Volume 11 | Issue 2 | Year 2008

There are many different types of boilers in the world today of different varieties and types, modern machines whose ancestors – plain cylinder, Cornish, Lancashire – were invented for such jobs as propelling a vehicle forward, such as a steamboat, or working in tandem with other systems to produce heat.
And as the technologies became more complex, these boilers needed to also rise in complexity to meet changing needs. Many companies themselves have risen to the challenge with new technologies for cleaner fuels and energy efficiencies.

Keeping watch over it all is the American Boilers Manufacturers Association (ABMA), the national, nonprofit trade association of key market sectors that all play vital roles within the industry. These sectors include: boiler, heat recovery, combustion, environmental, controls & instrumentation, and valve equipment and systems manufacturers, industry suppliers/vendors, repair and aftermarket shops, and boiler owner/ operator/ users committed to the design, engineering, fabrication, installation and operation of safe, clean, reliable, efficient and durable steam and hot water systems.

Founded in 1888 by boiler manufacturers in search of safe boiler design techniques and materials, the organization today provides a common ground for information sharing and to achieve better understanding and communication between manufacturers, their customers, government and the public. ABMA’s community of focused interest and problem solving brings the technical and production expertise of an entire industry to bear on a range of energy and environmental policy issues.

For suppliers, ABMA is a centralized market place that provides unparalleled product and service visibility within the industry and beyond.

A member company of the American Boiler Manufacturers Association is not just another steam, hot water or combustion equipment company. It is part of a tradition of excellence and signals its exceptional commitment and obligation to the market, its customers and to the public to provide safe, efficient, clean and reliable hot water, comfort heating, process steam, heat recovery and electricity-generating steam systems. Markets served by ABMA members include commercial, institutional, industrial, electricity-generation, combined heat & power/distributed generation, heat recovery for efficiency, and all fuel types – fossil, alternative, renewable, and “opportunity.”

Says W. Randall Rawson, ABMA president, “Association membership gives members an identity/visibility and a validation that companies outside an organization cannot draw upon. Association membership provides a collaborative environment for problem solving and industry promotion, and just one more competitive advantage in a challenging market place. It fosters unity of ideas & resources and in that unity every member gains strength. Together, members take control of the future instead of the future taking control of us.”

ABMA’s commitment, he adds, “is to protect and enhance the growth, profitability and stature of the diverse segments of the boiler/combustion equipment industry … working collectively to maximize all members’ competitiveness.”

And competitive it is, as well as healthy. “Sales are increasing in all segments,” he says, “and member companies generally enjoy continuing strong inquiry levels but there are a number of factors affecting members. Among these is owner/operator interest in achieving greater productivity and higher efficiencies from existing steam and hot water units.

Other factors affecting ABMA’s members include:

  • Responsiveness to the USEPA’s Industrial Boiler MACT.
  • Increased interest in alleviating reliance on natural gas and moving toward flexible fuel applications.
  • Continued strong movement in new central station pulverized coal and supercritical electricitygenerating power plants.
  • Continuing need to retrofit in order to achieve current and future emissions regulations at the local, regional and state levels.

Uncertainty associated with long-term energy and environmental policies – the need for customers to be certain that the investments they make today in search of greater productivity, higher efficiencies, and lowest environmental emissions will not be superseded by new and more stringent rules and regulations.

Preoccupation with short-term payback versus long-term durability, sustainability and lower maintenance costs. Although first-cost may be lower with many other power and heating technologies, steam and hot water offer long-term, flexible solutions to meet existing and future needs.

Says Rawson, the industry has achieved giant strides in emissions controls over the past two decades, and, through heat recovery and condensing technologies, as well as finely-tuned combustion equipment applications, offers some of the most efficient equipment and systems available today.

But there are many issues at the forefront that may affect the industry’s continued foreword motion. One of these, Rawson notes, deals with “extreme shortages of engineering, skilled worker and field construction personnel to undertake power projects at all levels. These shortages – which will take a generation or longer to resolve – result in longer project lead times and threaten the viability of power projects.”

In addition, concerns abound over raw materials availability and costs, which also lead to an increase in project lead times. What Rawson describes as “patchwork regulatory requirements” are also problematic. “Localities, states and regions in the United States continue to develop their own environmental regulations – often without coordination – presenting to the industry a patchwork of regulations in which they need to be in conformance,” Rawson says. Federal funding, to leverage research and development of clean coal technologies, of ultra-high efficiency industrial steam applications, industrial gasification, and alternative/renewable fuel applications to accelerate flexible fuel options to lower energy costs, is also a priority.

Other issues confronting the boiler association and its members include:

  • Geo-political instability
  • Global competitiveness leading to international outsourcing
  • Energy costs
  • “Green” policies
  • The search for and the development of a national carbon policy
  • Continued ratcheting down of emissions of SO2, NOx, mercury and particulate matter
  • Unrestrained litigation
  • Deficit-spending
  • Trade policies
  • New domestic sources of natural gas; increased importation of liquefied natural
    gas (LNG)
  • Better transportation facilities, particularly railroads, to transport fuels to power plants

“The United States enjoys service from an aging fleet of boilers at the power plant level, in its industrial setting, and in commercial and institutional buildings and facilities. That coupled with increasing power and comfort heating needs all across the country bode well for the steam and hot water generation industry – for boilers and boiler-related equipment,” Rawson says.

If all existing older and inefficient boilers (by today’s standards) were replaced with the boiler technologies of today – tailored to their long-term needs – efficiencies would increase exponentially and emissions would fall dramatically. This would provide a new and up-to-date equipment base from which to build well into the future, Rawson explains.

If properly installed, operated and maintained, boilers at all levels are the most efficient, durable and sustainable heat transfer technology available, Rawson notes. “They are not inexpensive; but, their longterm durability and sustainability, along with comparatively low maintenance attributes, as well as flexibility in meeting power and heating needs, all argue in favor of steam and hot water technologies.”

Despite problems, the future for commercial/institutional, industrial and power-generating boilers is nonetheless assured and bright, he adds. “Manufacturers are constantly seeking new ways to treat new requirements, are working with customers to identify needs and solutions, and, with ongoing dialogue and analysis, can accommodate virtually anything than can be combusted to generate steam and/or hot water. It is a future-looking technology and industry, able to respond to the needs of a growing and changing economy.”

Previous articleWater Ways
Next articleStrengthening the Bonds