Five common boiler issues

Proper system maintenance can increase industrial boiler efficiency by up to 90%. However, some common issues impede the industrial boiler’s ability to produce output at full capacity.


When steam is produced in the industrial boiler, some water droplets are carried away with the steam, resulting in the formation of ‘wet steam.’ This is referred to as priming.

This becomes a problem that could lead to:

· Deposits on valves that can lead to overheating and corrosion.

· Reduced product quality, which has an impact on heat transfer rates.

· For the same power output, higher steam consumption is required.

· The industrial boiler and its components’ lives are subjected to danger.

There are two leading causes for priming in an industrial boiler.

Mechanical factors include:

· Inadequate boiler shell design.

· A water level that is too high.

· Wrong firing rate.

· The industrial boiler operates at a lower steam pressure than the design pressure.

Chemical factors include:

· Oil and organic matter present in the boiler water.

· Solids suspended in boiling water.

· Extreme alkalinity.

· Soap-like structures in the industrial boiler’s water.

To treat these problems, you can follow these solutions:

· Maintain low salt levels in the water.

· Effective filtration of the industrial boiler’s water.

· Blow off the sludge regularly.

· Manage rapid changes in the flow velocity.


Foaming is the formation of a layer of froth or stable foam on the water’s surface.

This becomes a problem that could lead to:

· The formation of soap-like structures that significantly reduces the surface tension of water, lowering the industrial boiler’s efficiency.

· Water level fluctuations.

· Water hammer issues.

· Contamination and scaling.

There are several causes for foaming in an industrial boiler.

· Various chemicals, particularly alkalis and oils, and solid constituents react to form soaps, lowering surface tension and increasing foaming potential in industrial boilers.

· The lubricant used in boilers serves as a source of oil, the primary cause of the foaming effect.

· Small bubbles that form at the water’s surface and are difficult to break.

To treat these problems, you can follow these solutions:

· Castor oil can be used as an anti-foaming agent to counteract the effects of surface tension.

· Before entering the industrial boiler, water should be adequately treated to remove foaming agents like oil and alkalis.

· Adding sodium aluminates has been an effective method of removing oil traces by entrapping oil drops.


Carrying soluble salt-containing water into the distribution system is referred to as carry-over. The salts are essentially alkaline.

This becomes a problem that could lead to:

· The loss of an industrial boiler’s efficiency as dissolved salts and solid particles are carried away into the turbine blades and eventually deposited over the blades.

· The jeopardising of the lifespan of various industrial boiler parts exposed to such water-soluble salts.

· Making the determination of the actual height of the water column difficult, challenging maintenance procedures.

· A serious issue for parts like turbine blades, steam traps, valve bodies, etc.

The primary cause of carry-over in an industrial boiler is the presence of soluble alkaline salts in the industrial boiler’s water.

To treat these problems, you can follow these solutions:

· Ensure that the feed water is treated correctly.

· Consider a chemist’s expert advice regarding industrial boiler and feed water treatment.

· The gradual opening of the main steam stop valve.

· Sustaining lower water levels.

· Applying anti-priming baffles.

· Preventing the leakage of ‘foreign’ into the industrial boiler’s feed water system.

· Properly aligning gauge glasses.


Scale is a layer of water that forms on the metal surfaces of the industrial boiler. Scales are calcium and magnesium salts, mainly in the form of sulphates or carbonates that are highly insoluble in water.

This becomes a problem that could lead to:

· A significant increase in the amount of fuel required to produce the same amount of steam.

· Because sodium sulphate is a strong electrolyte, it dissociates from water, causing a hindrance to heat flow. As a result, a thin layer of this scale on metallic surfaces can dramatically reduce the industrial boiler’s efficiency.

· Deformation and rupturing risks are increased due to heat flow resistance, during which the scaled boiler becomes increasingly hotter.

· The layers of scale act as an insulator in the industrial boiler, leading to reduced heat transfer.

The primary cause of scale formation in an industrial boiler is hard water.

To treat these problems, you can follow these solutions:

· If the scales have loosely adhered to the surface, they can be removed with a wire brush or scraper.

· Thermal shocks may remove “brittle” scales.

· Frequent blow-down operations can help remove scale loosely adhered to the industrial boiler’s surface.

· Chemical treatment is required for hard scales. Calcium sulphate scales, for example, can be removed by adding ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA).


Corrosion is the active destruction of the industrial boiler’s material caused by pitting action. It is the continuous decay or disintegration of the industrial boiler’s material caused by the electrochemical action of dissolved oxygen on the boiler metal. Corrosion causes rusting of ferrous metals, tools that are not regularly oiled, and steel windows that are not routinely painted.

This becomes a problem that could lead to:

· The complete failure of the industrial boiler system due to the action of dissolved oxygen deteriorating the industrial boiler’s metal.

· Increased maintenance and repair costs.

· Leaks in rivets and joint areas

· Reduced industrial boiler lifespan and the possibility of the entire system failing.

The primary cause of corrosion is the dissolved oxygen, about 8ppm at room temperature, released as the water is heated. This dissolved oxygen then reacts with the industrial boiler’s iron to form rust.

To treat these problems, you can follow these solutions:

· Add hydrazine/sodium sulphite/sodium sulphide.

· Mechanical aeration under high temperature and vacuum conditions.

Contact Combustion and Heating Systems for details

Combustion & Heating Systems can help you maximise the efficiency and performance of your boiler while lowering your operating costs. We specialise in installing, maintaining, and repairing industrial boiler systems at competitive rates. If you have any questions about industrial boiler problems, contact us today. In addition, we offer a diverse range of specialised industrial heating equipment, including oil and gas burners, hot water

and steam boilers, hot water circulating pumps, expansion tanks, burner control boxes, oil pumps, nozzles, valves and pressure switches, solenoids, and more

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