Question of the Month: 2017

Question of the Month for December 2017


Describe a through tube and a submerged tube, vertical fire tube boiler?


Vertical fire tube boilers consist of tubes expanded in lower and upper tube sheets.  The lower tube sheet forms the top of the furnace.  The furnace is water cooled and I formed by an extension of the outside shell and the inner shell which is riveted to the lower tube sheet.  The full-length tube or through tube type has the upper tube sheet riveted directly to the shell.  When operating the water is carried some distance below the top tube sheet to provide a steam space.  The upper ends of the tubes are not protected by water and frequently become overheated and leak where they are expanded in the tube sheet.

The shell of the submerged tube vertical fire tube boiler extends above the upper tube sheet.  A conical shaped section of plate is riveted to the sheet.  The space above the tube sheet provides a smoke outlet.  The space between the inner and outer sheets composes the steam space.  This arrangement makes it possible to carry the water level above the top tube sheet.  The burning of the tube ends is prevented.  The steam space is difficult to construct, requires stays and frequently leaks.


Question of the Month for November 2017


What is the function of an atmospheric relief valve?


An atmospheric relief valve prevents pressure buildup on the exhaust side of a reciprocating steam engine or steam turbine.  It is located on the main exhaust line or directly at the top of the condenser as close to the exhaust steam inlet as possible.  The atmospheric relief valve stays closed as long as there is a vacuum in the condenser.  If the vacuum is lost, the atmospheric relief valve will open, allowing the reciprocating steam engine or steam turbine to exhaust into the atmosphere, thus protecting the condenser from excessive steam pressure.


Question of the Month for October 2017


What limits the degrees of superheat on a steam turbines?


The degrees of superheat in a steam turbine is limited by the metals used.  Temperatures up to 1100 degrees F are frequently used on large turbines.  Gas turbine blades are Designed to withstand high temperatures of up to 1000 degrees Celsius.  Steam turbine blades have to withstand mostly around 500 -600 degrees Celsius and are designed accordingly by varying the composition of vanadium, Molybdenum etc.


Question of the Month for September 2017


A boiler at 150 psig has a safety valve which is 2″ in diameter.  What is the total upward force on the safety valve disc?


TF = P X A
TF = total force on safety valve disc, in lbs
P = pressure on the disc, in psi
A = area of disc, in sq in.
TF = T X A
TF = P X 0.7854D2
TF = 150 X 0.7854 X 2 X 2
TF = 471 lb

Question of the Month for August 2017


The viscosity of fuel oil is the measurement of the _?_ in the fuel oil.

A.  BTU content

B.  Fire Point

C.  Flash Point

D.  Internal resistance to flow


D.  Internal resistance to flow

Fuel oil is a fraction obtained from petroleum distillation, either as a distillate or a residue. Fuel oil is classified in six classes, numbered 1 through 6, according to its boiling point, composition and purpose.

  • No. 1: Similar to kerosene. It is the fraction that boils off right after gasoline.
  • No. 2:  This is the diesel fuel that trucks and cars run on, leading to the name “road diesel”.
  • No. 3: This is a distillate fuel oil and is rarely used.
  • No. 4: This fuel oil is usually a blend of distillate and residual fuel oils, such as No. 2 and No. 6; sometimes it is just a heavy distillate (~ diesel distillate or residual fuel oil).
  • No. 5: It is a mixture of 75% to 80% of No. 6 and 25% to 20% of No. 2.
  • No. 6: This oil is called residual fuel oil (RFO) or heavy fuel oil (HFO). It is the remainder of the crude oil after gasoline and distillate fuel oils have been extracted through distillation. It fuels thermal power stations or robust engines.

In fuel oil, the viscosity is highly significant since it indicates both the relative ease with which the oil can be pumped, and the ease of atomization. Density alone is of little significance as an indication of the burning characteristics of fuel oil. Used in conjunction with other properties, it is of value in mass-volume relationships and for the specific energy of an oil.

Viscosity classification according to ASTM D396.

Fuel OilKin. Viscosity
at 40°C
Kin. Viscosity
at 100°C
API Gravity
No. 11.3 … 2.138 … 45
No. 21.9 … 3.430 … 38
No. 4 light1.9 … 5.524 … 28
No. 45.5 … 2420 … 24
No. 5 light5.0 … 8.917 … 22
No. 59.0 … 14.914 … 18
No. 615 … 508 … 15

Question of the Month for July 2017


What is the belt speed on an engine with a 6′ diameter pulley running at 150 RPM?



2827.44 fpm

Belt speed = pulley circumference X RPM

Circumference = π X diameter of pulley, in ft

Belt speed = 3.1416 X 6 X 150


Question of the Month for June 2017


A duplex reciprocating feedwater pump operates on the principle that?

A.  The steam side must be 2 to 2 1/2 times larger in area than the water side

 B.  The waterside piston must be 2 to 2 1/2 times larger than the area than the steam piston

C.  The steam piston must be 2 to 2 1/2 times larger in area than the water piston

D.  The piston speed squared will equal gallons per minute


C.  The steam piston must be 2 to 2 1/2 times larger in area than the water piston


I. The pumping action in any reciprocating pump is dependent upon the positive displacement or the fluid pumped by a piston or plunger. The capacity of the pump is, therefore, determined by the area of the piston and its rate of travel. In order to obtain a practical machine, some method of reversing the direction of the pistons is required. In the direct-acting steam pump, this is accomplished by the steam valves and valve gear; in power pumps, this is accomplished by use of crank and connecting rods.

2. The ability of the pump to produce pressure is dependent upon the ratio of total steam force (steam pressure per unit area x area of steam piston) to total liquid force  (pump head x area of liquid piston). In order that pumping may occur, it is necessary that the steam force exceed the liquid force by an amount which slightly exceeds the various mechanical and hydraulic losses encountered. The basic principles for steam pump operation are shown below.


I. Direct-acting reciprocating pumps are classed as follows:

A. Horizontal or vertical.

B. Single or duplex. A single pump has one liquid piston or its equivalent single or double-acting plunger; a duplex pump has two liquid pistons or their equivalent single or double-acting plungers.

C. Single or double-acting. A single-acting unit pumps on one direction of piston travel only whereas double-acting units pump on both strokes. Direct-acting steam pumps are usually double acting.

2. Direct-acting steam pumps are conventionally described by stating the steam cylinder diameter, the liquid cylinder diameter, the length of stroke, horizontal or vertical (H or V), single or duplex (S or D), and single or double-acting (SA or DA). Thus a pump identified as 11 x 8 x 18

VSDA has an 11 inch steam cylinder, 8 inch water cylinder, 18 inch stroke, and is a vertical single double-acting pump.


General Characteristics

Reciprocating pumps move water or other liquids by a plunger or piston that travels back and forth inside a cylinder.

Positive displacement, often used for small capacities and when needed to avoid churning of centrifugal pumps. Can pump foaming liquids and high viscosity liquids.

Can control flow by regulating speed of drive with no head loss by throttling as in a centrifugal pump. Used often at high or very high pressures.  Also often used as metering pumps because of constancy of flow rate. The flow rate can be easily changed by adjusting the RPM of the driver.

Pumps ideally will produce any head that is impressed on them. The maximum head is determined by the power available and the strength of the pump parts. An automatic relief valve set at a safe pressure is used on the discharge side of all positive displacement pumps.

Never throttle on the discharge side to reduce the flow rate of a positive displacement pump. The fluid has no place to go and something will break. Can throttle on the steam driver or regulate the RPM of the electric motor to change the flow rate.

Unlike centrifugal pumps, positive displacement pumps are self priming.



On ships a great number of applications are still served by steam reciprocating pumps, including:

A. Auxiliary feed.

B. Standby fuel oil service.

C. Fuel oil transfer.

D. Auxiliary circulating and condensate.

E. Fire and bilge.

F. Ballast.

G. High pressure evaporator.

H. Lubricating oil transfer.

I. Cargo stripping.

J. General service.

Direct-acting steam reciprocating pumps are not obsolete. If the steam conditions are not too severe in pressure, temperature, or superheat, they have many features of simplicity, reliability, and economy of operation and maintenance that still warrant serious consideration for many services.



The following steps .should be taken before putting a pump into operation for the first time, after an overhaul, or after the ship has been drydocked:

1. Check alinement and correct if necessary. If pump is operated out of line, scoring of rods and liners will result. 2. Steam and liquid lines should be free from scale and foreign matter.

3. Check all packing and repack if necessary.

4. Move steam pilot valve rods by hand to be sure pilot valve moves easily.

5. Check all connections and fittings to ensure they are tightly in place.


To start a reciprocating pump proceed as follows:

1. Oil the pins of the steam valve operating gear and set up on all grease cups.

2. Open the liquid end valves: a. Suction.

b. Discharge.

3. Open the cutout (or root) valves in the: a. Exhaust line. b. Steam line.

4. Open steam cylinder drains:

a. Top.

b. Bottom.

c. Valve chest.

5. Open exhaust valve at pump.

6. Crack the throttle valve and open slowly so as to ad- mit steam and warm up gradually.

7. Close the steam cylinder drains after the pump makes a few strokes and the steam cylinder is clear of water.

8. Bring the pump up to the proper speed by sufficiently opening the throttle valve. If pump is controlled by a pres- sure governor, open throttle gradually until governor takes control of pump and then open the throttle valve fully.

9. Adjust the cushioning valves, if fitted, until an adjust- ment is obtained that permits silent and smooth working of the pump, i.e., sufficient pump speed at the end of the stroke without knocking. After best point of operation is obtained, cushion valve should be set and not changed. When a reciprocating pump is operating at maximum speed, the cushioning valves should be almost completely closed.


To stop and to secure, proceed as follows:

1. Close the throttle valve.

2. Close the exhaust.

3. Open cylinder drains.

a. Top.

b. Bottom.

c. Valve chest.

4. Close the water end suction valve.

5. Close the water end discharge valve.

6. Close the steam and exhaust cutout valves (root valves).

7. After steam cylinder is drained, close the valve chest drains leaving the steam cylinder drain valves open to prevent hydraulic action.

Pumping Capacity

Simplex single acting pumps discharge the cylinder volume for each 2 strokes.  The forward stroke discharges the cylinder and the back stroke or reverse stroke fills the cylinder.

Simplex double acting pumps discharge the cylinder volume for each pump stroke.  The forward stroke discharges the cylinder in front of the piston while filling the cylinder behind the piston.  The back or reverse stroke discharges the cylinder behind the piston while filling the cylinder forward of the piston.

Duplex double acting pumps use 2 double-acting cylinders in parallel, and pump two cylinder volumes for each pump stroke.

Duplex single acting pumps use 2 single-acting cylinders in parallel, and pump one cylinder volume for each pump stroke.


Pump Capacity in GPM Gallons Per / Minute  =  volume discharged in gallons per pump stroke multiplied by strokes per minute.

To determine the volume of the cylinder,  multiply the area of the circle by the height of the cylinder.

Volume of a Cylinder is equal to:

= (area of the circle) * (height)

= (p R2) * (height)

=  p R2 H

Example Question   USCG No.  3361

If you have a simplex double acting reciprocating pump making 110 strokes/minute, with a 5″ diameter cylinder, a 4″ stroke and operating with 95% volumetric efficiency, what is the capacity of this pump?

First we need to find the volume of the cylinder.

Pi The ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle = 3.14159265358979323846… = 3.14

Radius Squared = 6.25

Height = 4

(3.14  x 6.25) x 4 = 78.5 cubic inches

Double acting pumps discharge the cylinder volume on each stroke so we multiply 78.5 cubic inches by 110 strokes per minute. If this was a single acting pump which only discharges on the forward stroke we would divide the number of strokes in half.

78.5 cubic inches  x  110 strokes per minute  =  8635 Cu. In. per minute

Convert cubic inches to gallons, 1 gallon  = 231 cubic inches

8635 cubic inches divided by 231  =  37.38 gallons per minute

The question states the pump is operating with 95% volumetric efficiency.  Multiply the capacity by 95%

37.38 x .95 =  35.51 GPM


Question of the Month for April 2017


What type of circulations can be used in a boiler?


There are three types of circulation is generally used in boiler as,

a)Natural circulation:- This circulation happen due to density difference of  the two medium. In boiler the two medium are water and steam, as steam is lighter than the water it pushes to upwards flow of water steam mixture, the steam is separated in drum and water comeback through down comer to again water wall. This circulation use thermo- siphon principle. This circulation limited to operating pressure below 175 kg/cm².
b) Assist circulation:- In this circulation the medium moves through a mechanical pump. The pump overcome the frictional loses in the tube. This type of circulation used pressure beyond 175 kg/cm² .The pump is placed in between the down comer and bottom ring header of water wall.
c) Forced circulation / once through system:-  This system  used in boiler above  critical pressure. Here the feed water is directly fed from the beginning of the circuit to end of the circuit without circulation. No drum used in this system. Super critical boilers are designed for once through system.

Question of the Month for March 2017


During normal usage, the boiler main steam line expands and contracts.  To allow this?

                                                                                                                           A.  Rigid pipe hangers are used

                                                                                                                           B.  Expansion bends are used

                                                                                                                           C.  The main steam line must be welded to external braces

                                                                                                                           D.  Nothing has to be done; this will take care of itself.



When steam passes through a pipe, the temperature of the pipe becomes the same temperature as the steam. This temperature change causes the pipe to expand and increase in length. For a temperature change of 900°F, steel pipe would expand about 8 1/2 inches per 100 feet of length. To prevent undue stress on the pipe and transfer of this stress to appliances, you should place a flexible connection, which will expand and contract with the pipe. Install bends and loops in the pipe to absorb the forces set up by expansion and contraction.

Expansion of steam pipes when pressurized and heated from room temperature

pr. 100 ft Pipe

Note: to avoid unacceptable stress and damage in a steam pipe line – handle expansion properly

Example – Expansion of Steam Pipe

temperature expansion pipe

A system is designed for pressure 120 psi with operating temperature 350 oF. As indicated in the table above (350 oF) the expansion is is approximately 2.4 in100ft pipe.

The expansion of a 90 ft long pipe can be calculated as

dl = ((2.4 in100ft) / (100 ft)) (90 ft)

    = 2.2 in

Question of the Month for February 2017


The maximum size of the bottom blowdown line and the surface blowdown line is?



When the bottom blowdown pipe is exposed to direct furnace heat, it must be protected by firebrick and arranged so the pipe can be inspected. The minimum size for pipes and fittings is 1 in, and the maximum is 2 ½ in. Surface blowdown pipes have no minimum size but have a maximum size of 2 ½ in.

Question of the Month for January 2017


Service tension on the water in a steam and water drum is increased by ?


Impurities that float on the surface of the water!

The surface tension characteristics of a fluidic substance stay basically stable, but can be changed by temperature variations, chemicals that modify the bonding characteristics of the molecules, oxidation and the presence of impurities.

The cohesive forces between molecules in a liquid are shared with all neighboring molecules. Those on the surface have no neighboring molecules above and, thus, exhibit stronger attractive forces upon their nearest neighbors on and below the surface. Surface tension could be defined as the property of the surface of a liquid that allows it to resist an external force, due to the cohesive nature of the water molecules.

Water molecules want to cling to each other. At the surface, however, there are fewer water molecules to cling to since there is air above (thus, no water molecules). This results in a stronger bond between those molecules that actually do come in contact with one another, and a layer of strongly bonded water (see diagram). This surface layer (held together by surface tension) creates a considerable barrier between the atmosphere and the water. In fact, other than mercury, water has the greatest surface tension of any liquid. (Source: Lakes of Missouri)

Within a body of a liquid, a molecule will not experience a net force because the forces by the neighboring molecules all cancel out (diagram). However for a molecule on the surface of the liquid, there will be a net inward force since there will be no attractive force acting from above. This inward net force causes the molecules on the surface to contract and to resist being stretched or broken. Thus the surface is under tension, which is probably where the name “surface tension” came from. (Source: Woodrow Wilson Foundation).

Due to the surface tension, small objects will “float” on the surface of a fluid, as long as the object cannot break through and separate the top layer of water molecules. When an object is on the surface of the fluid, the surface under tension will behave like an elastic membrane.