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Article of the Month:

Steam Trap Inspection Basics Using Ultrasound

Adrian Messer

CMRP Manager of US Operations
UE Systems, Inc.
Ph: 864-224-4517 
Cell: 914-282-3504 


High energy prices and global competition dictate a need to reduce energy waste and improve system efficiencies whenever possible. Steam, aside from being one of the most costly utilities in plants, is an essential component to product quality in many processing industries. A major contributor to waste and inefficiency is leaks: both to atmosphere and through valves and steam traps.

According to the United States Department of Energy, a typical facility can realize steam savings of 20% by improving their steam system. Improvements to the steam system may include insulating steam and condensate return lines, stopping any steam leaks, and maintaining steam traps. Experts have also said that as much as 20% of the steam generated at the central boiler is lost to leaking or failed steam traps. With current steam prices averaging between $8.00 to $12.00 per thousand pounds of steam, a steam trap inspection program is a must. For example, if a steam trap with an orifice size of 3/32” operating at 100 psi steam can lose nearly 30 lbs. of steam per hour, at a cost of $8.00/1000 lbs. of steam, that results in a loss of over $2,000 per year from just one failed steam trap.

The purpose of a successful steam trap inspection program should be to repair any faulty steam traps and steam leaks that can impact safety, to reduce energy waste and promote sustainability, and to repair any failed steam traps and steam leaks that impact product quality. A successful steam trap inspection program will also have proper documentation and reporting procedures in place that will show the benefits of the program from inspection initiatives that will include the dollars saved from the reduction in energy waste, any dollar amounts related to the decrease in scrap or product quality, and any dollars saved from downtime avoidance that could have resulted from the failed steam traps. This paper will discuss the principles and practices of an effective ultrasound steam system inspection, and how to successfully perform an ultrasound steam trap survey.

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