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Thermal fluid system optimisation

13 December 2021

Clive Jones explains how to optimise a new thermal fluid system and why it is important to do so. 

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According to research by Information Technology Intelligence Consulting (ITIC), 98% of organisations say that a single hour of downtime costs around £75,000. 

While carrying out regular maintenance can reduce the risk of downtime, taking the time to properly design and install a system can help increase equipment lifespan – particularly when working with thermal fluid systems. 

The design of a thermal fluid system will impact how well the fluid performs once in use. Factors such as the positioning of the pipework, ventilation and installation steps will impact the lifespan of the system. Therefore, taking the time to develop the best system for the application is a worthwhile investment. 

Design considerations
When designing a new heat transfer system, taking the time to get it right and carefully considering each component will prevent problems from occurring later down the line. Choosing the right equipment for the application – such as the pipework, valves and tank – is essential to ensure the system is reliable, leak free and efficient. 

There are a variety of different types of thermal oil available, both synthetic and organic. Matching the fluid type and operating temperature to the system and application will preserve fluid life, reducing machine downtime later down the line. It is also necessary to adhere to industry specific guidelines. Food and beverage manufacturers need to use food grade heat transfer oils, which must be fully H1 or HT1 certified by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the NSF International, to ensure consumer safety in case of incidental contact with food products. 

Are you insured?
Not many operators are aware, but talking to insurers before installation is an important step. They can advise on factors such as frequency of sampling, correct steps to take when sampling and what training they need. If a heat transfer system is not managed to the insurer’s stipulation, the industrial facility may not be covered at all. 

Some components in the system only have a function during installation so need to be removed before introducing thermal oil. A strainer, for example, is only required during installation to catch debris that enters the system during construction. Keeping the part in the system can lead to carbon build up which will cause flow issues. System designers can consult on components to remove after installation. 

Prior to introducing the heat transfer fluid, engineers need to clean and flush the system to remove any contaminants. Cleaning and flushing fluid should be circulated in the system at between 108 and 122°C. This temperature range is vital because it activates the detergent additives in the cleaning fluid, allowing it to mix with suspended loose particles. 

After cleaning, the system can be filled with heat transfer oil. Once the system is circulating at proper levels in an expansion tank, heat is applied in 15°C increments until the transfer fluid reaches 105 °C. 

Water in the system can lead to contamination with larger particulate matter and iron, so it is important to remove any water during start up. This can be done by increasing the temperature to 115°C to boil off any water. Once all water is removed, the heat can be increased up to 125° then upped in increments to 140°C. 

A well-designed and properly set up thermal fluid system will  work efficiently for longer periods of time, preventing system failure and reducing unnecessary costs associated with unexpected machine downtime. 

Clive Jones is managing director at Global Heat Transfer.

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