Improving Efficiency through Maintaining Air Heaters in Power Plants

air heaters in power plants

Air heaters (or air preheaters) serve an essential role in reducing the overall fuel required for the operation of a given power plant. Since fuel consumption feeds into overall efficiency, decreasing the amount of fuel to produce a certain level of production contributes to better bottom-line results for the power plant.

Here, we’ll talk about maintaining and improving your air heater capabilities and how regular maintenance can boost performance and efficiency.

Problems Caused by Inefficient Air Heaters

Damage and disrepair of an air heater can result in the inability to meet capacity/production goals, forcing the facility to burn more fuel to achieve production.

Over time, as the condition of the air continues to deteriorate, the available surface area for heat transfer decreases. As the unit fails, the power plant must divert energy to increase fan speed to force more air to the boiler or to maintain their ability to reach the desired capacity/production levels.

The inefficiency caused by deterioration of the air heater requires the plant to burn additional fuel to achieve the rated capacity. The increased rate of fuel consumption causes fans and environmental equipment to degrade at a significantly higher rate, which in turn requires more frequent and higher cost maintenance for the plant upstream and downstream from the air heater.

Bottom line: deteriorating air heating equipment can cause significant drops in efficiency, which results in higher fuel costs and worse overall performance.

How Proactive Maintenance Can Help

Ignoring your air heater for an extended amount of time can result in a laundry list of problems, including:

  • Higher fan speeds
  • Variable temperatures to downstream equipment
  • Increased fuel usage
  • Lower temperatures to the fire box
  • High O2 levels due to leakage
  • Larger pressure drops
  • Higher maintenance costs

This is most common with a reactive maintenance plan that follows a run-to-failure philosophy. In contrast, a proactive, ongoing inspection, repair and maintenance program can result in the opposite, such as:

  • Lower fans speeds
  • Steady temperatures to pollution control equipment
  • Decreased fuel usage
  • Higher temperatures to the fire box
  • Lower O2 levels to downstream equipment
  • Lower pressure drops
  • Lower maintenance costs

The amount of money saved overall can be staggering. Proactively maintaining a power plant’s air heater systems can help keep efficiency high and is one of the most underrated – yet essential – things a plant manager can do to keep a plant’s performance strong.

Our Air Heater Maintenance Capabilities

Southern Field provides unique service and repair techniques to the power industry, particularly through our Tubular Air Heater Division.

Through our proven processes, we improve the operating efficiency and environmental compliance for power plants by inspecting, repairing, and then maintaining their air heaters to the original “as built” OEM specifications.

Our combination of material handling and proprietary means and methods allows us to rebuild an air heater in place from the inside out, rather than the outside in – and return the unit to an “as built” condition in a fraction of the time and cost of alternative methods.

Additionally, by reducing fuel consumption and maintaining the operational efficiency of the pollution control equipment, our maintenance services make it easier for the power plant to achieve compliance with the EPA’s Maximum Achievable Control Standards (MACT) and other regulations.

Contact Southern Field for more information on our air heater maintenance services and to consult with our team of engineers and repair specialists about your facility’s needs.