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Condensate Recovery - Cost Effective Steam Energy Solution

John A. Herbert
John A. Herbert
Registered Energy Assessor (REA)

What is Condensate?


In steam systems, after the steam has done its primary work and given up its energy, it returns to its liquid state called Condensate.

In the context of steam systems, this Condensate is hot water, often 80 Deg C, with some oxygen content.

And often this valuable resource is just dumped into the drain, wasting energy and water. Even the so called Eco-park, that claims to be environmentally friendly, discharge hot condensate as waste water.

steam condensate recovery

What is Condensate Recovery?

Recovering the Condensate means providing a second pipe to carry the condensate (hot water/steam mixture) from the point of use or process back to the central boiler.

The energy saving is significant, typically providing 25% saving because the central boilers no longer need to heat raw water from ambient temperature to approx.80 DegC.

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Kelcroft's wide range and depth of experience includes consultancy and advisory services for steam and condensate recovery systems.

The advantages and benefits for steam condensate recovery extend beyond economics, the environment also benefits, the reasons for condensate recovery include:

  1. Economics - Reducing central boiler fuel requirements by 25% (sensible heat raising raw water 80 deg C) a significant fuel cost reduction;
  2. Lower raw water consumption, condensate replaced the demand and cost for raw water;
  3. Using less raw water lowers the need and demand for water treatment chemicals, and operating manpower and associated cost;
  4. Reduces the corrosion risk because raw water is oxygen rich, and is replaced by Condensate that have already been treated;
  5. Replacing the cold raw water with hot water (Condensate) piped to the central boiler also improves the boiler efficiency;
  6. If condensate is not reused often its discharged in to the effluent system at 75 Deg C which is harmful to the infrastructure (clay piping), the environment and local wildlife. Reusing that condensate avoids the environmental burden on the local drainage system;
  7. Regulatory - Often the local code will prohibit discharging effluent above 40 Deg C. Condensate recovery avoids the risk, extra manpower and energy wasted needed to cool the effluent before discharge;



    1. How much condensate to return to boilers?

      If possible 100% of the condensate should be returned to the boiler, to minimise lost heat. Practically, obstacles arise, it could be policy, system losses (leakage) or other physical constraints (contamination), so target the highest possible.

      If the system has less than 80% of the condensate is returned, consult Kelcroft to conduct an investigation to ascertain where possible all losses.

      How much water can be saved?

      The quantity of water saved depends on a number of factors, the best condensate systems have a high percentage, 80% of the condensate is recovered, therefore lowering demand for raw water and the need for chemically treating of that water volume. Some chemical treatment maybe required for the lower quantity of raw water used in the installation, therefore the water treatment plant is not eliminated.

      Condensate Recovery System Maintenance Impacts?

      With an extensive network of condensate piping and energy monitoring the maintenance of the steam system will still increase. Pumping Condensate maybe required depending on the topography of the site.

      What is the maximum distance from the central boiler plant?

      The maximum distance can be many kilometres, the key issue - pump energy (low) and thermal insulation to minimize energy and heat loss from the condensate during transportation to the central boiler plant

      Other Condensate Recovery considerations?

      Only uncontaminated Condensate typically from an indirect process, shall be returned to the central boiler plant. Contamination may restrict the volume of condensate returned to the central boiler plant.

      Any other recommended O&M strategies?

      Periodic thermographic surveys will uncover any weakness in the steam and condensate distribution piping network weeks, months or years before the physical characteristics (for example high heat loss due to failed insulation) would be normally detected. Thus allowing the O&M team to fix small problems before they escalate in the major O&M issues.

      Does Condensate Recovery replace flash steam?

      Condensate recovery would not replace Flash Steam, together they lower energy costs. (read more about flash steam)

      Kelcroft designs and supervises a wide range of E&M engineering systems for the built environment including a particular specialty Steam and Condensate systems primarily used in the hospital, healthcare, manufacturing process, catering and industrial sectors, call us today +(852) 2335 9830


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