5 1 Introduction

Boilers and other fired systems are the most significant energy consumers. Almost two-thirds of the fossil-fuel energy consumed in the United States involves the use of a boiler, furnace, or other fired system. Even most electric energy is produced using fuel-fired boilers. Over 68% of the electricity generated in the United States is produced through the combustion of coal, fuel oil, and natural gas. (The remainder is produced through nuclear, 22%; hydroelectric, 10%; and geothermal and others, <1%.) Unlike many electric systems, boilers and fired systems are not inherently energy efficient.

This chapter and the following chapter on Steam and Condensate Systems examine how energy is consumed, how energy is wasted, and opportunities for reducing energy consumption and costs in the operation of boiler and steam plants. A list of energy and cost reduction measures is presented, categorized as: load reduction, waste heat recovery, efficiency improvement, fuel cost reduction, and other opportunities. Several of the key opportunities for reducing operating costs are presented ranging from changes in operating procedures to capital improvement opportunities. The topics reflect recurring opportunities identified from numerous in-plant audits. Several examples are presented to demonstrate the methodology for estimating the potential energy savings associated with various opportunities. Many of these examples utilize easy to understand nomographs and charts in the solution techniques.

In addition to energy saving opportunities, this chapter also describes some issues relevant to day-to-day operations, maintenance, and troubleshooting. Considerations relative to fuel comparison and selection are also discussed. Developing technologies relative to alternative fuels and types of combustion equipment are also discussed. Some of the technologies discussed hold the potential for significant cost reductions while alleviating environmental problems.

The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of some of the major regulations impacting the operation of boilers and fired systems. It is important to emphasize the need to carefully assess the potential impact of federal, state, and local regulations.

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