In the groundbreaking motion picture “Quest for Fire,” only one word of dialog is spoken among the depicted ancient peoples: “Ata!” (Fire!).
The tribe that controlled this elemental force of nature would survive to rule the primitive world.
Not much has changed in 80,000 years. In today’s survival-of-the-fittest manufacturing environment, the successful organizations have harnessed the flame that powers facilities and industrial plants across the world.
Coen Company possesses perhaps the keenest expertise in this area. The enterprise specializes in manufacturing combustion equipment for industrial and utility boilers. Its technology is essential to steam and hot water generation for heat and power in institutional settings, as well as in industrial and utility applications.
ANYWHERE AND EVERYWHERE
Primary markets for boiler burner equipment include institutions requiring heat (e.g., colleges and military bases) and industries in need of steam and power (including pulp and paper, petrochemical, and food and beverage. Customers also include utilities, which require steam for generators to produce electric power.
“Coen is involved in most anything that uses steam for power or heat, or process heating for manufacturing,” says Bill Testa, the company’s director of sales and marketing. “It’s a very broadbased market.”
As a result, Coen does business globally and has established an international sales channel. In addition, the company provides servicing and parts to its customers – an integral part of its business.
While its history doesn’t date back to the caveman, Coen boasts a century of technological development. Genesis dates back to 1912, when inventor Garnet Coen fashioned a device that revolutionized the fuel burning industry: the adjustable tip mechanical oil burner. The simplicity of its design allowed a variable spray angle for oil into live steam for control of fuel atomization. This resulted in a constant regulated burner valve, as opposed to one that was simply turned on and off. For the first time, the firing rate could be controlled. From steamships, usage migrated to large oil and industrial companies that recognized the adaptability of the Coen system for boiler and refinery furnaces.
Soon breweries, power plants, foundries, and smelters gravitated to the technology. As the world turned to package boilers, Coen led the way in disseminating its patented technology.
Along the way, the company forged strategic alliances that expanded its expertise. John Zink Company, a global leader in ultra-low emissions process burners, flares and thermal oxidizers is a sister company to Coen and a subsidiary of parent Koch Chemical Technology.
Group (KCTG). John Zink provides a variety of operational functions including manufacturing, modeling, and product testing services for Coen at its state-of-the-art facilities in Tulsa, Okla.
The John Zink acquisition brought TODD Combustion steam generation expertise into the Coen fold. TODD Combustion, acquired in 1999 by John Zink, has its roots in the famous Civil War naval battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack. The Merrimack was powered by technology from Delameter Iron Works of New York, a TODD precursor. The company eventually became known for technologies both ashore and afloat, and it diversified away from ship building toward other industrial applications. TODD also shifted its focus from coal to automatic burner specialization, as fuel oils took hold in the 20th century.
The Zink-TODD acquisition provided Coen steam generation expertise and spawned an integrated boiler burner group. Today, Coen sells TODD® brand combustion technology through a license from John Zink. The firms now operate under the Koch Chemical Technology Group, LLC which is an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries, Inc., one of the world’s largest private companies.
“We’re a vertically integrated organization that minimizes waste and leverages our resources. We have cross technology and a very large research and testing facility. This has given us a very wide breadth of resources to grow our technology and to improve our overall performance,” says Testa, underscoring the synergies it enjoys with John Zink.
He adds that value creation through vertical integration is a main differentiator: “Between John Zink and Koch Chemical Technology Group, we have available resources that are second to none.”
Coen Company products include various combustion systems for a wide range of boilers and heaters. These combustion solutions include ignition systems, burners, fuel handling equipment, fuel valve trains, and burner management safety systems.
Coen designs and produces all of its equipment and the control systems that provide operation and protection. Further, engineering is heavily regulated to meet layers of government specifications, insurance demands, and the high standards of the National Fire Protection Association.
Another hot product is Coen’s flame scanner, a safety technology that monitors the boiler flame to signal the burner management system. Coen recently introduced the latest generation, the iScan2 flame scanner, which not only epitomizes but synthesizes the wide-ranging Coen expertise. The iScan2 advances the safety and reliability of flame detection. Obviously, it offers all of the benefits of the first-generation iScan, but it boasts the added features of higher ambient temperature ratings and enhanced flame detection and discrimination. The new product utilizes Coen’s revolutionary flame scanning technology, superior safety features, remote communications and diagnostics. Based on decades of Coen’s proven technology, iScan2 is the only commercially available flame scanner able to differentiate real flame signals from simulated flame signals to ensure safe operation in utility, industrial, and other combustion-related applications.
The new product is designed with an internal temperature monitoring capability. Operators can configure pre-alarm conditions to prevent premature scanner failure from excessive heat or ambient conditions. Reliable, solid-state sensor and electronic self-checking capability eliminates the need for UV tubes (known to fail in unsafe conditions). Remote communications and diagnostics and other advanced flame scanning features round out the design.
Another realm of Coen products addresses biofuels firing, an important capability for the company because it’s a popular segment abroad that includes wood waste firing.
Coen’s forte is fuel oil and natural gas combustion solutions. The company doesn’t produce coal burning technology. However, many utilities burn coal, so Coen designs and manufactures ignition systems to fire coal plants. “The trend for the large industrial and small utility sectors is to get off coal and move to natural gas. The move immediately reduces their carbon footprint and their CO2 emissions by almost 50 percent,” says Testa. “Facility operations, including heating plants at universities, have become very environmentally conscious right now and are getting away from coal firing.”
Coen Company’s manufacturing takes place at the sprawling Tulsa facility shared with sister company John Zink. The impressive plant includes the world’s largest combustion test facility that resides on 25 acres and includes a variety of full-scale furnaces. Coen designs and manufactures all of its equipment, electronics and combustion control systems in 300,000 square feet of manufacturing space. Quality is assured through ISO 9001 and 14001 standards, with emphasis on safety through OHSAS 18001 safety certifications and OHSA’s Star Voluntary Protection Program.
FUTURE BURNS BRIGHTLY
Creating and controlling combustion also means providing advanced environmental solutions, which is an increasing Coen focus. Current industry trends move toward addressing the environmental priorities of customers and regulators. “In the last several years we have seen some of the business driven by emissions, greenhouse gas reduction, and carbon footprint concerns,” Testa says. “Even though there has been a drop in the economy, some of those environmental issues continue to drive our business positively in North America. We have some of the best, low-emission technology on the market, proven in our large, installed base.”
In addition to this broad industrial base, the Coen Company boasts diverse capabilities since equipment must be custom engineered per the customer application.
“We are utilizing the highest form of electronics technology, mechanical engineering, and chemical engineering – all combined in what we do today,” says Testa. “CFD modeling, or computational fluid dynamics design, is just one of our areas of expertise.”
It’s all in aid of turning an ancient form of energy – fire – into a clean, reliable resource at abundant levels.