Heating is a part of many production processes. Combustion units largely provide this heat. These units may include boilers, heater, ovens, furnaces, incinerators, kilns, dryers and more.

I caught up with Emerson’s Bob Sabin who works with manufacturers and producers to improve how these units operate, since energy costs are typically a large part of the overall operational costs for these production processes. Bob shared with me that many times with combustion improvement projects, people get focused on efficiency only.

But for operations, that is often not really the only thing or even the biggest thing. Often, more importantly is the reliability & availability, responsiveness, ease of operation, and ease of troubleshooting & maintenance of these units.

On many of the control retrofit projects on which Bob has worked with manufacturers and producers, he helps with ways to justify the investments to do these projects. Areas where better performance can happen includes delivering better performance in availability, maintenance costs, thermal efficiency, emissions, load change responsiveness, turndown, operator interaction and span of control. Better instrumentation and controls play are large role in generating these improvements.

Package boiler combustion optimization

Justification can take many forms. Three main areas are in regulatory compliance, safety and overall availability & reliability. From a regulatory compliance perspective, a well-executed project delivers full compliance with current NFPA and insurer recommendations and best practices. Also emissions are reduced.

From a safety perspective, existing sensors, final elements and logic solvers can be upgraded to Safety Integrity Level (SIL)-capable equipment for the required safety functions.

There’s a long list of ways that availability and reliability are improved as justification for a combustion unit optimization project, including:

  • Fully automatic control of the combustion unit
  • Straight forward light-off with clear indication of sequence state
  • English language messages for cause of trip or light-off issue
  • Little need for routine operator manual intervention
  • Good automatic response to steam demand changes (boiler) or production variations (process unit)
  • Optimal drum level stability (boiler)
  • Turndown capability to the burner/unit limit
  • Low variability in all process parameters
  • Simplified operations user interface
  • Reduced maintenance need and quicker troubleshooting when there are issues

Bob and the Industrial Energy consultants can help you justify ways to improve the performance of your combustion unit assets and execute these projects. Visit the Industrial Energy & Onsite Utilities section on for more on the technologies and solutions that can drive improved performance in safety, reliability, efficiency and emissions.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.

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