652 Methods of Condensate Heat Recovery

Several options are available for recovery of condensate, ranging in cost and complexity from simple and inexpensive to elaborate and costly. The choice of which option is best depends on the amount of condensate to be recovered, other uses for its energy, and the potential cost savings relative to other possible investments.

The simplest system, which can be utilized if condensate is presently being discharged, is the installation of a vented flash tank which collects condensate from various points of formation and cools it sufficiently to allow it to be delivered back to the boiler feed tank. Figure 6.17 schematically illustrates such a system. It consists of a series of collection lines tying the points of condensate generation to the flash tank, which allows the liquid to separate from the flash steam; the flash steam is vented to the atmosphere through an open pipe. Condensate may be gravity-drained through a strainer and a trap. To avoid further generation of flash steam, a cooling leg may be incorporated to cool the liquid below its saturation temperature.

Flash tanks must be sized to produce proper separation of the flash steam from the liquid. As condensate is flashed, steam will be generated rather violently, and as vapor bubbles burst at the surface, liquid may be entrained and carried out through the vent. This represents a nuisance, and in some cases a safety hazard, if the vent is located in proximity to personnel or equipment. Table 6.17 permits the estimation of flash tank size required for a given application. Although strictly speaking, flash tanks must be sized on the basis of volume, if a typical length to diameter of about 3:1 is assumed, flash tank dimensions can be represented as the product of diameter times length, which has the units of square feet (area), even though this particular product has no direct physical significance. Consider, for example, the sizing of a vented flash tank for collection of 80-psig condensate at a rate of about 3000 lb/hr. For a flash tank pressure of 0 psig (atmospheric pressure), the diameter-length product is about 2.5 per 1000 lb. Therefore, a diameter times length of 7.5 ft2 would be needed for this application. A tank 1.5 ft in diameter by 5 ft long would be satisfactory. Of course, for flash tanks as with other condensate equipment, conservative design would suggest the use of an appropriate safety factor.

As noted above, venting of flash steam to the atmosphere is a wasteful process, and if significant amounts of condensate are to be recovered, it may be desirable to attempt to utilize this flash steam. Figure 6.18 shows a modification of the simple flash tank system to accomplish this. Rather than venting to the atmosphere, the flash tank is pressurized and flash steam is piped to a low-pressure steam main, where it can be utilized for process purposes. From Table 6.17 it will be noted that the flash tank can be smaller in physical size at elevated pressure, although, of course, it must be properly designed for pressure containment. If in the example above the 80-psig condensate were flashed in a 15-psig tank, only about 2.7 ft2 of diameter times length would be required. A tank 1 ft in diameter by 3 ft long could be utilized. Atmospheric vents are usually provided for automatic pressure relief and to allow manual venting if desired.

Fig. 6.17 Flash tank vented to atmosphere.
Fig. 6.18 Pressurized flash tank discharging to low-pressure steam system.

If pressurized flash steam is to be used, the cost of piping to set up a low-pressure steam system may be significant, particularly if the flash tank is remote from the potential low-pressure steam applications. Thus it is desirable to plan such a system to minimize these piping costs by generating the flash steam near its point of use. Figure 6.19 illustrates such an application. Here an air heater having four sections formerly utilized 100-psi steam in all sections. Because the temperature difference between the steam and the cold incoming air is larger than the difference at the exit end, the condensate load would be unevenly balanced among the four sections, with the heaviest load in the first section; lower-temperature steam could be utilized here. In the revised arrangement shown, 100-psi steam is used in the last three sections; condensate is drained to a 5-psi flash tank, where low-pressure steam is generated and piped to the first section, substantially reducing the overall steam load to the heater. Note that for backup purposes, a pressure-controlled reducing valve has been incorporated to supplement the low-pressure flash steam at light-load conditions. This example shows how flash steam can be used directly without an expensive piping system to distribute it. A similar approach could apply to adjacent pieces of equipment in a multiple-batch operation.

Table 6.17 Flash Tank Sizing0 Steam Flash Tank Pressure (psig)


Table 6.17 Flash Tank Sizing0 Steam Flash Tank Pressure (psig)



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