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By Kenneth E. Heselton, P. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. While every effort is made to provide dependable information, the publisher, authors, and editors cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions.
In the seven years since I finished the first edition of this book I have had several opportunities to think about what else this book could include to give operators more intelligence and tools and therefore better operation of plants. Many ideas were generated by operators asking questions at classes that I teach regularly for operators to comply with regulations of the Maryland Department of the environment. As a result there are a few changes in this edition that should be fruitful.
One section of the chapter addresses the environmental effects of inadvertent and intentional discharges of some of our refrigerants. There are several short courses available for operators to take for that examination and they are normally accompanied by the exam. I do hope this new edition will help you better understand the importance of wise operation of boiler plants and associated facilities.
While many authors list people that have supported, guided, or assisted them in the preparation of their book I failed to do so with the first edition.
The result was a concerted effort to produce a book that could be called a handbook within a limited time frame that I ran well over. Regrettably many of the individuals that contributed to my knowledge and experience with boiler plants are now dead. Chuck Sgamato, the second assistant engineer aboard the African Glade, my first ship sailing as a cadet, made sure that I understood the duties of every man in the engine room by doing them. He had me doing the dirty cleanup jobs, firing the boiler, changing oil burners, etc.
When I quit sailing and took my first shore job at Hercules Incorporated Norm Lind, Walt Applegate, Tom Gamble, Lou Tori and others at Hercules provided the challenges I needed to develop design experience and a better knowledge of air conditioning. After Hercules I spent twenty-two years with Power and Combustion and was allowed to screw up and fix my own screw-ups plus work on many projects that were unique and difficult and just plain fun to do.
I owe a lot to the guidance of Russ Conklin and Ed Deacon and an excellent working relationship with Bob Jackson, Elmer Sells, Harry Deiter and many steamfitters and boilermakers that enjoyed doing an excellent job as much as I did. This book is written for the boiler operator, an operating engineer or stationary engineer by title, who has knowledge and experience with operating boilers but would like to know more and be able to operate his plant wisely.
It is also simple enough to help a beginning operator learn the tricks of the trade by reading the book instead of learning the old-fashioned way through experience some of which can be very disagreeable. The book can also be used by the manager or superintendent who wants a reference to understand what his operators are talking about.
There are two basic types of operators, those that put in their eight hours on shift while doing as little as possible and those that are proud of their profession and do their best to keep their plant in top shape and running order. You must be one of the latter and you should take pride in that alone.
The operator should be able to do the work or supervise it. As for keeping an eye on the plant, that phrase is nothing more than a saying. If you are a manager, reading this book because operators report to you, you should know this—the experienced operator keeps an ear on the plant. The operator knows something is amiss long before any alarm goes off because he can hear any subtle change in the sound of the plant.
Managers with a sense of the skill of their operators will use them on overtime and off-shift to perform most of the regular maintenance. Chapter 1, Operating Wisely, is the guiding outline for an operator that wants to do just that. The rest of the book is reference and informational material that either explains a concept of operation or maintenance in greater detail, or offers definitions.
I hope this book gives you everything you need to operate wisely. If it were not for the power of the human mind with its ability to process information and produce concepts that have never existed before we would be limited to living out our lives like the other species that reside on this earth. We would act as we always have and never make any progress or improve our lives and our environment. We could, of course, do only those things expected of us and be content with the rewards for doing so.
Some are small, some are large, and all have good information in them. What they always seem to miss is the fact that they never told the operator what the gadget was supposed to do and how to make sure it does it. Lacking that information, the operator reverts to a strategy that keeps the plant running.
Hopefully this book will provide you with a way to fire out what the engineer was trying to accomplish so you can make the gadget work if it does do a better job. New gadgets and methods are tools you can put to use. Most of those actions could be traced to instructions for situations that no longer exist or to a misunderstanding by the operator of what was going on.
To learn to operate wisely you have to know why you do things and what happens when you do the wrong thing. This book tries to cover both. As Sam Levenson once said, You must learn from the mistakes of others. Many mistakes are described in the following pages so you will, hopefully, not repeat them. Two other reasons for this book are the environment and economics. If every boiler operator applied a few of the wise actions described in this book there would be a huge reduction in energy consumption and, as a result, a dramatic improvement in our environment.
You can earn your salary by proper operation that keeps fuel, electricity, and water costs as low as possible while still providing the necessary heat to the building and processes. I hope to give you all the wisdom I gained over fifty years in this business so you can operate wisely. The first step in operating wisely is to get your priorities in order.
Imagine taking a poll of all the boiler plant operators you know and asking them what is the most important thing they have to do. What would they list first? The answer is rather simple; in most cases, the only time an operator hears from the boss is when the pressure is lost or everyone is complaining about the cold or lost production.
Keep the pressure up and you will not have any complaints to deal with, so it gets first billing. History is replete with stories of boiler operators doing stupid things because their first priority was continued operation.
There are the operators that literally held down old lever acting safety valves to get steam pressure higher so their boat would beat another in a race. I recall a chief engineer aboard the steamship African Glade instructing me to hit a safety valve with a hammer when he signaled me; so the safety would pop at the right pressure. The object was to convince the Coast Guard inspector that the safety valve opened when it was supposed to.
A close look at that safety valve told me that hitting it with a hammer was a dumb thing to do. Thankfully the valve opened at the right pressure of its own accord. That was an example of self endangerment to achieve a purpose that, quite simply, was not worth risking my life.
Several of them now sit alongside Saint Peter because they were influenced by the typical plant manager or others and put the wrong things at the top of their list of priorities. The valve cracked and ruptured, relieving the operator of his head. Without a doubt the superintendents and plant managers that demanded their now dead operators blindly meet selected objectives are still asking themselves why they contributed to their operator having the wrong impression.
So what is at the top of the list? You are, of course. Despite the desire to be a hero, your safety should take priority over the health and well being of other people. It simply makes sense. A boiler plant is attended by a boiler operator to keep it in a safe and reliable operating condition. For several years a major industrial facility near Baltimore had an annual occurrence.
An employee entered a storage tank without using proper entry procedures and subsequently succumbed to fumes or lack of oxygen. Rushing to rescue a fool is neither heroic nor the right thing to do; calling then maintaining control of the situation is; so nobody else gets hurt.
The operator that risks his life to save a friend that committed a stupid act is not a hero. Abandoning responsibility to maintain control of a situation and risking your life is getting your priorities out of order.
While preventing or minimizing injury to someone else is important, it is not as important as protecting you. Other people should follow you on your list of priorities. There are many stories of cold winters in the north where operators kept their plants going through unusual means to keep a population from freezing.
A favorite one is the school serving as a shelter when gas service was cut off to a community. When the operator ran out of oil, he started burning the furniture to keep heat up. That form of ingenuity comes from the skill, knowledge and experience that belongs to a boiler operator and allows him to help other people. Next in the proper list of priorities is the equipment and facilities. Keeping the pressure up is not as important as preventing damage to the equipment or the building.
A short term outage to correct a problem is less disrupting and easier to manage. Plant operations might be halted for a day or week while parts are manufactured or the equipment is overhauled. That is preferable to running it until it fails—then waiting nine months to obtain a replacement. There are several elements of operating wisely that consider the priority of the equipment.
Many operators choose to bypass an operating limit to keep the boiler on line and avoid complaints about pressure loss. Even worse, they bypass the limit because it was a nuisance. That thing is always tripping the boiler off line so I fixed it. The result of that fix is frequently a major boiler failure. Reasons are not only philanthropic but also economic. Regularly during the summer, the notices advise us that the air quality is marginal. Sources of quality water are dwindling dramatically. Several of the old rules have changed as a result.
It is no longer appropriate to maintain an efficient haze because it contributes to the degradation of the environment. Once upon a time an oil spill was considered nothing more than a nuisance. You should be aware that insurance for environmental damage is so expensive that many firms cannot afford insurance to cover the risk. Today a single oil spill can destroy a company. Most state governments have placed a price on emissions.
Boiler Operator's Handbook, Second Edition
Boiler Operator's Handbook
Boiler operator's handbook / by Kenneth E. Heselton.