fitted with a special type of fitting known as a sight glass so operators had the opportunity to visually check that water, and not steam, was flowing in to the condensate line.

However, the sight glass had many disadvantages.  Over time the “glass” viewing port become obscured and unusable. Also some sight glasses were installed in such a location that the operators couldn’t physically access the sight glass to check it.  To overcome these shortfalls a different type of steam trap monitor was invented to provide remote monitoring of condensate or steam flow, for example, the Spira-Tech manufactured by Spriax Sarco, other companies provide similar systems.  This type of trap monitoring system immediately alerts the facility operator that they have a faulty trap, and importantly its exact location.

Condensate Return
After the steam has been used in the facility process to heat a product, what remains is the Condensate (hot water). It must be noted that still many industrial steam plants don’t have any condensate return system! Why is that a problem? because it millions of litres of hot water are wasted, in additional “cold” raw water needs to be purchased to replace it.

Where uncontaminated condensate can be captured, it can be sent through insulated piping back to to the boiler for reuse. In my experience, next comes the most commonly asked question “What percentage of condensate should be returned to the steam boiler plant?” In a perfect world 100%, yes, all the condensate should be returned to the boiler, since the condensate contains up to 20-30% of the heat energy used to create the steam, returning it to the boiler saves both fuel and raw water.

However, there are no targets written in stone, 100% is an ideal goal but it is simply not practical in the field, any system that returns less than 70%-80% condensate warrants investigation.  It is worth noting that condensate flow varies, during start-up approximately twice the flow rate of normal operating conditions is experienced so condensate handling must account for higher loads at start-up. Opportunities for energy efficiency improvements include increasing the quantity of condensate returned to the boiler, eliminating leakage, and economic thermal insulation for the condensate piping.

Carbon Credits
Energy efficiency improvements are driven by the economic imperative, lower facility operating costs. In addition to the lower costs, saving fuel also reduces the demand for finite fuel resources such as oil and gas.  Another potential income stream from energy efficiency improvement projects in developing countries is provided by the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).  AM0017 is the CDM methodology for calculating the Steam System efficiency improvements from replacing steam traps and returning condensate. That means the saved energy can be translated into a carbon credit which has a real monetary value, and can be sold on the carbon market.

by John A. Herbert, Consultant