Steam supply: efficient and safe

Steam supply is a cost-effective, efficient means of providing industrial companies with electricity and heat. Various boiler designs can be used depending on the application, steam power and pressure required, steam temperature and fuel used. GETEC has extensive know-how when it comes to steam supply.

1. Principles of steam generation

Alongside electrical energy, water vapour is an excellent medium for the efficient transport of energy from where it is generated in a boiler system to where it is used – the steam consumer. The aim of the steam consumer is to provide heat for thermal processes indirectly by means of heat exchangers – also known as heat transmitters. 

Heat exchangers transfer the heat from the water vapour to the medium to be heated via a partition wall. If necessary, it is also possible to incorporate steam directly into the product to utilise the heat of the steam without using a heat exchanger.

2. Power generation using water vapour

At the same time, steam can be used to carry out effective mechanical work, for example, generating electricity

Steam was the medium behind the invention of the steam engine and thus the driving force behind the Industrial Revolution. Although James Watt is credited with inventing the steam engine in 1769, Thomas Newcomen built the first working steam machine for pumping water out of a mine in 1712.

The use of:

  • steam engines
  • steam trains and
  • steam turbines

made it possible to convert heat into mechanical energy and thus replace human and animal muscle power and achieve hitherto impossible productivity.

3. Heat supply using high-pressure steam

Even now, water vapour in the form of high-pressure steam plays an important role in supplying industrial applications with heat. But why is this the case? The mere generation of water vapour is technically very simple using boiler systems. The working medium required, water, is available all over the world. Water vapour has a particularly high energy density because it transitions from gas to liquid form as a result of energy extraction and thus releases its heat of evaporation or enthalpy of evaporation in the process. This process is called condensation.

Heating water from 0°C to 100°C takes just 10% of the energy required to evaporate this water at 100°C. The energy required for evaporation is known as enthalpy of evaporation and becomes usable when steam condenses.

This means that only comparatively small amounts of water vapour need to be generated and transported in order to transport a relatively large amount of energy. There is a very favourable ratio between effort and use. The steam absorbs its energy when heat continues to be added to the water over its boiling point, which depends on pressure, and releases this energy during the condensation process – when the energy extraction reverts the steam back to water in liquid form (condensation).

During the process of condensing 1t of steam, around 700kWh of usable heat is released and approx. 1m³ of condensate fed back into the boiler. By comparison, if the same amount of heat is provided using heating water in a heat exchanger, 31m³ of water would need to be pumped to the heat exchanger and back to the heat generator (assuming the temperature differential is 20K, e.g. flow temperature 90°C, return temperature 70°C). This means that steam is the most suitable medium for delivering heat, especially if a large amount of heat energy is required.

Steam can be provided at higher temperatures than hot water, which is another advantage as some steam consumers need higher temperatures. Added to this is the fact that condensation results in very high heat transfer levels, with relatively small and therefore cost-effective heat transfer surfaces required.

4. Steam generator designs and fuels

Boilers – also known as steam generators – of various designs are used for steam supply. 

Today, various boiler designs are used, depending on:

  • Area of application
  • Steam power required
  • Steam pressure required
  • Steam temperature
  • Fuel used

A steam pressure of approx. 30 bar is adequate for standard industrial applications, so shell boilers or smoke tube boilers are first choice for cost reasons. Water tube boilers are used for higher steam pressures and very high steam power levels. Gaseous, liquid and solid fossil fuels are used, for example:

  • Natural gas
  • Liquid gas
  • Heating oil
  • Lignite or black coal
  • Lignite dust

Regenerative fuels such as wood, HTC coal, biogas, straw and energy plants can also be used in boilers.

GETEC – partner for everything related to steam supply

GETEC has over 20 years of experience in supplying its customers with steam and electricity based on various different fuels. After the planning and approval phases, GETEC heat & power GmbH builds the plants itself and has comprehensive experience not only in construction, but also operation and service of several hundred plants. Companies opting to work with GETEC can benefit from this know-how.

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