Why and where steam is used

Steam is used for a variety of purposes in a huge number of processes across industries as diverse as pharmaceutical, food and beverage, textiles, pulp and paper, oil and petrochemicals, laundries, and public buildings.

04/19/2015


Steam is used for a variety of purposes in a huge number of processes across industries as diverse as pharmaceutical, food and beverage, textiles, pulp and paper, oil and petrochemicals, laundries, and public buildings. What do these things all have in common: A headache tablet, a gallon of gasoline, a pair of stretchy leggings, a can of baked beans, a tin of paint, a ream of paper, and a car dashboard?

They are all produced with the assistance of steam!

Steam is used for a variety of purposes in a huge number of processes across industries as diverse as pharmaceutical, food and beverage, textiles, pulp and paper, oil and petrochemicals, laundries, and public buildings. We literally couldn’t function in the modern world without it.

Steam has been used to produce electrical power in thermal power stations for many years. Even in modern generation facilities today (such as nuclear power stations) steam is still the fluid used to turn the turbines. Power produced from gas turbines can also involve steam in Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) systems. Here steam is produced from the gas turbine exhaust and used in a steam turbine to improve the overall generation efficiency.

What makes steam so suitable for all these other different applications?

Well it takes a lot of energy to turn water into steam, energy that is ‘made available’ again when the steam condenses back to water. This makes steam a very effective carrier of heat. A lot of energy available in a small volume means smaller pipes.

As steam condenses, its pressure drops and higher-pressure steam flows into the lower pressure region. Therefore no pumps are needed to make the steam flow, a considerable saving in installation and running costs. No pumps also mean no system balancing is required.

Another of steam’s unique properties is that there is a distinct relationship between pressure and temperature. So to control the temperature of the steam, and its heat transfer capabilities, we need only to control the pressure. That means the use of a simple 2-port valve rather than the mixture of 2 and 3 ports normally associated with liquid heating systems.

Steam is inherently sterile. The rapid transfer of heat it gives when condensing is the reason why it is such a common means of sterilizing not only surgical instruments in a sterilizer, but also pipelines in essential industries such as food or pharmaceuticals where steam is a key component of SIP (Steam In Place) or CIP (Clean In Place) systems.

Being a sterile gas makes steam an ideal choice to humidify air in ventilation systems. This is why it is commonly used in the healthcare, pharmaceutical and electronic industries where clean, sterile and humidified air is required. Of course steam can be used to heat the air as well (strangely, it can also cool the air).

Steam is inherently a safe medium (a leak won’t poison). It is also a very forgiving medium. A steam system will seldom simply stop working but with a little ongoing maintenance, operating costs can be kept low.

Content provided by Spirax Sarco. Originally published in Steam News Volume 5 Issue 1. Edited by Anisa Samarxhiu, Digital Project Manager, CFE Media, asamarxhiu@cfemedia.com



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
2016 Product of the Year; Diagnose bearing failures; Asset performance management; Testing dust collector performance measures
Safety for 18 years, warehouse maintenance tips, Ethernet and the IIoT, GAMS 2016 recap
2016 Engineering Leaders Under 40; Future vision: Where is manufacturing headed?; Electrical distribution, redefined
SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
Safety at every angle, Big Data's impact on operations, bridging the skills gap
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Applying network redundancy; Overcoming loop tuning challenges; PID control and networks
Driving motor efficiency; Preventing arc flash in mission critical facilities; Integrating alternative power and existing electrical systems
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role of plant safety and offers advice on best practices.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me