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Introduction to Steam Tracing

Steam Tracing is used in two major industries:
  • Oil & Petrochemical
  • Food processing

In addition to its widespread application in the above industries, steam trace heating is also used on a smaller scale by factories and docks etc. which deal with fuel oils and other similar products.

The combination of steam trace heating and insulation may be described as the creation of an artificial environment to surround a process pipeline, container or instrument.

Many industrial products are prone to a variety of undesirable effects if they are not maintained and pumped at the correct temperatures. Some of these effects are listed below:

  • Discoloration
  • Crystallisation
  • Waxing
  • Clouding
  • Solidification
  • Precipitation

Substances have different optimum pumping temperatures. Some substances must be kept within certain temperature bands to avoid burning, crystallisation and even vaporisation. It is essential that every product is kept at the correct temperature to facilitate its flow from one process to another.

The extent to which a product is spoiled in the event of overheating or underheating will depend upon two factors. Firstly, the physical change that has occurred must be considered, and secondly, the effect upon the quality of the final product. If for example, discolouration occurs in a fuel oil, the consequences will not be as serious as if the same problem occurred when pumping molten plastic which had already been coloured for a specific purpose.

Efficient trace heating is one of the many components that contribute towards final product quality and high product yield.

There are three applications for tracing:

1.    Heat maintenance

2.    Frost protection

3.    Heat addition

The above may be achieved from the use of one of the following tracing methods:

1.    Critical

2.    Jacketed product pipes

3.    Non-critical

4.    Winterization (frost protection)

5.    Instrument