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Introduction to Basics of Boiler Components for Mechanical Engineers

  • 17 April, 2017

The most important components of boilers include fuel oil systems, super heaters, and ash removal systems. As a mechanical engineer, it is extremely critical to understand the various components of boilers. Heat transfer is an important topic for undergraduate mechanical engineers preparing to take the FE Mechanical exam to understand. Heat transfer is thoroughly reviewed in our FE Mechanical exam review course.

Introduction to Basics of Boiler Components for Mechanical Engineers

1. Fuel Oil System

Oil-fired boilers may use a light grade oil, typically diesel, or a heavier grade residual oil that is often referred to as "Bunker Fuel." Light oils have a low viscosity and do not require pre-heating. They are pumped from the storage tank to the burner, which is equipped with an atomizing tip that sprays the oil into the furnace in the form of a fine mist. The mist mixes very rapidly with the combustion air, ensuring efficient and clean furnace operation. Heavy residual fuel oils are viscous and require pre-heating for proper atomization. The most commonly used residual fuels are typically more viscous. The temperature required to achieve optimal atomization may differ between fuels.

2. Super Heaters

Steam leaving the boiler is routed through the super heater element, which is located in a high-temperature zone of the furnace. The moisture quickly evaporates because the steam is no longer in contact with the water in the drum. The actual difference between the saturation temperature and the actual steam temperature is called the degree of superheat. Although superheating does add additional energy to the steam, the primary objective is to provide a margin of safety by ensuring that the steam does not immediately begin to condense prior to giving up its superheat energy component. Super heaters are commonly used in water tube boilers. The nature of the process determines whether a super heater is required; a super heater is not generally used unless there is a specific need.

3. Ash Removal

Environmental legislation in most jurisdictions imposes strict constraints on particulate emissions. Therefore, removing entrained fly ash is usually a mandatory requirement on solid-fuel boilers. For large boilers, electrostatic precipitators, bag houses, and scrubbers are widely used. One of the most common methods employed on small to medium sized boilers is the multi-cyclone grit arrester; it has low capital costs and a degree of efficiency that will satisfy all but the most stringent requirements. Understanding boiler components and heat transfer mechanisms is critical for the FE Mechanical exam. Our FE Mechanical exam review course thoroughly covers the topics of heat exchangers, boiling, and condensation.

4. Common Types of Boilers for Engineering Applications

(i) Fire tube boilers:

Fire tube boilers have the advantage of relatively low capital and operating costs. These types of boilers are predominantly used in industries and processes that have modest steam demands at low to medium pressure. Physical size constraints impose limits on operating pressure and because of their large mass, fire tube boilers are not well suited to large, rapid changes in steam loads.

(ii) Water Tube Boilers

The water circulation through the tubes of a water tube boiler follows a defined path. This process ensures that a relatively small quantity of water will be rapidly distributed by heat, which results in an efficient operation. Water tube boilers can be brought up to working pressure much more quickly than fire tube equivalents.

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