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Superheated steam is steam that is at a temperature higher than the saturation temperature for the steam pressure. For example, steam at a pressure of 3 bar g has a saturation temperature of 143.762C. If further heat were to be added to this steam and the pressure remained at 3 bar g, it would become superheated. This extra heat results in steam which:

Is higher than saturation temperature. Contains more energy than saturated steam. Has a greater specific volume than saturated steam.

The relationships between these three properties are well documented and can be found in most texts relating to the thermodynamic properties of steam.

Fig. 15.1.1 Steam saturation diagram Superheated steam is principally used in power generation plants as the driving force for turbines. A review of the Rankine gas cycle will demonstrate that, for driving turbines, superheated steam is more thermally efficient than saturated steam.

Superheating the steam has further important advantages:

Wet steam within a turbine would result in water droplets and erosion of the turbine blades, as well as increased friction. Higher pipeline velocities (up to 100 m / s) can be used. This means that smaller distribution pipelines can be used (provided that the pressure drop is not excessive).

For continuously running plants, superheated steam means there is no condensation in the pipework, therefore, there is only a requirement for steam trapping during start-up.

The use of superheated steam has a number of disadvantages

Although superheated steam contains a large amount of heat energy, this energy is in three forms; enthalpy of water, enthalpy of evaporation (latent heat) and enthalpy of superheat. The bulk of the energy is in the enthalpy of evaporation, and the energy in the superheat represents a smaller proportion. For example, take superheated steam at 10 bar a and 300C, then: Enthalpy of water = 763 kJ / kg Enthalpy of evaporation = 2 015 kJ / kg Enthalpy of superheat = 274 kJ / kg

Fig. 15.1.2 Enthalpy in superheated steam

The coefficient of heat transfer when using superheated steam as the heating medium is variable, low and difficult to quantify accurately. This makes accurate sizing and control of heat transfer equipment difficult, and will also result in a larger and more expensive heat exchanger. Once the superheated steam is cooled to saturation temperature, the heat transfer coefficient increases dramatically, and the temperature at which the steam condenses back into water is constant. This greatly assists accurate sizing and control of heat transfer equipment. The presence of high heat transfer coefficients associated with saturated steam leads to smaller and cheaper heat exchangers than those which utilise superheated steam. Some processes (for example, distillation columns) perform less efficiently when supplied with superheated steam. The higher temperatures of superheated steam may mean that higher rated, and hence more expensive equipment is required. The higher temperature of superheated steam may damage sensitive equipment.

These disadvantages mean that superheated steam is generally undesirable for thermal process applications. However, sites exist where superheated steam is raised for power generation,

and it makes economic sense to desuperheat some of this steam from some point in the power generation cycle, and then use it for process applications. (More information on superheated steam can be found in Tutorial 2.3). Sites also exist where large quantities of waste are used as fuel for the boiler. If the quantity of waste is sufficiently large, then superheated steam may be produced for power generation. Examples of this type of plant can be found in the papermaking and sugar refining industries. In plants that have superheated steam available for process use, it makes sense to distribute the superheated steam to remote points in the plant, as this will ensure that the steam remains dry. This becomes significant if there are long lengths of pipe separating the point of generation and the point of use.

Basic steam desuperheating

Desuperheating is the process by which superheated steam is restored to its saturated state, or the superheat temperature is reduced. Most desuperheaters used to restore the saturated state produce discharge temperatures approaching saturation (typically to within 3C of the saturation temperature as a minimum). Designs for discharge temperatures in excess of 3C above saturation are also possible and often used. There are basically two broad types of desuperheater:

Indirect contact type - The medium used to cool the superheated steam does not come into direct contact with it. A cooler liquid or gas may be employed as the cooling medium, for example, the surrounding air. Examples of this type of desuperheater are shell and tube heat exchangers. Here the superheated steam is supplied to one side of the heat exchanger and a cooler medium is supplied to the other side. As the superheated steam passes through the heat exchanger, heat is lost from the steam, and gained by the cooling medium. The temperature of the desuperheated steam could be controlled by either the inlet superheated steam pressure or the flow rate of the cooling water. Control of the superheated steam flow for this purpose is not normally practical and most systems adjust the flow of the cooling medium. Direct contact type - The medium used to cool the superheated steam comes into direct contact with it. In most cases, the cooling medium is the same fluid as the vapour to be desuperheated, but in the liquid state. For example, in the case of steam desuperheaters, water is used. A typical direct contact desuperheating station is shown in Figure 15.1.3. When the desuperheater is operational, a measured amount of water is added to the superheated steam via a mixing arrangement within the desuperheater. As it enters the desuperheater, the cooling water evaporates by absorbing heat from the superheated steam. Consequently, the temperature of the steam is reduced. Control of the amount of water to be added is usually achieved by measuring the temperature of the steam downstream of the desuperheater. The set temperature of the

desuperheated steam would typically be 3C above that at saturation. Therefore, in such arrangements the inlet pressure of the superheated steam should be kept constant.

Fig. 15.1.3 A typical direct contact desuperheating station

Desuperheating calculations
The amount of water added must be sufficient to cool the steam to the desired temperature; too little water and the steam will not have been cooled enough, too much and wet saturated steam will be produced which will require drying through a separator. Using Equation 15.1.1, which is based on the conservation of energy, the cooling liquid requirement can be easily and quickly determined:

Equation 15.1.1 Where: = Mass flow rate of cooling water (kg / h) s = Mass flow rate of superheated steam (kg / h) hs = Enthalpy at superheat condition (kJ / kg) hd = Enthalpy at desuperheated condition (kJ / kg) hcw = Enthalpy of cooling water at inlet connection (kJ / kg)

Example 15.1.1
Determine the required cooling water flow rate for the conditions in the following Table:

Solution: The necessary information can be obtained or interpolated from hard copy steam tables; the relevant extracts are shown in Table 15.1.1 and Table 15.1.2. Alternatively, the Spirax Sarco online steam tables can be used.

Table 15.1.1 Extract from steam tables Saturated water and steam

Table 15.1.2 Extract from steam tables Superheated steam The information required to satisfy Equation 15.1.1 is therefore:

hs hcw

= Mass flow rate of superheated steam = 10 000 kg / h = Enthalpy at superheat condition (From steam tables 300C at 10 bar a) = 3 052 kJ / kg = Enthalpy of the cooling liquid = 4.2 kJ / kg / K x 150C =630 kJ / kg

Determining the enthalpy at the desuperheated condition, hd: From steam tables, the saturation temperature (T s) at 10 bar a is 180C, therefore at the required desuperheated condition, the temperature will be: Ts + 5C = 185C Interpolating between the enthalpy of steam at 10 bar a and its saturation temperature, and at 10 bar a and 200C: Enthalpy at 10 bar a, T s (saturated steam tables) = 2 778 kJ / kg Enthalpy at 10 bar a, 200C (superheated steam tables) = 2 829 kJ/kg Interpolating for enthalpy at 10 bar a and 185C:

Finally, applying Equation 15.1.1:

Equation 15.1.1

Note that the desuperheated steam is supplied at a rate of: 10 000 + 1 208 kg / h = 11 208 kg / h Had the requirement been for 10 000 kg / h of the desuperheated steam, the initial superheated steam flow rate can be determined using a simple proportional method:

The simplest type of desuperheater is an unlagged section of pipe, where heat can be radiated to the environment. However, apart from the obvious risk of injury to personnel from such a hot item of plant, and the expensive energy wastage, this approach does not adjust to compensate for changes in the environmental conditions, steam temperature or steam flow rate.

Fig. 15.2.1 Typical multi-nozzle spray desuperheater

Several designs of desuperheater are available and it is recommended that the following properties be considered when sizing and selecting a suitable station for a given application:

Turndown ratio - 'turndown' is used to describe the range of flow rates over which the desuperheater will operate, as shown in Equation 4.2.1.

Equation 4.2.1 This is an important parameter, as any variation in inlet pressure, temperature or flow rate will cause a variation in the requirement of cooling liquid. In general, the two turndown values may be specified for a particular desuperheater: Steam turndown ratio - This reflects the range of steam flowrates that the device can effectively desuperheat. Cooling water turndown ratio - This reflects the range of cooling flowrates that can be used. Although this directly affects the steam turndown ratio, the relationship depends on the temperatures of the superheated steam, the cooling water and the resulting desuperheated steam. Equation 15.1.1 is the mass/heat balance equation for this application:

Equation 15.1.1 Where: mcw ms hi hd hcw = Mass flow rate of cooling water (kg/h) = Mass flow rate of superheated steam (kg/h) = Enthalpy at superheat condition (kJ/kg) = Enthalpy at desuperheated condition (kJ/kg) = Enthalpy of cooling water at inlet connection (kJ/kg)

It should be noted that the steam and water flow rates are directly proportional to each other; the constant of proportionality 'k' depends on the enthalpies of the superheated steam, the cooling water and the required desuperheated steam. Mathematically: cw ~ k s

If the required turndown cannot be achieved using a single desuperheater, two desuperheaters can be installed in parallel, with operation switching from one to another; or both can be in operation depending on steam demand. It should be noted that the desuperheater itself is only one part of a desuperheating station, which will include the necessary control system for correct operation.

Operating pressures and temperatures. Steam and water flow rate. Amount of superheat before, and amount of desuperheated steam required after, the process. The water pressure available (a booster pump may be required). The required accuracy of the final temperature. In the case of in-line desuperheaters, the distance travelled by the steam before complete desuperheating has occurred is also an important consideration. This is referred to as the absorption length.

The following Sections include descriptions of the common types of desuperheater available, their limitations and typical applications.

Indirect contact desuperheaters

Tube bundle type desuperheaters
This type of desuperheater (Figure 15.2.2) consists of a heat exchanger, typically a shell and tube, with superheated steam on one side, and the cooling medium on the other. The shell of the first heat exchanger (containing the cooling water) is fixed at both ends on the inlet side, whereas on the outlet side, it is fixed at the bottom and open at the top. The floating head allows the pressure in the two sections of the shell to equalise.

The cooling medium is water at saturation temperature and pressure. As superheated steam enters the first and then the second set of tubes, it gives up heat to the water, some of which will be evaporated by this addition of energy. Any evaporated cooling water passes through the floating head and will accumulate in the outlet side of the shell. It then passes through the open end of the shell where it is mixed with the desuperheated steam.

Fig. 15.2.2 A tube and bundle type desuperheater

1. Turndown is only limited by the controls that are fitted. 2. This design is capable of producing desuperheated steam to within 5C of the saturation temperature. 3. High maximum operating temperatures and pressures, typically around 60 bar and 450C. 4. Fast response.

1. Bulky - because there are now a number of in-line devices available, they have been largely superseded. 2. Cost. 3. An important concern with this type of desuperheater is the efficiency of the heat exchange process. The build up of air or scale films on the heat exchange surface can act as an extremely effective barrier to heat transfer.


1. Those applications that experience wide variations in load.

Direct contact desuperheaters

Water bath type desuperheater
This is the simplest form of direct contact desuperheater. The superheated steam is injected into a bath of water. This additional heat will cause saturated steam to evaporate from the surface of the bath. A pressure controller maintains a constant pressure in the vessel, and hence the temperature and pressure of the saturated steam in the downstream pipe.

Fig. 15.2.3 Water bath type desuperheater (schematic) Since the superheated steam has more energy per unit mass than the saturated steam, more steam will be evaporated than actually enters the desuperheater. Consequently, the water level will fall and therefore provision must be made to maintain this level. This usually requires a pump of similar design to a boiler feed water pump, as the water must be pumped against the vessel pressure. A good non-return valve is required in the superheated steam supply to avoid any water from the bath being drawn into the superheated steam system should the pressure in the superheated main drop.

1. Simple.

2. Steam is produced at saturation temperature. 3. Steam with a dryness fraction of 0.98 can be produced. 4. Turndown is only limited by the controls that are fitted.

1. Bulky. 2. Not practical for high temperatures.

1. Wide variations in the flow rate. 2. Where no residual superheat can be tolerated.

Water spray desuperheating

This type of desuperheating represents the vast majority of desuperheating applications. In water spray desuperheaters, superheated steam is passed through a section of pipe fitted with one or more spray nozzles. These inject a fine spray of cooling water into the superheated steam, which causes the water to be converted into steam, reducing the quantity of superheat. The cooling water may be introduced into the superheated steam in a number of ways; consequently, there are a number of different types of water spray desuperheater. Despite this, most water spray desuperheaters are affected by the following factors:

Particle size - The smaller the water particle size, the greater the ratio of surface area to mass, and the higher the rates of heat transfer. Since the water is being directly injected into the moving superheated steam, the smaller the particle size, the shorter the distance required for heat exchange to take place. The water is broken into small particles using either a mechanical device (such as a variable or fixed orifice nozzle) or steam atomising nozzles. Turbulence - As the flow within the pipeline becomes more turbulent, the individual entrained water particles reside longer in the desuperheater, allowing for greater heat transfer. In addition, turbulence encourages the mixing of the cooling water and the superheated steam. Increased turbulence results in a shorter distance being required for complete desuperheating to occur. Turbulence can be created in two ways: Pressure drop across the nozzle - Subjecting the cooling water to a higher pressure drop will increase its velocity and induce greater turbulence. Velocity - By increasing the overall velocity of the water and steam mixture, the amount of turbulence is inherently increased. The increase in velocity is

usually achieved by creating a restriction in the steam path, which further generates turbulence by vortex shedding. In addition to these high velocities, if poor piping design practices are used, the speed of the superheated steam could in theory approach Mach 1. At such speeds a number of problems would occur (including the generation of shock waves). However, this would be far in excess of the velocities used in good piping design. Typical velocities of steam entering a desuperheater should be around 40 to 60 m/s. Cooling water flow rate - The rate at which cooling water can be added to the superheated steam is affected by a number of factors, which are related by Equation 4.2.11: qv = C A ( 2 g h ) ^0,5 (Equation 4.2.11) Where: qv C A g h = Cooling water volumetric flow rate (m/s) = Coefficient of discharge for the nozzle = Area of the nozzle (m) = Gravitational constant (9.81 m/s) = Pressure drop over the orifice (m head)

Bearing in mind that C and g are constants, reviewing Equation 4.2.11 shows that only two factors can be manipulated to alter the cooling water flow rate, qv: Changing the pressure drop over the orifice (nozzle), h - Expressing flow rate as a function of pressure drop over the nozzle: qv ~ h ^ 0,5 This means that if, for example, flow is increased by a factor of 5, the available pressure must increase by a factor of 5 = 25. The effect of this relationship is to severely hamper the turndown ratio. In addition to affecting the cooling water flow rate, there are two other important considerations when determining the required cooling water pressure: 1. The cooling water pressure must be greater than the superheated steam pressure at the point of injection. 2. The greater the pressure drop across the nozzle, the better the atomisation of the cooling water. Changing the area of the orifice, A - Expressing flow rate as a function of the area of the orifice: qv ~ A This direct relationship means that if, for example, flow is to be increased by a factor of 5, the available area must also increase by a factor of 5. This change may simply be

achieved by an orifice, which has the ability to change in area (see Figure 15.2.4), or alternatively by altering the number of orifices passing the coolant.

Fig. 15.2.4 Variable area orifice

Thermal sleeves - Careful control of the spray is required to ensure that the water does not fall out of suspension as this can result in thermal stresses being generated in the pipeline and cracking may occur. However, in some cases, an inner thermal sleeve can be used to provide protection from this.

Fig. 15.2.5 A thermal sleeve inserted in an in-line spray desuperheater The thermal sleeve also allows the circulation of superheated steam around the annular area between the sleeve and the inside diameter of the pipe. This provides a hot surface upon which the injected water can evaporate, as opposed to the walls of the desuperheater, which are inevitably cooler.

Water spray type desuperheaters

Single point radial injection spray desuperheaters
The simplest method of injecting cooling water is to introduce a nozzle through the pipe wall.

Fig. 15.2.6 Single point radial injection spray desuperheater The cooling water particles are sprayed across the flow of the superheated steam. The quantity of cooling water injected is controlled by varying the position of the valve in the centre of the nozzle.

1. Simple in operation. 2. Cost effective. 3. Minimum steam pressure drop.

1. Low turndown ratio, typically a maximum of 3:1 on both steam and cooling water flow. 2. Desuperheated steam temperature can only be reduced to 10C above saturation temperature. 3. Longer absorption length than the steam atomising type. 4. Most prone to cause erosion damage to the internal pipework. This can be overcome by the use of a thermal sleeve. 5. Limited pipe sizes.


1. Constant steam load. 2. Constant steam temperature. 3. Constant coolant temperature. All of which mean a relatively constant cooling water requirement.

Multiple point radial injection spray desuperheaters

This is a progression of the single point radial injection spray desuperheater. Cooling water is sprayed in from a number of orifices around the perimeter of the pipe.

Fig. 15.2.7 Multiple radial injection point desuperheater

1. The pressure of the cooling liquid is less than that in the single point version; therefore, it is not necessary to use a thermal sleeve. 2. The absorption length is shorter compared with that of the single point version due to better mixing of the water and the superheated steam. The absorption length is still significantly longer than other types of water spray desuperheater. Other advantages, disadvantages and applications are similar to those of single point radial injection spray desuperheaters.

Axial injection spray desuperheaters

This is also a simple in-line injection spray desuperheater, but the point of injection is moved to the axis of the pipeline. The cooling water is injected into the steam flow via one or more atomising nozzles (see Figure 15.2.8). The unit usually employs a thermal sleeve.

Fig. 15.2.8 Axial injection spray desuperheater Axial injection of the cooling water improves the mixing of the water and the superheated steam by two methods: 1. As the water is injected along the centre of the pipeline, it will be more evenly distributed throughout the superheated steam. 2. The cooling water delivery pipe that is inserted in the pipeline acts as an obstruction, creating additional turbulence at the point of water injection due to vortex shedding.

Fig. 15.2.9 Vortex shedding around the cooling water delivery pipe A modification of this basic arrangement involves turning the nozzle so that the cooling water is sprayed upstream, against the steam flow. The high velocity of the superheated steam reverses the spray water flow pattern and sends it back through a mixing chamber. This achieves more efficient mixing of the water and steam over a short absorption length.

Fig. 15.2.10 Reverse flow type axial desuperheater

1. 2. 3. 4. Simple in operation. No moving parts. Cost effective across the entire range of sizes. Minimal steam pressure drop.

1. Low turndown ratio, typically a maximum of 3:1 on both steam and cooling water flow. 2. Desuperheated steam temperature can only be reduced to 10C above saturation temperature. 3. Longer absorption length than the steam atomising type, but less than the radial type desuperheaters. 4. Most prone to cause erosion damage to the internal pipework. This can be overcome by the use of a thermal sleeve.

1. Constant steam load. 2. Constant steam temperature. 3. Constant coolant temperature. All of which mean a relatively constant cooling water requirement.

Multiple nozzle axial injection desuperheaters

Rather than a single nozzle, the multiple nozzle axial injection desuperheater provides a number of nozzles across the flow of superheated steam. This gives good dispersion of the water droplets. There are three main types of multiple nozzle axial injection desuperheater: 1. Fixed area type - All the nozzles are open when the desuperheater is operating, and the cooling water is regulated by a spray water control valve.

Fig.15.2.11 A multiple nozzle desuperheater 2. Variable spray type - The downstream temperature determines the number of exposed nozzles. Cooling water enters the desuperheater through the water jacket to the sealing area above the disc (see Figure 15.2.12). When an increase in the downstream steam temperature is detected by the associated temperature control system, the actuator moves the stem down, progressively exposing more nozzles. When the demand for the cooling water changes, the stem and disc arrangement moves up and down as required. This has the effect of changing the overall orifice area.

Fig.15.2.12 A variable area type multiple nozzle desuperheater 3. Spring-assisted type - This is essentially a combination of the two previous types. Instead of the stem and disc arrangement being controlled by an actuator, the springassisted type contains a spring-loaded flow plug, which moves in response to a change in the differential pressure between the coolant and the superheated steam. The moving plug changes the number of open nozzles, thereby adjusting the flow into the main pipeline. In addition, the cooling water is regulated by a spray water control valve. Being able to control both the pressure and flow of the cooling water enables accurate control over the amount of water injected into the superheated steam. This type does, however, require a high cooling water pressure.

1. Turndown ratios of up to 8:1 are possible with the fixed area type, up to 9:1 with the spring assisted type and 12:1 for the variable area type. 2. Better dispersion of the water droplets means that the absorption length is less than that of single nozzle devices. 3. Minimal steam pressure drop.

1. The desuperheated steam temperature can only be reduced to 8C above saturation temperature. 2. Longer absorption length than the steam atomising type. 3. Most prone to cause erosion damage to the internal pipework, if a thermal sleeve is not used. 4. Not suitable for small pipe sizes. 5. Requires high pressure cooling water (particularly true of the spring assisted type). 6. Variable area and spring assisted types can be expensive.

1. Applications with a requirement for a higher turndown ratio than that offered by single nozzle devices, but where the expense of more sophisticated devices is not justified. 2. Constant steam load. 3. Constant steam temperature. 4. Constant coolant temperature. All of which require a relatively constant desuperheating load.

Venturi type desuperheaters

The Venturi type desuperheater employs a restriction in the superheated steam pipeline to create a region of high velocity and turbulence where the cooling water is injected. This helps to establish intimate contact between the steam and the cooling water, improving the efficiency of the desuperheating process.

Fig. 15.3.1 Venturi type desuperheater The desuperheating process is carried out in two separate phases: 1. The first stage of desuperheating occurs in the internal diffuser. A portion of the steam is accelerated in the internal nozzle and the velocity is used to atomise the incoming water. The cooling water is injected into the diffuser through a number of small jets, which helps to further atomise the water.

2. In the second stage of desuperheating, a saturated mist or fog emerges from the internal diffuser into the main diffuser where it mixes with the remainder of the steam. The main diffuser itself creates a restriction to the remainder of the steam thereby increasing its velocity in this region. Thus, there is a region of turbulence where the second stage of desuperheating occurs. This mechanism minimises cooling water contact with the sidewalls, combining maximum desuperheating effectiveness with minimum pipe wear. The steam flow turndown ratio does vary depending on the actual conditions, but 4:1 is typical. In applications where there is a dedicated pressure reducing station upstream of the desuperheater, the available steam turndown can be improved to over 5:1. The cooling water turndown is usually satisfactory for most plant applications, with 20:1 possible depending on the actual operating conditions. At cooling water turndowns beyond 20:1, the need for a cooling water booster pump also increases. Venturi type desuperheaters can be installed either horizontally or vertically with the steam flow upwards. When installed vertically, better mixing occurs which can result in an improved turndown ratio of over 5:1. The main problem with this is ensuring that there is enough vertical space to install the desuperheater, as it will be more than several metres long. A modification to the standard Venturi type desuperheater is the attemperator desuperheater. This essentially uses the same method of injecting the coolant into the superheated steam, but does not utilise the Venturi shaped mixing section. Attemperator desuperheaters are used in place of the Venturi type where there is sufficient space available to install a long absorption pipe, especially where slightly higher turndown is required, but where the additional cost of a steam atomising type cannot be justified. The term attemperator is also generally used to refer to a desuperheater that is installed after a boiler or superheater to give accurate control over temperature and pressure.

1. 2. 3. 4. Steam turndown ratios of up to 5:1 and cooling water turndowns of over 20:1. Simple operating principle (although more complex than the spray type). No moving parts. Accurate control of desuperheated steam temperature; typically within 3C of the saturation temperature. 5. Suitable for operation under steady or variable steam conditions. 6. There is reduced wear in the downstream pipework compared to a spray type desuperheater, as the cooling water emerges as a mist rather than as a spray.

1. Pressure drop is incurred (although this is generally small and within acceptable limits). 2. The absorption length is still longer than the steam atomising type; so more space is required for installation. 3. A minimum cooling water flow rate is required.


1. Suitable for most general plant applications, except where high turndowns on steam flow rate are required.

Steam atomising desuperheaters

Steam atomising desuperheaters employ a high-pressure auxiliary steam supply to atomise the incoming cooling water.

Fig. 15.3.2 Steam atomising desuperheater The desuperheating process occurs in two stages: 1. The first stage occurs in the diffuser, where the cooling water is atomised by the high velocity atomising steam. The auxiliary steam pressure needs to be at least 1.5 times the desuperheater inlet pressure, typically with a minimum pressure of 4 bar a. The flow rate of atomising steam is normally between 2% and 5% of the mainline flow. The use of atomising steam means that the cooling water can be introduced into the diffuser at lower pressures. In general, the only requirement is that the pressure must be greater than that of the superheated steam. 2. In the second stage, a wet mist or fog emerges from the diffuser where it mixes with the mainline steam in the pipeline. Evaporation occurs in the pipework immediately downstream of the desuperheater, where the remaining water droplets remain suspended in the steam and gradually evaporate. Using steam to atomise the cooling water produces finely atomised water particles, which ensures efficient heat transfer and evaporation. This arrangement allows for high steam turndown ratios; ratios of up to 50:1 are possible. It should however be noted that at turndowns greater than 20:1, low pipeline velocities may result in the 'settling out' of water, caused by the decreasing momentum of the water droplets. In this case, a drainage and recycle arrangement is required (see Figure 15.3.3). If such a recycle arrangement cannot be fitted, the turndown ratio will be reduced. The typical installation of a steam atomising desuperheater is illustrated in Figure 15.3.3.

Fig. 15.3.3 Typical steam atomising type desuperheater installation

1. Good turndown - steam turndown of up to 50:1 is possible, but operation and control is most efficient for a turndown of around 20:1. 2. Very compact - with a short absorption length relative to the other types. 3. Pressure drop is negligible. 4. The cooling water used can be cold, as the atomising steam will preheat it. 5. Low approach to saturation temperature - typically to within 6C of saturation temperature.

1. Auxiliary high pressure steam is required. 2. The amount of extra equipment required and the additional pipework is relatively expensive.


1. Suitable for applications where the steam flow rates will vary widely, for example in combined pressure reducing and desuperheating stations.

Variable orifice desuperheater

The variable orifice desuperheater controls the flow of cooling water into the mainline by a free-floating plug placed in the flow.

Fig. 15.3.4 Variable orifice desuperheater The variable orifice desuperheater consists of a plug that moves up and down in a cage. This movement is limited by a travel stop incorporated into the top of the cage. Its position within the cage depends on the flow of superheated steam in the mainline. Under no-flow conditions, the plug rests on a seat ring, surrounded by an annulus of cooling water. When superheated steam starts to flow through the desuperheater, the plug is forced off the seat by the steam pressure. As the flow increases, the plug is lifted further away from the seat, thereby creating a variable orifice between the plug and the seat. The increase in velocity between the plug and the seat creates a pressure drop across the annulus, drawing water into the superheated steam flow. The low pressure drawing the water into the pipeline also helps to atomise the water into a fine mist. The turbulence associated with the change in velocity and direction of the steam assists in mixing the coolant and the steam. Vortices created immediately upstream of the plug ensure that the coolant is completely mixed with the steam. The efficient mixing of the coolant and the superheated steam within the desuperheater body means that the absorption length is relatively short, and the temperature sensing element may be installed within 4 or 5 metres of the desuperheater body.

Fig. 15.3.5 Operation of variable orifice desuperheater installation The rate at which cooling water enters the annulus is varied by a control valve that is regulated as a function of the downstream temperature. The plug is typically fitted with a spring-loaded plunger, which increases the friction between the plug and the cage, effectively damping the plug's movement. Given a fixed pressure drop across the valve this effectively enables the amount of cooling water to be varied when mixing with the flow of superheated steam. The plunger also provides stability under light load conditions. The fact that the coolant is not sprayed into the desuperheater, and that virtually all the desuperheating occurs in the body of the device, means that there is little wear of associated pipework or the desuperheater itself. Therefore, thermal sleeves are unnecessary. A typical installation of a variable orifice desuperheater is illustrated in Figure 15.3.6

Fig. 15.3.6 Typical variable orifice type desuperheater installation

1. The turndown is only limited by the cooling water control valve, and steam turndown ratios of up to 100:1 can be readily achieved. 2. Low approach to saturation temperature - typically to within 2.5C of saturation temperature. 3. Short absorption length. 4. The cooling water pressure need only be 0.4 bar superior to the superheated stem pressure. 5. Superheated steam velocities may be very low.

1. Significant pressure drop across the desuperheater. 2. Relatively higher cost. 3. The desuperheater has to be installed vertically. If a bend is located immediately after the outlet, it must have a long radius.

1. Suitable for applications where the steam flow rate will vary widely and a relatively high pressure drop is not critical. 2. Where the steam velocity is likely to be very low.

Combined pressure control valve and desuperheater

In some instances, it is convenient to integrate the pressure control valve and the desuperheater into one unit.

Fig. 15.3.7 Combined pressure control valve and desuperheater (cut section) The pressure reducing aspect is similar to a standard pressure reducing valve. Although a number of different designs of pressure reducing valve could be used, angle or globe configurations are most commonly used. In addition, the valve is typically of the balanced type (with either a balancing plug or a balanced bellows arrangement) to reduce the required actuator force. As accurate pressure control is usually important in desuperheater applications, pneumatic actuation of the valve is virtually universal, and so is the use of positioners. In addition, because quite substantial pressure drops may be involved, the manufacturer will often offer a noise reduction trim for the pressure control valve (see Figure 15.3.8).

Fig. 15.3.8 Typical valve noise reduction trim The desuperheating aspect will also vary depending on the application, but it is common for a multiple point radial injection type to be used. The mixing of the coolant and the steam is

improved due to the high velocity of the superheated steam after the pressure-reducing valve. Radial injection type desuperheaters have the advantage that they can be easily combined with the pressure reducing valve to produce a single unit. In some combined pressure control and desuperheating stations, there are a number of baffle plates installed immediately after the desuperheating station. These plates induce further pressure drop and improve mixing of the steam and coolant. Combined pressure control valve and desuperheating stations are commonly used in turbine bypasses, where the valve dumps the flow directly to the condenser or to 'cold reheat'.

Comparison of types of desuperheater

Table 15.3.1 compares the typical performance and installation characteristics of the different desuperheater types. It should be noted that these properties may vary between different manufacturers, and indeed, they may depend on the particular operating conditions of the system.

Table 15.3.1 Comparison of desuperheater types

There are a number of important considerations to take into account when installing a desuperheater, namely:

The properties of the cooling water. The installation of the desuperheater itself. The ancillary components required. The control valves used on the cooling water line and the superheated steam line.

A generalised installation of an in-line desuperheater is shown in Figure 15.4.1.

Fig. 15.4.1 A typical in-line desuperheater installation Properties of the cooling water:

Temperature - The most effective desuperheating will be achieved using cooling water that is hot, preferably as close to the saturation temperature as possible. However, cooling water temperatures as low as 5C could be used if absolutely necessary. The use of hot water has the following advantages:
o o o

It minimises the time period for which water particles are suspended in the steam. It evaporates more quickly. It minimises the amount of water falling to the inside walls of the pipework.

There are however, two disadvantages to using high temperature cooling water: 1. The higher the temperature of the cooling water, the greater the required flowrate due to its lower cooling effect. 2. Unless a supply of the water at the required temperature is available, additional heating mechanisms may have to be incorporated. Due to the benefits of using hot water, it is logical to insulate the hot water supply pipes to minimise heat loss, and to protect personnel.

Quality - The quality of the injected water is important. The Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) content of the injection water should be as low as possible, as any solids that come out of solution will be deposited on: o The faces of valves. o The small orifices in the desuperheater nozzles. o The inner side of the piping downstream of the desuperheater. In addition to reducing the TDS levels, all cooling water should be passed through a suitable strainer installed before the water control valve. The deaerator will deoxygenate the water, thus reducing the potential of oxygen corrosion in the system.

Pressure and flow rate - As mentioned in Tutorial 15.2, the pressure of the cooling water, along with the area of the nozzles, determines the flow of cooling water into the desuperheater. Table 15.3.1 shows the typical minimum pressures (above the superheated steam pressure) required for each type of desuperheater. It should be noted that these might vary between manufacturers and for different steam pressures. If a booster pump is used, a 'spill back line' will be required to ensure that there is always sufficient flow through the pump at times of low cooling water demand. Control - A pressure drop will inevitably be required over the water control valve. When using cooling water close to saturation temperature, care is needed to ensure that the pressure drop is not large enough to cause the water to flash into steam. An equal percentage characteristic plug in the water control valve may be selected, which will usually complement the pump characteristic. Source - The availability of water at high pressure and temperature may be difficult. There are a number of possible sources of the cooling water; and options include: o Water from the pressure side of the boiler feed pump (providing the boiler uses modulating level control). o De-mineralised water. o Condensate. o Town water. This however may require treatment to improve the quality, otherwise salts may be deposited on the inside of the desuperheater downstream pipework.

Desuperheater installation
The total installed length of a desuperheater station will vary with size and type, but it is typically about 7.5 m.

Most desuperheaters can be installed in any direction (the variable orifice type is a notable exception), but if installed vertically, the flow should be upwards. The Venturi type is best installed in a vertical pipe with the flow in the upward direction, as this aids mixing of the water and the steam. However, such installations are not usually possible due to the vertical space required.

Superheated steam pressure control

Although it is possible to design desuperheater installations to operate with varying upstream pressures, it is much simpler if a constant supply pressure is maintained. The amount of cooling water added is controlled by the temperature of the steam after the desuperheater. The higher the temperature, the more the control valve will open, and the greater the amount of water added. The target is to reduce the steam temperature to within a small margin of the design discharge temperature. If the superheated steam supply pressure is increased, the saturation temperature will also increase. However, the set value on the coolant controller will not change, and an excessive amount of water will be added, resulting in wet steam. Pressure sensors used in the control of the superheated steam pressure should ideally be located at the point of use, so that the pressure control valve can compensate for any line loss between the desuperheater and the point of use.

Temperature sensor positioning

The minimum distance from the point of water injection to the temperature sensing point is critical:

If the sensor is too close to the water injection point, the mixing of the steam and the water will not have been completed, and the temperature sensor will give a false output. If the sensor is too far away, it will make the installation unnecessarily long.

The minimum installation distance will vary between different types of desuperheater and with different manufacturers. It is usually specified as a function of the temperature difference between the required outlet temperature and either the inlet temperature or the coolant temperature. Figure 15.4.2 shows a typical manufacturer's sensor positioning chart.

Fig. 15.4.2 Positioning of the temperature sensor

Separator station
Efficient drainage of the pipework following the desuperheater is essential. To ensure that water cannot accumulate at any point, the pipe should be arranged to fall approximately 20 mm per metre in the direction of flow, and should be provided with a separator station. The steam trap used to drain the separator should be carefully selected to prevent air binding, and the discharge pipe from the steam trap should have ample capacity to deal with the drainage and it should be fixed as near to vertical as possible. In addition, there must be sufficient space in the drainage pipe for the water to flow down and air to pass up the pipe. The steam trap must also be able to withstand superheat conditions. On critical applications, for example, prior to a turbine, a separator is even more important; the separator station will remove entrained water in the case of control failure, and prevent too much water being added to the steam.

Isolation valves
To allow maintenance to be safely carried out, isolation valves are recommended upstream of:

The superheated steam pressure control valve. The desuperheater.

The cooling water supply.

Typically, these should be installed approximately, but no less than 10 pipe diameters from the item they are isolating.

Safety valve
A safety valve may be required to protect equipment downstream of the desuperheating station from overpressure, in the event of failure of the pressure control station. It is necessary to ensure discharge pipework from the safety valve is led away to a safe area. This is of particular importance as high temperature superheated steam may be discharged.

Temperature and pressure ratings

Most equipment to be used on steam systems is designed with saturated steam in mind. It is therefore important that all equipment used in a desuperheater station will tolerate both the maximum temperature and pressure of the superheated steam. Most equipment will have specified pressure and temperature limitations that are based on the nominal pressure (PN) rating of the material and the specific design of the device. By definition, the PN rating is the maximum pressure that a material can withstand at 120C. For example, a PN16 rating means that the material will withstand a pressure of 16 bar g at 120C. At higher temperatures, the maximum pressure will decrease, however, the exact relationship varies and depends on the material. Figure 15.4.3 depicts typical pressure/temperature gradients for PN16, PN25 and PN40 rated products on a non-specific material. It is important to note that different materials will, by specification, produce variations in the temperature gradient. In addition, components such as gaskets, fasteners and internal components may have a further limiting effect on the maximum temperature and pressure.

Fig. 15.4.3 PN rating - Temperature/pressure limitations


The selection and installation of the control devices to be used in a desuperheater station are an important consideration, as they can affect the overall turndown of the desuperheater. If the controls installed have a lower turndown ratio than the desuperheater itself, the turndown of the desuperheater station will be reduced (refer to Tutorial 15.2) Further information on basic control theory and practice can be found in Blocks 5 to 8 inclusive.

When selecting a suitable type of desuperheater for a particular application, the following factors need to be considered:

Separator station - This is probably one of the most important considerations, as the different types of desuperheater vary significantly in the range of superheated steam flow rates that can be effectively desuperheated. It is important to note here that, although ensuring that the device will have sufficient turndown for the flow likely to be encountered, it is important not to specify more turndown capability than is really needed. This predominantly affects cost, but it can also lead to poor system performance. Poor performance is often aggravated by the fact that most desuperheaters tend to perform better at the higher end of the specified flow rates and a system designer would tend to allow for increases in capacity due to expansion. As an extreme example, if the maximum flow specified was ten times the current requirement (in order to take into account future growth), the desuperheater will operate between 1 and 10% of its full flow rate instead of the 10% to 100% it is designed for. Desuperheated steam temperature - As seen in the previous Tutorial, different types of desuperheater are capable of reducing the steam temperature to within several degrees of the saturation temperature. For example, if desuperheated steam temperatures within 5C of the saturation temperature (TS) were required, a Venturi or variable orifice type desuperheater would be selected (see Table 15.3.1). Generally, where some degree of residual superheat can be tolerated, the desuperheated steam temperature should be as high above saturation as possible. This is beneficial for several reasons: 1. Cost - a close approximation to saturation temperature is generally only achievable with the more costly types of desuperheaters. 2. Controller sensitivity - this may be a problem where the desuperheated steam temperature is required to be close to the saturation temperature. Limited controller sensitivity is one of the reasons why most desuperheaters are limited in their approach to saturation temperature. For example, if a controller had a sensitivity of 5C, it would not be able to distinguish between saturation temperature and 5C above. If such a controller interpreted the steam temperature at 5C above TS, and the steam were actually at TS, it would increase the flow of cooling water. But since the temperature of the saturated steam will not decrease (due to the latent heat of evaporation), the controller will add increasingly more coolant as it would still believe the system to be at 5C above TS. This will result in very wet steam flooding the steam main after the desuperheater station.

3. It becomes increasingly difficult to evaporate the cooling water as the superheated steam temperature drops towards saturation, due to the reduced temperature difference between the two. 4. The lower temperature difference also reduces the heat transfer rate between the water and the steam, and therefore the water droplets have to stay in suspension for longer to be evaporated. This increases the likelihood that the water particles will fall out of suspension in the pipe. In order to prevent this from occurring, as the temperature approaches TS, the velocity of the steam needs to be increased in order to create more turbulence.

Available coolant supply pressure - The choice of desuperheater type will also depend on the availability of cooling water at the necessary pressure. It would provide a cost advantage to use cooling water that is already available, for example, from the pressure side of a boiler feed water pump. If the available pressure were not sufficient for a particular type of desuperheater, additional pumping arrangements would have to be made.

A typical manufacturer's selection chart is shown in Figure 15.4.4. It is based on the typical performance and installation characteristics, which can be found in Table 15.3.1. The method used to size a desuperheater will vary depending on the particular manufacturer and the type of desuperheater, and therefore it is outside the scope of this publication.

Fig. 15.4.4 Desuperheater selection chart