Heat tracing is a small bore pipe system that is laid along process piping and equipment inside the insulation, on one or both sides – inner and outer sides – of the process pipe. Heat tracing is used for heating up a process piping system using utilities such as steam, electricity etc. In engineering, the requirement for heating of piping and instruments, using heat tracing is normally indicated on the Piping and Instrument Diagram (P&IDs) or on the line list

A steam trap is a device used to discharge condensate and non-condensable gases with a negligible consumption or loss of live steam. Most steam traps are nothing more than automatic valves. They open, close or modulate automatically.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Steam Heat Tracing

Steam heat tracing utilizes a pipe containing low pressure steam attached to and insulated with the pipe containing the fluid. Heat from the steam pipe is used to heat the other pipe and the fluid within it. This type of system is beneficial in a plant that already has access to steam through a boiler. Enabling a steam heat tracing system is not as costly in this system because the steam used to generate the heat is already present through the condensation from the plant’s boiler processes. Where steam is already present because a boiler system is in place, steam heating is much less costly. Steam heat systems are also less likely to experience system failure than electric heat tracing systems. They also heat up more quickly than electric heat tracing systems and are considered a safe option. Condensate produced from the heat tracing system can be reused at the boiler, which is also an advantage.

The downfall of a steam heat tracing system is that it requires more labor to install and it also requires more routine maintenance than an electric system and operates best when used in short distances.


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A steam trap survey is an audit of the steam traps on your site, undertaken to determine the operational state of all traps in order to identify where steam savings can be made.

Industrial plants require a method to keep the process fluids flowing during operation as well as prevent critical components from freezing in low ambient temperature climates.

Steam tracing systems perform two very important functions in an industrial plant:

  1. They replace heat loss from the process fluids in the system due to poor insulation or leaking components, thus keeping the process fluids flowing.
  2. They prevent any system from freezing in low ambient temperature climates.

The negative effects of poor design and installation can be catastrophic to reliability, production and operation, which ends up costing the plant downtime and maintenance dollars. Therefore, steam tracing is a key component in maintaining a reliable, efficient production operation.

Today’s steam tracing systems use the latest technology in components and design standards. Using the medium-or high-pressure condensate return system designs provides a highly energy-efficient thermal cycle. With proper design, along with today’s technologies, we should expect no component failures within six years of operation any steam component today.