Fire Tube Boiler: A Comprehensive Guide

A fire tube boiler is a type of boiler that uses hot gases from a fire to heat water inside a series of tubes. The tubes are surrounded by water in a sealed container. The heat from the gases transfers through the walls of the tubes by thermal conduction, creating steam that can be used for various purposes.

Fire tube boilers are one of the oldest and most basic types of boilers. They were widely used in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially for steam locomotives and other steam engines. Today, fire tube boilers are still used for some industrial and commercial applications, such as heating, power generation, and process steam.

In this article, we will explain the definition, types, advantages, disadvantages, and applications of fire tube boilers. We will also incorporate content from Bing’s top 5 related pages on the topic and add external links to relevant sources.

What is a Fire Tube Boiler?

A fire tube boiler is defined as a boiler that consists of a sealed container filled with water and a series of tubes that run through it. The tubes carry hot gases from a fire (usually fueled by coal, oil, or gas) that heat the water and generate steam.

fire tube boiler

The main components of a fire tube boiler are:

  • Furnace: The chamber where the fuel is burned to produce hot gases.
  • Fire tubes: The tubes that carry the hot gases from the furnace to the smokebox.
  • Smokebox: The chamber where the hot gases are collected and vented out through the chimney.
  • Steam dome: The upper part of the boiler where the steam is collected and distributed to the outlets.
  • Superheater: An optional device that further heats the steam to make it dry and superheated.
  • Grate: The platform where the fuel is placed for burning.
  • Feedwater inlet: The pipe that supplies water to the boiler.
  • Steam outlet: The pipe that delivers steam to the desired location.

The operation of a fire tube boiler is simple and straightforward. The fuel is burned in the furnace, creating hot gases that pass through the fire tubes. The heat from the gases transfers to the water surrounding the tubes, raising its temperature and pressure. The steam then rises to the steam dome, where it can be taken out for various purposes. The water is replenished by the feedwater inlet.

The pressure and temperature of the steam depend on the size and design of the boiler, as well as the quality and quantity of the fuel. Generally, fire tube boilers can produce low to medium-pressure steam (up to 17.5 bar) and low to medium capacity (up to 9 metric tons per hour).

One of the main drawbacks of fire tube boilers is that they have a limited ability to produce high-pressure and high-capacity steam. This is because they have a single large vessel that contains both water and steam, which makes it difficult to control their pressure and temperature. Moreover, fire tube boilers are prone to explosion if their vessel is ruptured due to excessive pressure or damage.

Types of Fire Tube Boilers

There are different types of fire tube boilers based on various criteria, such as:

  • Location of the furnace: There are two main categories of fire tube boilers based on the location of their furnace: external furnace and internal furnace. External furnace boilers have their furnace outside the main vessel, while internal furnace boilers have their furnace inside or attached to it.
  • Orientation of boiler axis: There are two main categories of fire tube boilers based on their orientation: horizontal and vertical. Horizontal boilers have their axis parallel to the ground, while vertical boilers have their axis perpendicular to it.
  • Number and shape of fire tubes: There are various types of fire tube boilers based on the number and shape of their fire tubes, such as single tube, multi-tube, straight tube, bent tube, etc.

Some of the most common types of fire tube boilers are:

Cochran Boiler

A Cochran boiler is a type of vertical fire tube boiler that has a cylindrical shell with a dome-shaped top. It has one or more fire tubes that run along its length. It also has an external furnace that can be either coal-fired or oil-fired.

A Cochran boiler can produce low-pressure steam (up to 10.5 bar) and low capacity (up to 3500 kg per hour). It is compact in size and easy to operate. It is mainly used for small-scale industrial applications, such as heating, power generation, and process steam.

Cornish Boiler

A Cornish boiler is a type of horizontal fire tube boiler that has a long cylindrical shell with a single large flue containing the fire. It has a simple design and low maintenance cost. It can produce medium-pressure steam (up to 12 bar) and medium capacity (up to 6500 kg per hour).

A Cornish boiler was developed by Richard Trevithick in 1812 and was widely used for steam engines in mining industries. It is similar to a Lancashire boiler but has only one flue instead of two.

Locomotive Boiler

A locomotive boiler is a type of horizontal fire tube boiler that has an internal furnace and a large number of fire tubes. It also has an extension at one end called the firebox, which houses the grate and provides extra heating surface area. It also has a superheater that increases the temperature and dryness of the steam.

A locomotive boiler can produce high-pressure steam (up to 25 bar) and high capacity (up to 9000 kg per hour). It is fast in steaming up and responsive to load changes. It was mainly used for powering steam locomotives until they were replaced by diesel or electric engines.

Scotch Marine Boiler

A Scotch marine boiler is a type of horizontal fire tube boiler that has one or more large cylindrical shells containing two or more furnaces and several fire tubes. It also has an external wet back chamber that improves its efficiency and reduces its weight.

A Scotch marine boiler can produce high-pressure steam (up to 30 bar) and high capacity (up to 27000 kg per hour). It is robust in construction and suitable for marine applications, such as heating, power generation, and propulsion.

Advantages of Fire Tube Boiler

Some of the advantages of fire tube boilers are:

  • They are simple in design and construction.
  • They are cheaper than water tube boilers.
  • They can handle fluctuations in steam demand easily.
  • They have low operating costs and maintenance costs.
  • They have a good safety record due to low-pressure operations.

Disadvantages of Fire Tube Boiler

Some of the disadvantages of fire tube boilers are:

  • They have limited ability to produce high-pressure and high-capacity steam.
  • They have low efficiency compared to water tube boilers.
  • They have long startup times and slow responses to load changes.
  • They have large water volumes and require more space.
  • They have a high risk of explosion due to vessel rupture or damage.

Applications of Fire Tube Boiler

Fire tube boilers are widely used for various applications, such as:

  • Heating: Fire tube boilers are used for domestic or industrial heating purposes, such as space heating, water heating, air conditioning, etc.
  • Power generation: Fire tube boilers are used for small-scale power generation plants, such as cogeneration plants, biomass plants, waste heat recovery plants, etc.
  • Process steam: Fire tube boilers are used for providing process steam for various industries, such as food processing, textile manufacturing, chemical production, etc.
  • Marine: Fire tube boilers are used for marine applications, such as ship propulsion systems, auxiliary engines, auxiliary boilers, etc.

Conclusion

Fire tube boilers are one of the oldest types of boilers that use hot gases from a fire to heat the water inside a series of tubes. They have various types based on different criteria, such as the location of the furnace, the orientation of the axis, number, and shape of tubes, etc. They have some advantages over water tube boilers but also some disadvantages. They are mainly used for low to medium-pressure and capacity applications in various sectors.

   
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