boiler, soot, fuel oil sootblower, combustion, heating surfaces, steam boiler, heat energy, insulator, tubes, shells, furnace, efficiency, fire, dry steam, heat transfer, particles

Blow away your soot

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 boiler, soot, fuel oil sootblower, combustion, heating surfaces, steam boiler, heat energy, insulator, tubes, shells, furnace, efficiency, fire, dry steam, heat transfer, particles

Engineering Articles

Blow Away Your Soot

By: Thomas Yoon

A boiler that has been running for a long time is sure to have soot deposits on its tubes and furnace.

This is especially prominent in boilers using heavy fuel oil for burning. Although the fuel will be heated and filtered before combustion, it still contains a lot of impurities. The by-products of combustion as well as imperfect combustion cause the soot to form. The soot is deposited on the heating surfaces.

During the combustion of the fuel oil in a steam boiler, hot gases are formed. These hot gases are used to heat up the water in the boiler to form steam.

With the deposits of soot, a lot of the heat energy is not able to be transferred to the water, but instead is lost through the chimneystack. The soot layer acts as a heat insulator for the tubes and shells of the furnace. The heat is unable to reach the water.

This not only causes the boiler efficiency to be lowered, but a more serious problem can also occur. The soot can catch fire!

A soot fire can be detrimental to the strength of the boiler because it can cause serious localized hotspots to occur at the tubes. These localized hotspots can even reach temperatures that weaken the materials of the tubes.

Soot blowers are installed to blow away these soot deposits. Steam is normally used as a medium for blowing away the soot.

The operation of the soot blowers goes like this:

  1. Steam is channeled to the soot blower pipeline.
  2. The operator of the soot blower will open a drain valve to drain off any water in the steam. This is to make sure that the steam going through the soot blower is dry.
  3. Once the steam is considered dry, the drain valve is shut off, and the soot blower is turned. Most soot blowers are constructed in such a way that when it is rotated, a steam port is uncovered and steam can enter into it.
  4. The steam shoots out from the soot blower tube that is inside the boiler fireside. Many small holes for the steam to emerge are drilled along the length of the tube. As the tube rotates, the position of the steam jet will also move with it. After a full rotation, all the areas around the soot blower tube should be clear of soot. (However, it depends on how thick the soot is, the speed at which the soot blower is rotated, and how efficient the soot blowing is)
  5. After completing the soot blowing, the steam supply is shut off again.
The operation of the soot blower can be done manually or by remotely controlled motor drive. A motor driven soot blower will usually include some means of turning manually in case the motor fails.

The soot that is blown away from the heat transfer surfaces of the boiler will be carried together with the hot gases out through the chimneystack.

If there is a dust collector, the soot will be caught by it, otherwise it goes out to the environment as particles of carbon and ash.

Folks, hold your breath!

Until next time…

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Many years of working experience in Marine, Facilities, Construction has given the author material for writing e-books and articles related to engineering, and management. Subscribe to facworld ezine at

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