Steam loses pressure


Steam is often seen as a traditional source of indirect heat for brewing and distilling processes but, with the recent explosion in micro-breweries and resurgence in craft brewing, the regulations and additional ongoing investment required for running a pressure-based system often adds too much cost when considering steam as a heat transfer solution. So when Rebellion Beer Company was looking to replace its ageing steam boiler system, they turned to two of the UK’s major thermal fluid specialists for help.

Established in 1993 by two school friends from Marlow, Rebellion Beer Company is a medium-sized micro-brewery that uses traditional brewing methods and natural ingredients to produce four million pints of beer from its Chiltern Hills-based brewery every year.

Having secured a new 20-year lease on its premises, and as part of a three-stage development plan for the business, Rebellion’s Mark Gloyens decided that an upgrade to some of the company’s original brewing equipment was required and, with its steam boiler reaching the end of its operational life, he started looking at options for new heat transfer equipment.

“This was the first time we had approached thermal fluid system specialists for a project of this sort and, having met with two of the UK’s main suppliers to discuss the project, we were impressed with Fulton’s enthusiasm and interest in getting involved with what turns out to be one of only a handful of brewery-based thermal fluid heat transfer projects in the UK.” says Mark.

Explaining the potential energy savings, Mark says that Fulton’s new FT-C 240vertical coil thermal system should save money on the company’s energy bills as it is possible to easily turn the heater on and off as required, and with minimal heat-up time. In contrast, the old steam-based system needed to be turned on at the beginning of the day and left running regardless of the demand for steam.

The new system also provided value-for-money, as thermal fluid heaters are non-pressurised systems and therefore not subject to the costs of running a system under the pressure regulations. For example, thermal fluid heaters use specialist oils as heat carriers and operate, at atmospheric pressures, up to 300°C. To gain a similar operating temperature from traditional water- or steam-based systems would require a pressure of 85 bar. And while Rebellion Beer Company prefers to operate its thermal system at lower temperatures of around 135°C to ensure a quality product, for many processes where high process temperatures are required, thermal fluid heaters are an ideal source of heat.

For Rebellion, the system is also much simpler than a steam solution and was therefore less expensive to set-up and maintain. Additionally, Fulton’s FT-C thermal fluid system is more compact than the original steam-based system, which has freed up much needed space for other valuable process equipment.

Commenting for Fulton, Doug Howarth explains that unlike steam, thermal systems provide useable temperature with very little pressure and a variety of cost savings should therefore be expected. The additional control provided by thermal systems also allows multiple, easy and accurate temperatures throughout a single system that can also include cooling. There are also no freezing hazards, they provide rapid start up and shutdown with minimal heat losses and there’s no requirement for blow down or condensate losses.

“The whole life costs for thermal systems can also be cheaper because they require fewer insurance inspections, which minimises production downtime and shut down periods. There’s also no requirement for water treatment or chemical dosing, which leads to zero waste disposal and minimal maintenance costs.” says Doug.

Fulton’s thermal fluid heat transfer solution is now used throughout Rebellion’s brewing process. From the brewhouse, where liquor (water) is heated to 66 degrees for the mashing-in process and wort is boiled with hops for 90 minutes; to heating the brewhouse and fermentation tank CIP system.

Fulton’s highly-efficient FT-C thermal fluid boiler offers a compact, fuel-fired, 4-pass heater design capable of operating at temperatures up to 345°C. The system is designed to provide high-fluid velocities and low-film temperatures for improved longevity. The system’s compact footprint also means it could be skid-mounted, accommodating ancillaries such as circulating pump, expansion tank and related pipework, to minimise the floor space required for installation.

Summarising, Doug Howarth says that whilst the company is known as a reliable source of multi-fuel-fired steam boilers, Fulton is also synonymous with heat transfer solutions and produces an unrivalled range of thermal oil and hot water solutions. And because Fulton offers a complete range, they are well placed to offer customers an unbiased review of their heat transfer requirements.


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