Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  09 Jun 2010

ENGINEERING: Technology Lead Is Key To its Success


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AS one of few boiler manufacturers involved in boiler development and design, John Thompson through the years has invested heavily in employing design engineers.

Constant development and constant improvement and design changes are necessary for various reasons such as design code changes, changes in fuel specification or quality, changes in materials and modern equipment and controls. Other important factors include environmental demands, operator skills, market economics and demands and, importantly, operating costs.

Recent design changes to the coal-fired package boiler focussed mainly on improving the combustion of coal which not only results in fuel savings, but also the knock-on effect that goes with it. For example a 5% improvement on boiler efficiency results in burning 5% less fuel a year (financial saving) but more importantly, improvement to the environment, less coal handling (saving on electricity and transport) or conversely higher output.

Further changes to the pressure parts, like the conversion to spiral tubes, improves the heat transfer in the boiler, once again improving efficiency but more importantly reducing the weight and size of the boiler. Add to this, slight changes to the geometry of the boiler shell and you have a slightly smaller, lighter boiler taking up less space and cheaper to transport.

With shipping cost becoming a huge factor to the export market, John Thompson redesigned the small coal fired boiler by using a standard container size as the basic design parameter and therefore designing the pressure part to fit exactly inside the container offering an almost modular design at reasonable transport costs. The package was designed in such a way that two shells would fit in a 12m container with all the accessories including the stokers in a second 6m container.

Considering the importance of environmental issues the most recent development focused on reducing emissions with features such as secondary ash removal from the boiler combustion area as well as a complete redesign of the mechanical grit removal system. John Thompson is currently working on the reintroduction of bag filters which will reduce emissions even further.

The escalating fuel price, or rather fluctuating fuel price, has through the years had a major impact on production costs and in many cases John Thompson redesigned the boiler house to accommodate these fuel cost swings by changing from coal to oil as primary fuel sources and as is the case now back to coal. When there was a surplus of electricity and it became more economic to use electricity as a heat source, John Thompson designed a range of electrical boilers which in many cases have now been replaced with more efficient oil and coal fired boilers.

The challenge of constant change in market drivers is being met by John Thompson’s boiler research and development program and a team of dedicated design engineers who has the privilege to draw from direct field experience.

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