German China India

Modernization of Process Plants

Automated Monitoring of Pipe Trace Heating Increases Availability and Reduces Costs

| Author / Editor: Thilo Glas / Dr. Jörg Kempf

If a pipe trace heating system fails in winter, the entire plant is shut down — and the damage is immense.
If a pipe trace heating system fails in winter, the entire plant is shut down — and the damage is immense. (Source: ©zorandim75 - stock.adobe.com)

In process engineering systems, it is essential that piping systems are heated in winter. Otherwise, the liquids transported in these systems would either become viscous or even freeze completely. In the case of water-based liquids, the pipes could also burst. A monitoring solution that can be individually adapted to the specific needs of older systems provides a remedy.

The more northerly the location, the more important pipe trace heating becomes. It protects the substances transported in the pipes from freezing. However, the same is also true for pipes in hot regions of the world. In Asia, for example, the crude oil transported in the pipes must be heated up so that it reaches a pumpable viscosity and does not become viscous. Therefore, if pipe trace heating fails, the entire operation usually comes to a standstill, resulting in significant financial losses.

What makes matters even worse is that the heating in older systems is often not monitored in any way. The heating systems are simply connected to the mains via a miniature circuit breaker and are switched on in the fall and then switched off again the following spring. It is also quite possible that someone will forget to switch them off. If the heating is defective under these conditions, this will go unnoticed due to the lack of monitoring equipment and will only be detected when the transported medium fails to reach its destination. This scenario can be avoided, for example, by monitoring the heating system current. An open circuit, short circuit or insulation fault can thus be identified.

* The author is Senior Specialist Engineering in the Industry Management Process, Phoenix Contact Electronics GmbH, Bad Pyrmont/Germany.

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