If you're considering steam-system improvements in your plant, the results of the changes could be worthwhile. In fact, the adjustments might save your company 10 percent or more in annual fuel costs. And to help you assess and adjust your steam system, the government now offers a free software tool.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Technologies Program developed the Steam System Tool Suite for energy coordinators, facility managers and plant electricians to diagnose steam-system performance. The suite consists of three online software tools that cover scoping, assessment and insulation optimization. Each comes with a user manual and a step-by-step guide so users can quickly identify opportunities to save both energy and money.
  • The Steam System Scoping Tool helps users perform initial self-assessments of their steam systems. You can evaluate your entire steam operation and identify the areas that pose the best opportunity for improvement. The tool suggests a range of ways to save energy and boost productivity. It also compares your system against identified best practices and the self-evaluations of similar facilities. The software asks 26 questions about different areas of your steam system, including system profiling, steam system operating practices, boiler plant operating practices, and distribution and recovery operation practices. Based on the user's responses, the software issues a score, which indicates opportunities for improvement.

  • The Steam System Assessment Tool helps users develop approximate models of real steam systems. It contains all the key components of typical steam systems – boilers, back-pressure turbines, condensing turbines, deaerators, letdowns, flash vessels and feedwater heat exchangers. Using these models, users can calculate the magnitude – energy, cost and emissions savings – of potential steam improvements. The tool also provides energy bill estimates with each improvement scenario.

  • The 3E Plus Tool allows users to calculate how much insulation is needed to cost-effectively conserve energy and improve safety by specifying maximum surface temperature.
The Steam System Tool Suite requires users to input the following information:
  • General site data, including power costs, annual operating hours and water costs.
  • Steam generation system data for boiler fuels, efficiency and blowdown rates.
  • Steam distribution system data for steam turbines, piping insulation, and steam traps and leaks.
  • Steam end-use and condensate systems data for the amount of steam used by processes, and the amount of condensate return.
  • Maintenance information.
Based on the input information, the software summarizes the potential savings of operational costs for fuel, electricity, water and steam; and the amount of emissions. To download the entire tool suite for free, go to www.eere.energy.gov and type "steam system tool suite" in the search box.

The DOE's Industrial Technologies Program offers a one-day workshop covering the operation of typical steam systems and methods of system improvement. The course introduces all three tools in the software suite. In addition,

ITP offers a 2.5-day Steam System Specialist Qualification training program for steam system providers interested in becoming proficient in using the steam tools and references. Also, ITP offers a two-hour Webcast on the use of the tool suite. And, for easy use, training is available in two self-paced, e-learning modules. The first is an alternative to the one-day workshop, while the second provides an overview and teaches how to use the three steam system tools.

For more information and to sign up for training sessions, visit www.eere.energy.gov and type "steam system training" in the search box.