The optimum design for a steam system will largely depend on whether the steam consumption rate has been accurately established. This will enable pipe sizes to be calculated, while ancillaries such as control valves and steam traps can be sized to give the best possible results. The steam demand of the plant can be determined using a number of different methods:
• Calculation – By analysing the heat output on an item of plant using heat transfer equations, it may be possible to obtain an estimate for the steam consumption. Although heat transfer is not an exact science and there may be many unknown variables, it is possible to utilise previous experimental data from similar applications. The results acquired using this method are usually accurate enough for most purposes.
• Measurement – Steam consumption may be determined by direct measurement, using flowmetering equipment. This will provide relatively accurate data on the steam consumption for an existing plant. However, for a plant which is still at the design stage, or is not up and running, this method is of little use.
• Thermal rating – The thermal rating (or design rating) is often displayed on the name-plate of an individual item of plant, as provided by the manufacturers. These ratings usually express the anticipated heat output in kW, but the steam consumption required in kg/h will depend on the recommended steam pressure.
A change in any parameter which may alter the anticipated heat output, means that the thermal (design) rating and the connected load (actual steam consumption) will not be the same. The manufacturer’s rating is an indication of the ideal capacity of an item and does not necessarily equate to the connected load.