TECHNICAL BOILERHOUSE RISK ASSESSMENT.

Matthew Schofield from Industrial Technical Solutions explains what is Technical Boilerhouse Risk Assessment and some key elements that should always be at the forefront of the boilerhouse manager’s/responsible person’s mind about steam generation. As an award-winning independent consultant and over 30 years of experience within steam and complex process plants, industrial technical solutions provide Training and risk management solutions for steam systems.

Regardless of how well we believe our boilers are being operated and managed, we should have a process of understanding the inherent risks that prevail with boilers/pressure systems and the consequences of catastrophic failure should anything go wrong.

This is where a Technical Boilerhouse Risk Assessment is essential. The TBRA is the tool that assesses the potential of catastrophic failure from all elements of boiler operations, Service, maintenance etc.. Capturing elements relating to water treatment, thermal cycling and a multitude of elements could all lead to potential failure of the boiler. 

Identification of these risks, hazards and the potential likelihood give us the knowledge to eliminate or manage those risks accordingly. This extends to offsite activities that could have an impact on the boiler safety and also importantly the consequences off-site should the boiler fail.

The risk assessment should be completed by a competent person who fully assesses the risks associated with your assets, operations and maintenance regimes and other influencing factors. Ideally, the person completing should be independent to create a non-biased, impartial view of the system and risks. However, it is imperative that personnel from the site feed into the system and understand the outcomes since they will be living with it.

The TBRA should not only be seen as a tool to be used by management it should be a tool that is used to train personnel on the risks associated with the boilerhouse and the consequences of failure modes. Even people who don’t interact with the boiler but conduct operations in the locality or actions that may influence boiler conditions should be aware of elements contained within the TBRA.

A TBRA should cover all elements of the boilerhouse from services entering and steam exiting. With a forensic HAZOP-style approach to identity factors that contribute to boiler safety and how they are being controlled and managed. This includes such things as:

  • Primary Water treatment
  • Secondary Water Treatment (chemical Dosing) and control
  • Staff competency
  • Management Competency
  • Training
  • Operations (load/Boiler cycles)
  • Service and Inspection
  • Environmental
  • Condensate contamination risk
  • Combustion
  • Alarm & trip (interlocks)

We see many clients that put the emphasis on good boiler house management as having trained operators in place. This is of course one important factor but there are many other things to consider in relation to ensuring that the whole boilerhouse and steam process is being managed responsibly.

Below we discuss some important factors, often found missing or neglected in many boilerhouses, but are essential in ensuring assets are managed and operated responsibly, efficiently, safely and compliantly to eliminate or reduce the associated hazards and risks.

Procedures

Procedures should be derived from the manufacturer’s O&M manual but bespoke to the facility. Following the manufacturer’s documentation will ensure your asset is operated as the manufacturer expects it to be (including the warranty period and beyond). There will however be bespoke elements that you need to factor into your own procedures, such as the location of E-stop, remote panels, and wider site actions for emergencies.

It is therefore apparent that O&M procedures from the manufacturer are an important starting point for ensuring compliant operations, but there is a need to create site-specific procedures and train personnel to them.

Obviously, it goes without saying (but again often neglected) that procedures should be reviewed on a regular basis, and after changes in systems, personnel, or conditions that may affect them. 

Logbooks

The most important document to demonstrate that the boiler(s) are being operated and checked, not only in line with manufacturers O&M’s but also legislation and guidance is the logbook. Here we capture all operations and interactions within the boilerhouse.

Logbooks should not be seen as a tick box exercise, they should detail and capture checks, tests and conditions that clearly demonstrate operations are satisfactory or not and include any remedial actions.

A logbook should be site-specific and relate to all assets and ancillary equipment present. There should be specific and clear areas to capture data and normal conditions, with clear instruction/escalation should parameters or checks deviate from normal.

Data/results captured can also be trended to be more proactive in making adjustments, in particular around chemical dosing. Trending allows minor adjustments to maintain results in the defined range.

The person ultimately responsible for the boilerhouse should take ownership of these and review on a regular basis to satisfy themselves that the level of detail is adequate and sign to verify that they have reviewed the logs. 

Energy Management

Energy monitoring should be seen as more than a reporting function, it should be there to support operational efficiency.

A good understanding of energy/utility consumption (water/chemicals/gas/Electricity etc..) can be a good tool to identify changes in activity and consider them against the boilerhouse activities and operations. 

Changes in usage against production can be linked or assuming production is stable increased consumption of utilities could be related to reduced efficiency in the boilerhouse. However, without measuring and monitoring these relationships cannot be determined.

Service & Maintenance

Any boiler should have a robust inspection and service regime with outputs reviewed and condition/deterioration closely monitored.

This approach serves a number of benefits:

  • Routine preventive maintenance reduces breakdowns.
  • Allows early identification of failing parts, so spares can be sourced and replaced prior to failure.
  • Regularly maintained assets tend to be more efficient.
  • Adjustments can be made to ensure compliance (particularly around combustion assets and emissions).
  • It can identify and potentially prevent catastrophic failures due to the impact of thermal cycling and/or poor water treatment.

All the above allows assessment of the condition and aids in predicting the asset life to avoid operational failures.

Water Treatment

Likely to be the most important factor in ensuring that your boiler internals remain free from corrosion, scale formation and solids. Poor water quality can rapidly cause a boiler to fail, with little or no warning if conditions aren’t checked. By establishing a good regime of chemistry dosing control and testing, we can ensure that the boiler-wetted parts are retained in optimum condition. 

Getting things wrong and things such as Oxygen low and high pH can soon have a detrimental impact on the boiler, coupled with thermal cycling/stressing, and untrained personnel and it could be a recipe for disaster.

Why not check your boilerhouse for compliance and risks that prevail and determine how well they are controlled or eliminated. For any additional support reach out to Industrial Technical Solutions for any support in delivering boilerhouse management practices. Delivering Process Engineering consultancy and servicing across the globe we can support your boilerhouse operations.

Author

Matt Schofield

IEng AMIChemE

NEBOSH Process Safety Management. 

Dip BOM (Diploma in Boiler Operations and Management).

MSOE MIPlantE

Email: [email protected]

Web: www.tec-sol.co.uk

Tel: 07906 548201

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