Recently, a North American chemical manufacturer was having problems with their boilers tripping during startup and shutdown sequences. This problem was caused by a wide variation in the process’ demand for steam. This situation caused lost production, which affected the overall plant efficiency.
Jim’s mission was to work with 2 boilers and about 10 loops controlling these boilers to resolve the situation.
The problem began when the plant installed a new steam-driven compressor that required a minimum steam pressure for operation. The team installed a backpressure controller to satisfy the steam requirements of the compressor. However, the boiler still had to ramp up very quickly to maintain the plant steam header pressure on process unit shutdowns. When the boiler firing-rate was increased too rapidly, the boiler would trip due to low feedwater level.
Jim worked with the plant staff to perform open loop bump tests on the feedwater flow and drum-level control loops. This data was collected in the PI historian and analyzed with the EnTech Tuner. Lambda tuning constants were calculated resulting in much faster and stable drum level control. Next, the boiler master controls were tuned to coordinate the speed of response with the level control. It was important that the firing response was fast enough to meet the requirements of the steam header, but not so fast as to cause an unrecoverable upset to the drum level resulting in a boiler trip.
Since his visit to the site, the manufacturer has not had a boiler trip in over four weeks, despite numerous simultaneous unit shutdowns.
Beyond the improved reliability of the process, Jim provided the operations staff some key insights on what to watch for if instability creeps back into the process.