Steam boilers play a major role in manufacturing, heating, and electricity generation, yet industrial steam generation technology has not undergone any major design breakthroughs in the last 100 years. In fact, about 80 percent of U.S. boilers are more than 25 years old. This presents an opportunity for a revolutionary technology called the Super Boiler, which is demonstrating improved efficiency, reduced emissions, and lower fuel costs for industry.

In U.S. industry, steam boilers account for about 37% of energy use, mostly in the food, paper, chemicals, refining, and primary metals industries. It costs industry about $18 billion annually just to feed these boilers. New steam generation technologies are currently in development that will substantially increase energy efficiency and reduce environmental impacts for U.S. industry.

An Energy-Efficient and Cost-Effective Solution
Enter the Super Boiler, which combines ultra-high efficiency, low emissions, state-of-the-art controls, and a smaller boiler footprint into a super hero package of steam generation technology. DOE and its partners recently celebrated the success of the initial year-long field test of the Super Boiler at Specification Rubber Products in Alabaster, Alabama, and additional demonstration projects are in the works. DOE predicts that this technology could save industry more than 185 trillion Btu of natural gas by 2020, and about $10 billion in annual energy costs—goals that meet immediate needs for efficient steam technology solutions and contribute to DOE's strategic, long-term Super Boiler 2020 program.

From Development to Demonstration to Commercial Market
DOE's Industrial Technologies Program (ITP) partnered with Gas Technology Institute (GTI) and Cleaver-Brooks, Inc. to develop the Super Boiler, a first-generation package boiler that increases efficiency, reduces emissions, and requires less floor space than conventional boilers. The two-stage firetube design includes a transport membrane condenser (TMC) and compact humidifying air heater (HAH) to extract sensible and latent heat from the flue gas for increased energy efficiency; compact convective zones with intensive heat transfer; state-of-the-art controls; and a staged/intercooled combustion system for ultra-low emissions (see "How Does It Work?").

"The development of this technology is being driven primarily by rising energy prices, combined with increasingly stringent emissions regulations," explained GTI's Rick Knight, technology development manager, power generation. "Today, industry, manufacturers, and the government are teaming with GTI to develop cleaner, more efficient ways to use fossil fuels."

In the initial field demonstration, a single-stage 300-hp boiler was installed at Specification Rubber Products, a rubber gasket manufacturer, where it has operated successfully for more than 8,000 hours. The boiler demonstrated a fuel-to-steam efficiency of 93% to 94% and reduced NOx levels to less than 9 parts per million. It also cut annual natural gas use by 13%, and reduced makeup water consumption by more than 6%. Beginning in January 2008, the second field test will use a two-stage unit and be conducted at Clement Pappas & Company, a fruit juice manufacturer in Ontario, California. In addition, a TMC retrofit project on a conventional boiler is being scheduled at Third Dimension Inc., a cabinet packaging facility in West Jordan, Utah. View the Super Boiler Overview video.

At all of these sites, continued improvements to the technology will move it to commercial marketing of high-efficiency, low-emissions industrial firetube boilers. At present, both the one- and two-stage boiler designs are being considered.

"There is no reason to compromise when tackling energy efficiency, emissions, saving water, saving floor space, and improving operability of industrial boilers," said Knight. "We can do them all."

Super Boiler Project Partners