Learn the Industrial Boiler Water Treatment Basics

The primary purpose of boiler water is to produce high-quality steam, which allows the boiler to transport heat throughout an entire facility. With such an important task, it is imperative that you introduce a boiler water treatment plan into your preventative maintenance practices to ensure the integrity of your industrial boiler.

Water treatment plans primarily focus on removing chemical impurities that contribute to the corrosion of the equipment. Having the opportunity to control the quality of the feedwater and incorporate regular treatments will provide optimal conditions for the long-term use of the boiler, which can lead to operational efficiencies and cost-savings for your company. If you are interested in other factors that affect your boiler efficiency, check out our article on “What is Boiler Efficiency?”

In this article, we will discuss the importance of a boiler water treatment plan and the general process to conduct these services. Plus, we’ll breakdown how it works with us at Powerhouse. If you are interested in scheduling a monthly service, please contact us and we will be happy to help you with your water treatment plan.

Why is Boiler Water Treatment Required?

Water quality is of the utmost importance in proper and safe boiler operations. An improperly treated feedwater system can result in the scaling of the boiler internals, safety equipment and auxiliary piping. Such corrosion can lead to thermal fatigue, reduced boiler efficiency and ultimately, boiler failure in severe cases. The destructive nature of the untreated feedwater disrupts your steam production process, which creates added expenses to your total cost of operation. Additionally, you are shortening the lifespan of the equipment causing you to, again, increase capital expenditures.

How Do You Treat Boiler Water?

Establishing a boiler water treatment plan will provide you with real-time feedback of your boiler system so you can get ahead of any issues that might occur as a result of poor water quality. We broke down the boiler water treatment process into three simple steps that you can incorporate into your preventative maintenance practices.

1. Remove Hard Water Elements

Water treatment typically begins with sediment filters to remove suspended solids and water softeners to remove calcium, magnesium and other metal cations. These chemicals cause “hard water” and contribute to scale buildup in the boiler and associated pipings and fittings.

2. Pre-Heat the Feedwater

The next step in the water treatment plan is to pre-heat the feedwater, which is one of the most basic methods of mechanical deaeration - the process of removing dissolved oxygen from water. Pre-heating the feedwater usually occurs in either the feedwater tank or deaerator using supplementary steam.

3. Treat Feedwater with Required Chemicals

Lastly, most boiler rooms will add any required chemicals to the feedwater to remove any remaining oxygen as well as condition the water properly and even condition the metal of the equipment, piping and fittings, if necessary.

Overall, we recommend taking daily water samples, so you can always be aware of any chemical impurities in real-time and act accordingly if needed. For the other services, implementing a monthly water treatment program will ensure that you are proactively taking care of your boiler system to prevent damages and potential boiler failures.

Common Boiler Water Treatment Issues

There are issues that can arise when treating the boiler feed water system. If you are monitoring the feed water system, you will want to look out for the following signs to make sure that your system is running efficiently and safely.

Scale Buildup

Water hardness is the primary source of scale in boilers. Common feedwater contaminants are Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Silica and Aluminum, in which these minerals result in extremely hard deposits when the water is heated. It is important for us to check your water hardness levels because scaling reduces water flow in the pipes, and ultimately, prevents the efficient transfer of heat.

Corrosion

Dissolved oxygens and carbon dioxide in the feedwater can attach to the walls of the metal piping and other equipment. This breakdown of the metal elements, or corrosion, will cause system stress and cracking, leading to more severe issues of your boiler. Using high-quality oxygen scavengers or deaerators can help remove these harmful gases.

Sludge

Sludge is formed from suspended materials in the water that settles on hot boiler tubes or other surfaces. This water-formed sedimentary deposit reduces heat efficiency and can result in tube failures, restricted circulation and compromised boiler system reliability. We monitor the presence of any sludge-causing contaminants and will perform a boiler blowdown if needed to eliminate any sludge accumulations.

Water Foaming

If there are high amounts of dissolved solids at the water surface, then these impurities will arise (or foam) and evaporate (or prime) with the steam, in which this tandem phenomenon will reduce boiler efficiency. In order to prevent water foaming, we will monitor the water levels and maintain a low level of dissolved solids and alkalinity in your boiler.

Industrial Boiler Water Treatment FAQs

  • While the exact chemical treatment plan will be determined by a local water expert after performing an analysis of a water sample, there are some chemicals that are commonly used to treat boiler water.

    • Primary chemical is an oxygen scavenger, which removes any additional dissolved oxygen that was not removed mechanically by the deaerator or feedwater tank.
    • Secondary chemical addition includes an inhibitor mixture which contains anti-scalant, dispersants, and sludge conditions to minimize deposition.
  • The pH of boiler feedwater ranges from 9-11. Lower pH scores will corrode the metal in the boiler while a higher pH will cause undesired foaming of the boiler water.

    1. Preliminary filtration
    2. Water Softening through Ion Exchange
    3. Ultra Purification through processes like Reverse Osmosis and other membrane filters
    4. Mechanical deaeration
    5. Chemical Injection

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