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6 Things You Need to Know About Steam Heat Tracing

When it comes to heat-tracing systems, steam tracing has been a reliable source in many industrial sectors, such as the oil industry, where temperature control is imperative to keep processes safe and efficient.

Whether you’re looking to install a new heat-tracing system or upgrade an existing one, understanding the basics of these technologies is essential to making informed decisions.

In this article, we’ll explore the 6 things you need to know about steam tracing.


1. The Advantages of Steam Tracing

Steam tracing has many advantages over other types of heat tracing, including:

  • High heat capacity: Steam has a high latent heat capacity, making it an ideal heat transfer fluid in industrial applications where large amounts of heat need to be transferred over long distances.
  • Universally available: Steam is produced from boiling water and can be easily obtained from any source with access to hot water. It also requires no special chemicals or additives like refrigerants in order to function properly; therefore there are no limitations on where it can be used.
  • Efficient heating: Steam tracing is an efficient method of heating, capable of providing almost unlimited heat to the piping system, and can be used for freeze protection and process heating.
  • Low maintenance: Once installed, steam tracing requires very little maintenance because it is a closed system that doesn’t require external controls or wiring. This makes it an attractive option for industrial facilities that don’t have the resources to perform frequent maintenance.
  • Temperature control: Steam tracing provides better temperature control than other types of heating systems do because it uses liquid instead of air as its medium; this means that temperatures are more consistent throughout the system, reducing the risk of condensation forming inside pipes leading from one part of the facility to another.


2. The Disadvantages of Steam Tracing

  • Complexity: Steam tracing systems can be complex and require a high level of expertise to install and maintain, which can increase the cost of the system.
  • Limited temperature range: Steam tracing has a limited temperature range compared to other heating systems. Steam can only be used up to 200 degrees Celsius, which may not be adequate for some industrial processes.
  • Safety concerns: Steam tracing systems can pose safety concerns, such as the risk of burns from contact with hot pipes, and the risk of explosion if the system is not properly maintained or installed. Additionally, steam tracing systems require high-pressure steam, which can be dangerous if not handled correctly. Proper safety measures must be taken to ensure the safe operation of the system.

3. How Steam Tracing is Applied to Pipes: External Tracing and Coiling Arrangement

External tracing is the most common method for tracing steam. This involves attaching straight runs of steam pipes or tubes to the process pipe and covering the entire assembly with preformed sectional insulation, very similar to a continuous blanket around the pipes and equipment.

However, valves, fittings, and instruments in the system act as heat sinks due to their large surface area and exposed metal surfaces, which causes heat to be lost to the environment. To compensate for this heat loss, several loops of the tracing tube are coiled around these components before being covered with insulation. This configuration helps reduce “tailing,” which occurs when steam loses heat and condenses along the line due to a loss of pressure.

4. Types of Steam Heat Tracing

There are several types of steam heat tracing used in various applications:

  • Jacketed tracing – utilized in ultra-critical applications where maintaining a product’s elevated temperature is necessary at all times. Additionally, this method allows for quick pre-heating of the pipeline.
  • Critical tracing – implemented to maintain the temperature of a product that would solidify or spoil if its temperature falls below a specific level.
  • Non-critical tracing – used to maintain the product’s viscosity at its ideal pumping level.
  • Winterization tracing – utilized to prevent pipeline damage from freezing during harsh weather conditions.
  • Instrument tracing – involves small bore steam tracing pipes, typically 10 mm in size, to protect flowmeters, control valves, sampling stations, impulse lines, and other similar components.

5. Extra heat-transfers: Heat Transfer Cement

Heat transfer cement is a material that improves heat-transfer characteristics. It increases the surface area for conductive heat transfer, which means you’ll get better results from your steam tracing system. Heat transfer cements also improves the contact between the trace and the pipe it is mounted on, as it eliminates the risk for air gaps and ensures a sufficient heat transfer. This can help keep your system running smoothly for years to come!

6. What are the Energy Costs

Steam tracers are generally more efficient than electric tracing systems, which means they can significantly lower your total energy costs. Steam tracers use less power to operate and require less maintenance than electric tracers. They also don’t require any external controls or wiring, so they’re easy to install and maintain.


What You Need to Know

Steam heat tracing is a crucial component in various industrial processes that require consistent temperature control, product viscosity maintenance, and pipeline protection. Understanding the types of steam heat tracing and their respective applications is essential to ensure the safe and efficient operation of industrial processes. By implementing the proper steam heat tracing method, industries can improve their operations’ safety, reliability, and productivity while minimizing the risk of pipeline damage, product spoilage, and other issues. By keeping these six things in mind, you’ll be well-equipped to make informed decisions when it comes to choosing the right heat tracing method for your particular application.


Wondering if steam heat tracing is right for your systems? Connect with us.