Steam Distribution

By ESI Senior Engineers

  • Industries benefiting from this example
  • Manufacturing
  • HVAC
  • Process Fluid Heating
  • Food and Beverage
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Energy


The purpose of this case is to look at how PIPE-FLO® can help you model a steam distribution system. Steam is used in many industrial applications. Process heating, cleaning applications, power turbines to drive large plant equipment, and direct water heating to name a few applications.


Typically changes to the plant’s steam distribution system are added without a complete understanding of the cost implications and the availability of steam to the other loads in the plant. These systems do not get the same visibility as the process systems that generate the revenue.  Modeling the plant’s steam distribution system with PIPE-FLO® Professional provides a clear picture of the distribution of various steam loads and conditions as well as interaction between loads to understand any proposed changes prior to recommendations.

The Challenge

A plant recently updated capacity for manufacturing their product and discovered that the steam distribution system was not able to keep up. The challenge was to increase the steam distribution system capacity and pressure requirements as quickly as possible.  Plant management decided to purchase a new boiler and brought a rental on-line until the changes could be made.  A rental boiler was running 24/7 to keep operations going to meet current demands.

Using PIPE-FLO®, plant staff modeled the existing steam system with the new capacity requirements and reviewed the design.  The findings were intriguing.  Engineers discovered that the existing boiler was sufficiently sized and should have the capacity to meet the current demands, however the pressure requirements for one of the existing loads were not being met by production. After further review using the PIPE-FLO® model, it was discovered that the new load was causing a pressure problem to an existing load further downstream.

A detailed review with PIPE-FLO® Professional gave the engineers visibility to exactly where the bottleneck occurred, which was in a branch distribution header further downstream. Using the PIPE-FLO® model, engineers were able to determine the size of a new pipeline to eliminate the bottleneck, however this change would take at least six months to engineer and install. Additionally, plant staff were able to determine the best location to size and place the rental boiler to mitigate expense and meet process requirements during the upgrade. 


This allows engineers and decision makers to mitigate capital expenditures such as purchasing and installing a new boiler and instead, in this case, increase a pipe diameter in the distribution header to eliminate the bottleneck and solve the problem.

By using PIPE-FLO®, plant engineers are confident in understanding what is happening with the steam distribution system and are able to reduce capital expense and make modifications, thereby reduce operating costs.