Level Measurement Solutions for Condensate Drip Legs

Level control of condensate tanks is critical to optimize condensate and waste heat recovery, as well as protect hardware. Each component of the steam generation and condensate recovery cycle has its own unique challenges and considerations when it comes to selecting level instrumentation. This is especially true when it comes to applications that are intended to keep the rest of the equipment safe, such as condensate drip legs.

Placed along super heated steam lines, condensate drip legs (or drip traps) collect particles of moisture and drain off the accumulated condensate. Employed as a preventative measure against turbine water induction, drip legs can be placed along main steam lines, hot and cold reheats and steam extraction lines. When a level switch senses the upper level in a drip leg, it opens a dump valve to remove the accumulated condensate.

condensate drip legs

Condensate drip legs along a steam line.

Magnetrol® has produced an applications brochure for the power and utilities industries, detailing measurement challenges and solutions for each step of the steam generation and condensate recovery process. This blog post is part of an occasional series exploring each application in detail.

Level Measurement Challenges and Considerations

If particles of moisture escape condensate collection systems and enter the turbines, significant damage can result. Proper level controls should prevent any moisture from entering the turbine, no matter how small the amount. Level controls used in condensate drip legs must also contend with the high temperatures and pressures associated with these devices. They must be able to provide accurate and reliable measurement despite these challenging conditions.

Level Measurement Solutions

MAGNETROL has produced level measurement solutions for condensate drip legs:

  • Model B40 float-actuated switch
  • Model B35 external cage float-actuated switch, ASME B31.1 construction

More Information

For more information on level solutions for condensate drip legs and other power generation applications, download our power generation brochure.

You can also download our steam generation white paper to learn more about solutions for the steam generation and condensate recovery cycle.

power generation

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Level Solutions for Feedwater Heaters

Optimizing feedwater heater level control is an effective way to easily improve power plant efficiency and reduce fuel costs. Feedwater heaters use extraction steam from the turbine to raise the temperature of water destined for the boiler. Water first passes through low-pressure heaters and into the deaerator where excess oxygen is removed. The feedwater then passes into the high-pressure heaters where it is further heated and pressurized. The primary benefit of this process is that the feedwater heater decreases the fuel costs by using recovered energy – rather than costly hot gas – to heat the water.

Feedwater heater level measurement in the field.

The key to efficient operation of a feedwater heater is to optimize the condensing zone in an effort to transfer as much of the available energy as possible to the boiler feedwater while maintaining sufficient cooling of the tubes to prevent premature damage of the hardware due to thermal overload – all of which are an inherent part of the feedwater heater design.

Level Measurement Challenges and Considerations

Feedwater heater level is controlled to (1) prevent level from rising into the extraction line; (2) keep the tube surfaces in the condensing zone immersed; and (3) keep the drain cooler flooded. The effectiveness of a shell and tube heat exchanger in transferring energy is contingent, barring hardware anomalies, on accurate level control.

According to ASME standards, two separate level control loops should manage each feedwater heater. Level instrumentation must also be able to withstand moderate to high temperatures and pressures and turbulent conditions. Many level instruments are unable to adjust to turbulence or change in pressure and thus provide inaccurate readings in feedwater heater applications.

Level Measurement Solutions

Magnetrol® produces several instrumentation options to address the level measurement challenges of monitoring feedwater heaters:

  • For point level:
    Model B40 float-actuated or Series 3 external cage switches
  • For continuous level:
    Eclipse® Model 706 guided wave radar transmitter with 7YS steam probe or E3 Modulevel® displacer transmitter
  • For visual indication:
    Atlas™ or Aurora® magnetic level indicators can be supplied with switches or transmitters

More Information

For more information on level solutions for feedwater heaters and other power generation applications, download the power industry brochure. You can also download the steam generation applications brochure for more information on level solutions for the steam generation and condensate recovery process.

power generation

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Eclipse® Model 706 Guided Wave Radar Transmitters Withstand Catastrophic Flooding

No plant manager wants to think about a natural disaster impacting his or her facility. But when disaster strikes, it’s important to have a measurement solution that will withstand damage and keep from making the disaster worse. Magnetrol® guided wave radar instrumentation withstood major flooding in Texas and helped a plant avoid further catastrophe. guided wave radar

In a four-day period between August 25 and 29, 2017, many areas of Texas received over 100 centimeters of rain that caused catastrophic flooding. This was brought on by Hurricane Harvey—an extremely destructive Category 4 storm, the strongest to make landfall in the United States since 2005.

The resulting floods inundated hundreds of thousands of homes and caused significant property damage and loss of life. They also prompted the closure of several refineries and chemical plants.

In some cases, the storm damage to the plants caused accidents that exacerbated the disastrous conditions. Two ExxonMobil refineries had to be shut down due to storm-related damage and releases of hazardous pollutants. Even worse, two explosions occurred at one of the Arkema chemical plants in Crosby, TX, due to the loss of power and, subsequently, the loss of proper cooling in one of its systems.

Another plant affected by Harvey has a direct tie to MAGNETROL. A chemical plant in southeast Texas relies on several Eclipse® Model 706 Guided Wave Radar (GWR) transmitters installed on sumps. In an email to MAGNETROL Global Product Manager Bob Botwinski, Chris Oglesby, a representative from Tech Quip in Houston, stated: “[The ECLIPSE 706 devices] held up to Harvey…even after being submerged for several days.”

The Model 706 is actually rated only to Ingress Protection IP 66/67, which is defined as “no harmful effects to occur from high-pressure water spray and/or short-term submersion.” However, these particular devices not only withstood full, long-term submersion over the course of several days, they started up immediately and began operating properly when called upon.

Although it is difficult to take much satisfaction in such a small piece of good news encompassed within such an immensely sad event, this story certainly highlights and substantiate the robust design and exceptionally high quality of MAGNETROL instrumentation.

For more information about the ECLIPSE Model 706 guided wave radar and other MAGNETROL radar-based transmitters, visit radar.magnetrol.com.

guided wave radar

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Learn About Optimizing Steam Drum Level Control With Magnetrol® at POWER-GEN International

The large-scale integration of renewable technologies into the energy mix and climate change mitigation has fundamentally changed the day-to-day operation of combined cycle and conventional fossil fired boiler power plants. As a result, the vulnerabilities of traditional level technologies to the dynamic process conditions of a steam drum during fast starts or cycling events have a more profound effect on a plant’s ability to respond to market demands or to the shortfall of renewable assets. High-quality, reliable steam drum level control is increasingly important to address these issues.

Although the mainstay of steam drum level control for decades, traditional technologies are not well suited for the wide range of process conditions within a steam drum that may be experienced during load swings throughout the course of a day.

In one instance, the technology involves an excessive number of variables to resolve the level measurement equation that present avenues for potential error, while another oversimplifies the measurement such that operators have limited visibility to conditions within the steam drum – relative to today’s technology standards.

The Destination for Optimization

Magnetrol® will be hosting a pre-conference workshop for POWER-GEN International entitled “Optimizing Steam Drum Level Control for Improved Performance.” At this workshop, MAGNETROL business manager Donald Hite will detail the advancements in Guided Wave Radar (GWR) technology relative to steam drum level control and how these advancements remedy the host of issues plants experience from both operational and performance points of view. Hite is a recognized expert in the field. He has over 30 years of instrumentation and industry experience and is familiar with technologies both old and new and how they impact power plant efficiency.

steam drum level control

This workshop is a great fit for plant instrumentation & control engineers, performance & reliability engineers, design engineers, fleet engineers and instrumentation & control technicians.

Topics covered in the workshop will include:

  • Simplifying your steam drum level measurement equation
  • Leveraging today’s technology to improve steam drum level control and plant performance metrics:  availability, reliability, heat rate and dispatch response
  • Managing controllable losses through improved visibility to steam drum dynamics
  • Minimizing hardware complexity
  • Eliminating calibration as a factor in instrumentation performance
  • Hardware and controls implementation:  existing plant & new build
  • Implementation cost analysis
  • ASME BPVC Section 1

The workshop will take place on Monday, December 4 from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm in room N234 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, NV.

If you’re attending POWER-GEN International, don’t miss out on this pre-conference workshop and an opportunity to learn about better instrumentation for steam drum level control. Register today—we hope to see you there!

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Level Measurement Solutions for Boiler Blowdown Tanks

The concentration of undesirable solids in boiler water can be reduced through the use of a continuous purge or blowdown system. A blowdown tank receives continuous blowdown from the steam drum and blowdowns of variable temperatures and pressures from the steam generator. Boiler blowdown tanks can also function as gravity feed drains for the steam generator when the generator is drained for maintenance.

Maintaining water quality in the boiler within design parameters ensures the highest quality steam possible. By reducing solids, scaling and corrosion caused by water impurities can be minimized and energy recovery can be better facilitated.

boiler blowdown tanks

A boiler blowdown tank in a power generation plant.

Level Measurement Challenges and Considerations

Good boiler blowdown practices can greatly reduce a boiler’s water treatment needs. Combustible mixtures left in a boiler due to improper purges, however, have been known to cause catastrophic explosions. Proper tank level controls are essential to ensure a safe and effective boiler blowdown system.

In addition, optimizing blowdown usage through level control primarily affects fuel economy by better managing the amount of energy required to produce high quality steam for any given task. The performance of any level technology relative to instrument induced errors, calibration nuances, and vulnerabilities to process dynamics can have an immediate and adverse impact on fuel consumption. Seamless response to changes in demand and reducing maintenance associated with the instrumentation or damage to hardware are residual benefits that have their own financial ramifications; these aspects should also be considered when implementing any technology.

Level Measurement Solutions

Magnetrol® has developed level instrumentation for boiler blowdown tanks in response to these challenges:

  • Eclipse® Model 706 guided wave radar transmitter with 7YS steam probe
  • E3 Modulevel® displacer transmitter

More Information

For more information on solutions for boiler blowdown tanks and other power/steam generation applications, download the power generation brochure. You can also download the steam generation applications brochure for more information on level solutions for the steam generation and condensate recovery process.

power generation

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Case Studies: How Two Petrochemical Plants Improved Level and Flow Measurement

Managing petrochemical plants requires monitoring a variety of complex processes. Preventing accidents is a key concern, as well as ensuring that no product is lost and that the highest quality is maintained. The level and flow instrumentation used to monitor these processes often makes a significant impact on plant efficiency and safety.

Magnetrol® produces a wide range of level and flow instrumentation that can be used in petrochemical plants. This blog post shares the stories of two plants that improved their petrochemical production and better monitored their facilities by using MAGNETROL products.

Case Study #1: Not All Guided Wave Radar is Created Equal

One of the world’s largest oil & gas and petrochemical companies was having problems with multiphase applications involving hydrocarbon level with water bottoms and gas vapor space. Guided wave radar (GWR) technology was introduced to monitor these applications. However, the GWR devices selected did not produce a reliable signal throughout the measurement range, and the dynamics of the interface made it difficult to distinguish between the upper level and the water below. There was a threat of loss of primary containment (LOPC) due to these measurement errors.

MAGNETROL pioneered GWR technology for level measurement and its latest device, the Eclipse® Model 706, is considered the highest performing GWR level transmitter on the market. The ECLIPSE Model 706 was tested side-by-side with multiple GWR competitors for both top level and interface measurements and it was proven to be best-in-class. The ECLIPSE 706 tracked level up to the device’s flanged process connection, above 100% level, with no dead zones or blind spots at the top of the probe. It prevented LOPC by tracking the top hydrocarbon level through the vapor space and also measured the interface (water bottom) due to the superior signal strength. In summary, it was the only device tested that could produce reliable measurements with a completely dry probe, a probe having only one of the two process media present, and under varying interface conditions.

Case Study #2: Measuring Blanketing Gas to Reduce Cost 

An oil & gas and petrochemical company in China required nitrogen tank blanketing for their flammable liquid containment. Monitoring the nitrogen was essential to account for leakage and verify flow going into the vapor space of the tanks. Due to the number of tanks, the gas flow was monitored to find the right balance between the necessary nitrogen usage and potential cost savings.

petrochemical plants

A Thermatel® TA2 monitoring gas flow in a petrochemical plant.

MAGNETROL recommended its Thermatel® TA2 thermal mass flow meters to monitor the nitrogen for tank blanketing. The meters came fully calibrated and configured so the company could simply install them and power up. THERMATEL TA2 flow meters are very effective in extreme low gas pressures, such as in tank blanketing applications. In addition, total cost of ownership was reduced with calibration verification procedures that could be performed in the field. Since calibrations can cost tens of thousands of dollars and cause process downtime or loss of measurement, this saved money and increased efficiency for the company.

More Information

MAGNETROL offers numerous level and flow solutions for ethylene applications, including petrochemical production. To learn more about the products we offer and how they can help increase the efficiency and safety of petrochemical plants, download our ethylene brochure.

ethylene brochure

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Case Studies in Improving Level Measurement at Ethylene Plants

In ethylene plants, balancing environment, health and safety is essential while maximizing productivity. Each part of the ethylene production process has its own challenges and considerations when it comes to monitoring level and ensuring safety and efficiency. Proper level instrumentation can improve this process and bring peace of mind to plant operators.

Magnetrol® produces a wide range of level instrumentation that can be used in ethylene plants. This blog post features the stories of two ethylene plants that were able to better manage their processes using MAGNETROL instrumentation.

Case Study #1: Visual Level Indication In Cryogenic Applications

An ethylene plant in China required a clear visual indication of level from challenging cryogenic applications including methane, ethane, ethylene and propylene. Specific gravity in these applications ranged from 0.3-0.8. The plant needed a level indicator that could withstand these challenging conditions and provide unobstructed visual indication.

ethylene plants

The Atlas™ magnetic level indicator.

The Orion Instruments® Atlas™ Magnetic Level Indicator (MLI) has physical floats in the MLI chamber that can simultaneously meet cryogenic and low specific gravity requirements. The careful float design allows level to be tracked accurately even as temperature and specific gravity shifts.

Cryogenic visual flags or indicators, also known as frost shields, prevent frosting to provide a clear visual indication of liquid level. By using ATLAS in their applications, the plant was able to obtain the clear visual level indication that was required.

Case Study #2: Meeting Safety Requirements

A refinery and petrochemical facility in Canada that primarily produces ethylene needed to upgrade its level measurement devices to meet safety regulations. The facility’s reliability and safety groups needed level devices that met SIL requirements for emergency shutdown (ESD) and safety systems. Both SIL 1 and SIL 2 applications exist at this site.

The facility needed to implement proof test procedures for their instrumentation and control devices to meet safety loop requirements. One proof test requirement was for the mA output to be set below 4 mA and above 20 mA; this was the necessary output range to meet the NAMUR NE43 recommendation.

The ORION Jupiter® JM4 magnetostrictive transmitter was chosen to fulfill these requirements. It allowed current output to be taken low or high per NAMUR NE43. The advanced diagnostics of the JM4 allowed users to pull echo curves from the transmitter display or access them externally using a PC by wiring into the current loop.

More Information

MAGNETROL offers numerous level and flow solutions for ethylene applications. To learn more about the products we offer and how they can help increase the efficiency and safety of ethylene plants, download our ethylene brochure.

ethylene brochure

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DA Level Measurement Solutions

The deaerator is a key, yet oftentimes overlooked, component of the steam generation cycle, regardless of the scale of your process. Whether it is part of commercial power generation or a packaged boiler system, the deaerator has a crucial role to play.

Aurora Magnetic Level Indicator integrated Guided Wave Radar monitors critical DA level.

Although serving a primary role of removing noncondensable gases (O2 and CO2) from boiler feed water to prevent corrosion for improved hardware longevity, the deaerator also provides additional support functions which, along with its core benefit, require high-quality instrumentation with accurate level controls to ensure optimal performance in its assigned tasks. Here are some of the support functions that deaerators provide:

  • Preheating boiler feed water for improved efficiency
    • Reduces fuel requirements
  • Effective removal of dissolved gases (O2 and CO2) from boiler feed water
    • Minimizes corrosion for improved hardware longevity
  • Ensuring adequate head pressure for boiler feed pumps
    • Increases hardware longevity/lowers maintenance
  • Managing deaerator storage/inventory
    • Ensures sufficient supply to meet steam production demands

Level Measurement Challenges and Considerations

As with all level measurement, the first obstacle is working around the effects process dynamics have on the fundamental technology.   Another difficulty is the complexity of the measurement system relative to hardware installation, software corrections and its perpetual need for calibration. Eliminating variables in the level measurement equation is the easiest method of optimizing your DA level.


A deaerator in the field.

Furthermore, inadequate level controls can inhibit the deaeration process.  If the level is too high, this prevents the temperature from meeting minimum requirements for removal of dissolved O2 and CO2.  On the flip side, if the level is too low it can reduce or shutdown feed water flow to the boiler, affecting end use steam needs. The former affects hardware longevity and efficiency, while the latter risks production losses and possible damage to pumps.

We don’t want to ignore the fact that any appreciable gain in boiler feed water achieved by leveraging the heat exchanger aspects of the deaerator reduces the amount of fuel required at the boiler— every 10.8 °F (6 °C) rise in boiler feed water amounts to a one percent savings in fuel cost.

Level Measurement Solutions

MAGNETROL addresses the measurement challenges of DA level control with several instrument options:

  • For point level
    Model B35 external cage float-actuated switch for low level alarming, ASME B31.1 construction
  • For continuous level
    Eclipse® Model 706 guided wave radar transmitter for aggressive steam application
  • For visual indication & continuous level
    Atlas™ or Aurora® magnetic level indicator with integrated guided wave radar can be supplied with switches

More Information

For more information on solutions for your DA level control and other power/steam generation applications, download the power industry brochure. You can also download the steam generation apps brochure for more information on level solutions for the steam generation and condensate recovery process.

power generation

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Measurement Solutions to Optimize Steam Production & Power Generation

A considerable amount of resources are allocated to the production of steam and electricity in the chemical process industry.   Research shows that minor performance improvements in either of the two areas will have a significant impact on product quality, cost and ultimately a company’s ability to effectively compete in the global arena.

steam drum

A steam drum in a chemical plant.

Regardless of the source of steam for your facility (e.g., packaged boiler, coal or gas-fired plant, combine cycle plant, etc.) or its end use (heating and/or power generation) eliminating the measurement variables associated with more traditional technologies used for boiler or steam drum level control is a solid first step it optimizing the production and quality of steam for a given amount of fuel. U.S. Department of Energy surveys show the boiler as the keystone to optimizing steam production for profit.

This concept of reducing the avenues for error, whether process or calibration related, in the level measurement equation translates extremely well to other critical applications throughout the cogeneration and corresponding condensate recovery processes. For example, leveraging advanced level measurement technologies is a simple and inexpensive method of ensuring proper management of DA level to improve the deaeration process; so is maximizing efficiency of shell and tube heat exchangers used to pre-heating boiler feed and make-up water, or maintaining appropriate level in blowdown and flash (receiver) tanks. Of course, there are maintenance benefits that go hand-in-hand with these performance enhancements.

Level Measurement Challenges and Considerations

The challenges facing any level measurement technology in a cogeneration facility are usually associated with the aggressive nature of steam and vulnerability to process dynamics including pressure, temperature, vacuum and specific gravity.   If left unattended, these seemingly subtle limitations have a profound impact on the bottom line.

Level Measurement Solutions 

MAGNETROL offers a range of level instruments which address the limitations of traditional technologies on key applications throughout the cogeneration process to help your plant operate more efficiently.

  • Eclipse® Model 706 guided wave radar transmitter
  • Aurora® or Atlas™ magnetic level indicator

Our whitepaper and application brochure detail measurement challenges and solutions for critical applications throughout the cogeneration process. This blog post is part of an occasional series thoroughly exploring each application.

More Information

For more information on how our technologies can help improve performance aspects throughout key areas of any cogeneration facility, you can download the following brochures: Steam Generation, Waste Heat & Condensate Recovery Level Applications and Optimizing the Steam Generation Cycle & Condensate Recovery Process for Profit.

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Celebrating 85 Years of Level and Flow Measurement Innovation

This year marks the 85th anniversary of the founding of Magnetrol®. Since its very beginning, MAGNETROL has been a company focused on level and flow measurement innovation, designing cost-effective, cutting-edge solutions for its customers. In honor of 85 years of success, here’s a look back on some MAGNETROL highlights over the years.

The Beginning

The history of MAGNETROL dates to 1932 as a Chicago-based manufacturer of boiler systems. The first MAGNETROL level control was born when the founding company, Schaub Systems Service, needed a controller for its boiler systems. Our innovative device was the first of its kind to accurately and safely detect the motion of liquid in boilers and feedwater systems. Soon the MAGNETROL name became synonymous with rock-solid, reliable mechanical buoyancy controls.

measurement innovation

One of the first Magnetrol® level instruments

Innovation in Radar

Mechanical buoyancy isn’t the only area where MAGNETROL has been a force for innovation. Our devices have changed the radar landscape as well. In 1998, we introduced the Eclipse® Model 705 as the first loop-powered guided wave radar (GWR) transmitter for industrial liquid level applications. The unprecedented reliability and accuracy of the ECLIPSE 705 set a new standard for radar devices.

We didn’t stop there, continuing to develop radar technology and adapt it to the needs of our customers. In 1999, MAGNETROL released the first ECLIPSE high-temperature/high-pressure probe, rated to 750 °F (400 °C). We developed an overfill-capable coaxial probe in 2000. And in 2001, we became the first company to incorporate GWR technology into a patented magnetic level indicator chamber, offering true redundant measurement.

In addition to these new developments in GWR, MAGNETROL created many pulse burst and non-contact radar devices for use in challenging process applications. We also secured our core capabilities in electronic technologies, including RF capacitance and ultrasonic.

Looking Toward the Future

Most recently, MAGNETROL released the Pulsar® Model R86, a groundbreaking new 26GHz non-contact radar featuring a smaller wavelength for smaller antennas and improved 1mm resolution.

We continue to raise the bar for level and flow measurement. Whatever the future of industrial technology, MAGNETROL will be in the thick of it, developing the products that bring customers accuracy, reliability and peace of mind. We are a team of innovators—and innovators are always moving forward.

More Information

To learn more about the MAGNETROL history of level and flow measurement innovation and our many products, visit magnetrol.com.

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