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Somewhere in America - Dan H.

DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,434
Somewhere in America today an old friend of mine is hanging a low-NOX gas/oil burner on the side of this steam boiler. This burner weighs 3,600 pounds and is the size of a Buick. It produces screaming air currents that sound like a banshee, but no one seems to mind because it's in a very noisy place. Sometime this week this burner will belch flame into a boiler that will produce 35,000,000 BTUH of steam at 100 psig. Big enough for you?

Once he's done, the steam will travel about 150 feet to a PRV station, which will reduce the pressure to 15 psig. From there, it will travel a bit further to some shell-and-tube heat exchangers that will convert the latent heat to 180-degree water so that they can heat some buildings with baseboard radiators. There is no need for high-pressure steam anywhere else in this facility. The boiler is there because it was specified by someone who wanted it there.

Make sense so far? I didn't think so either.

My friend is, of course, getting paid big bucks to hang that Buick of a burner. The other boiler has the same burner. It's a bit older, but the same size. Why, you wonder, is there another boiler?


My friend didn't plan any of this. He just marvels at it all, as do I. He does what he's told and he gets paid and that's good enough for him. If they ask him to hang a burner that is bigger than the Fourth of July, then that's what he's going to do. He's a contractor, not an engineer.

You're wondering what they do here? Well, they treat sewage. They gather it from great pipes, separate this from that, collect the Essence of Poop, compress it into tight little briquettes and set it afire in an incinerator that is as big as your imagination. They use natural gas to get things going, and once begun, the process is self-perpetuating - as long as there is a ready supply of poop. Which there always is, we being a well-fed people.

Now, poop burns mighty hot. The flue gasses that come out of this incinerator are around 2,000 degrees. If they let that fly up the chimney it would look like Cape Canaveral and the neighbors would probably get concerned. So the engineers take those flue gasses and cycle them through this other steam boiler that is larger than Madison Square Garden. Here, they produce steam at 400 psig, which they then vent though a pipe in the roof. From a distance, this plant appears to be producing clouds as a subcontractor to God.

You may wonder, as my friend did, why the engineers don't just take the 400-psig of wasted steam and use it to heat their buildings. After all, the supply of poop is never-ending, and the load (so to speak) is more than sufficient. All it would take would be a pipe from here to the PRV station. There is really no reason to have the two 35,000,000 BTUH boilers producing steam at 100-psig, which is immediately reduced to 15-psig, and then converted to 180-degree water. It appears to be the Department of Redundancy Department at work. I suspect that some engineer was frightened by the possibility that all the citizens may become constipated at the same time. Back-up (no pun intended) thus became essential.

I asked my friend why they were doing all of this and he shrugged. "Beats me," he said. "I'm just the contractor."

Years ago, I looked at a set of plans and specs for a new public school in New York City. This place was three-stories tall and they were going to heat it with hot water. They specified a steam boiler, a shell-and-tube heat exchanger with a load that equaled the steam boiler's, and a boiler-feed pump that could have doubled as a studio apartment. They were producing steam at low pressure and sending it to the heat exchanger, which was to be directly above the steam boiler. The feed pump was right next to the boiler.

Being young and innocent in those days, I asked, "Why don't you just use a hot-water boiler?"

"The maintenance people are used to taking care of steam boilers," the engineer explained. "We don't know what they'd do with a hot water boiler."

So somewhere in New York City, schoolchildren are warmed by the Department of Old Habits.

And somewhere in America, other people are pooping and not realizing that there is a lot more to waste than that which flows downhill.

<B>Dumb Things</B>

A lot of dumb things get done in this industry. Some of them are actually pretty funny! Come spend a Saturday morning with me in beautiful Hamburg, NY (Saturday, May 3) and I"ll tell you more.

I'll be at the Erie County Fairgrounds and my morning session is tied into the largest trade show in Western New York State. ASHRAE and ASPE are the sponsors. We begin at 8 AM and finish at Noon, just in time for the show!

You can still get a seat if you hurry. Call Dorothy Reddy at 716-631-8575 or email her at [email protected]
Retired and loving it.


  • Richard Miller_2
    Richard Miller_2 Member Posts: 139

    cool story.

    any trips to CO soon?
  • Joe_10
    Joe_10 Member Posts: 22

    How About all those BTUs of methae that have to be burnt off so they don't accumulate to dangerous levels? They are generted at the same place. Hmmmmmmmmmmm???
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