The Evolution of the Maintenance Team
Over the past ten years I have noticed a change in maintenance and power plant operators. In the past I had customers working the boiler room who were retired Navy guys who gained experience working on steam ships. In addition, most of the operators had 20 plus years at the same job. They knew their plants and had specific roles to manage the water treatment programs.
Times are changing. You don’t see anyone coming out of the Navy with steam experience, those ships are museums, and most plant operators are no longer dedicated to a single responsibility. They have a multitude of responsibilities around the entire facility and are pressed to find time to get the water tests done! Because of this shift, we see less operators with the experience and intrinsic knowledge to properly maintain and balance the water treatment program for their boilers and cooling towers.
This blog is for the next generation – the operators running the plants today.
Something is Out of Range – Now What?
So, you have become well versed in understanding your systems, grabbing water samples, running your prescribed tests, and logging the results into your log book (see below). So now what? How often do you run all your tests and have a perfect score? My guess is you have at least one out of range almost every time you test. Now comes the big question… what do you do about it? Do you know which corrective actions will bring that value back into range? Is the out of range value expected (meaning normal under current conditions such as a lag boiler coming online), has something gone wrong, or is the reading an anomaly? In any case, the out of range value must be addressed.
There are many conditions that can cause your readings to be out of range. However, you will often find that the cause is a common theme or known issue leading to a same problem on a particular system.
Experience is the Best Teacher
The best way to learn corrective actions is by doing. Sometimes only time and experience can teach you all the possibilities of the cause. However, we can help simplify this process and take some of the painful life learning out of the equation. When Watertech designs a water treatment program a comprehensive manual is provided along with a log sheet, specific parameters and a Control Chart (pic below) listing suggested corrective actions, should a value be out of range. In addition, we can provide a Cooling Tower Control Panel Alarm - Corrective Actions guide (pic below).
These guides show you the most common causes of values out of range and help direct you to a possible solution. Although all the possible causes are not listed, this guide should help you 75% of the time. The remaining 25% will come with experience.
A Real World Example
Below is an example of a value that was out of range and the problem that caused it. This low value was caught by the operator during his testing and was also detected through remote alarming. The graph depicts the drop in value which triggered the alarm. This is a reading for the active inhibitor (ED742) in a cooling tower. You can see the value take a steep decline in a matter of one to two days.
Upon investigation, the pump had lost prime and was not pumping chemical. The operator was unsuccessful at re-priming the pump. He was advised to pull the head off the pump and found the diaphragm shaft had snapped off. This, my friends, is the anomaly! I have been in the business for over 27 years working on hundreds of chemical pumps. This is probably the 2nd broken shaft I have ever seen. Although the control chart would have directed the operator to check the pump for prime, it did not describe a broken shaft. You have now gained “Experience” (except in this case you may never witness this again)!
Learning corrective actions is a continuous process that can take years. How quickly you learn the cause will be determined by how often you have issues. If you do not have a Control Chart or any type of guide for this process, ask your water treatment company to provide one for you. The key is that you address the "out of range" values head-on and start learning your corrective actions right away. Testing and logging your results is great, but your true purpose starts when you are able to correct out of range conditions!
Want to learn more? Attend a Watertech Bootcamp where operators learn all the basics on cooling tower and boiler operations, testing and corrective actions with real life examples like the one shown above. Click WATERTECH UNIVERSITY
for a list of upcoming events.
||Jeff Freitag – Director of Sales, Watertech of America, Inc.
Jeff has been in the water treatment industry for almost 30 years and has a diverse background in water chemistry, pretreatment equipment, filtration, chemical feed and control, testing and monitoring, training, and consulting. He joined the Watertech team in 2000 and has held several positions before moving into his current role as Director of Sales. Some who know him call him “Jeff.” Most who have worked with him call him “The Water Guy.”