Businesses that rely heavily on boilers are occasionally confronted with a situation where they are forced to operate at reduced capacity.
Whether the company is undergoing large-scale maintenance on its boiler systems, or a system breakdown occurs, they face the real risk of operations grinding to a halt when the boilers stop, says Energy Partners (EP) Steam – a division of Energy Partners and part of the PSG group – business development head Jonathan Probert.
“In instances such as this, the option of boiler hire can be an indispensable tool to help maintain production, making it important for business owners to understand exactly what to expect and how to use this service.”
While boiler systems tend to be robust and reliable, there have been numerous cases where businesses have not had enough standby capacity available, and an emergency boiler energy solution is required.
“In the last year, we have been called upon to provide temporary capacity for two large operations. The first was for an explosives factory that unexpectedly lost one of its boiler units, while the other was to provide a temporary solution for a refinery during the planned shutdown of its entire boiler system.”
Probert notes that, while an emergency boiler energy solution – such as the one at the explosives factory – could be rolled out relatively quickly for the commercial and industry sector, the refinery’s solution required a slightly longer lead time.
“Temporarily replacing a single regular boiler unit can be accomplished in a matter of days. In the case of the refinery, however, four large boilers were required, together with water treatment, fuel supply and control systems, which took a few months to roll out and commission on site.
“Nevertheless, it takes an experienced service provider that complies with all relevant quality, safety and installation regulations to deliver either solution within these time frames,” says Probert.
He adds that, even as temporary boiler energy solutions such as these have been available in the market for some time, it is still a seemingly underused resource among boiler system owners.
“We are still seeing too many facilities overlooking the option of boiler hire during system shutdowns. “Rather than accepting significant downtime costs when it is faced with reduced capacity, it could just as easily get a capable service provider on board, who can ensure that the company’s steam supply endures minimal disruption.”
While hiring a temporary boiler solution may increase operational costs to some degree, Probert believes this should be considered against the potential losses in production caused by systems when out of commission.
“For temporary solutions, we tend to make use of oil-fired boilers because they can be deployed on site within three to 14 days. This does raise the cost of operations, about four-times higher than the production cost of coal-fired systems.”