Even though the furnace was over eight years old, the debris in the ports had not built up to the degree often seen in regenerative furnaces, especially in the first few ports. However, enough debris had collected to adversely affect the combustion airflow, and consequently the ability to set the burners to get the desired flame direction relative to the glass surface. From an operations perspective, the plant was no longer able to achieve the optimum flame configuration and fuel profile necessary to meet its high-quality glass requirements.
Along with these combustion problems, the expansion joints in the ports at the junction between the port snout and regenerator mouth were in need of repair. Additionally, the regenerator skews were beginning to open both inside and outside the furnace. As a result, cool ambient air was entering the furnace, and high-temperature exhaust gases were escaping and impinging on the skew support steel. Over time, such impingement can cause the supports to deteriorate and fail. Plant management knew that neither the escaping exhaust gases nor the cool air infiltration were conducive to a long and efficient furnace campaign.
To accomplish this work effectively and efficiently, the debris is first removed from the port floors. This ensures that the entire port sidewall expansion joint is clean and unobstructed from the port crown to the port floor so that the weld will achieve a good seal.
A hole is made in the side of the furnace, typically by removing a peephole in the regenerator target wall. The water-cooled lance is then inserted across the checker pack and through the port to the port's hot face. The lance is designed to blast the debris back out of the port onto the tops of the checkers. The high level of thermal and physical shock imparted by the water laser breaks the debris into very small particles that fall down through the checker pack and are removed from under the rider arches.
Once the lance is in place, the water laser is turned on low pressure (2000 to 3000 psi) to remove any loose debris first. The pressure is then slowly increased to the level necessary to cut the remaining debris. In some extreme cases, this pressure can be increased to as high as 10,000 psi to remove highly fused material. Even at such extreme pressures, the water volume is only in the range of two to three gallons per minute. As a result, the water immediately flashes to steam once it has done its work on the debris. Two lances are typically used, one on each side of the furnace, and the crew moves with the furnace reversal.
To reduce the risk of the incoming combustion air carrying airborne particles into the main melter and contaminating the glass batch, this work is only done on the exhaust portion of the combustion cycle. However, the process is being evaluated for use in other areas of the furnace.
At the Cardinal FG Portage plant, six ports on both sides of the furnace were cleaned in approximately 20 hours (10 hrs/day over two days). (A checker burnout had been conducted by the Portage plant a short time earlier to remove any sulfate buildup in the lower checker pack and ensure that the debris would easily fall through the clean checker pack openings.) After the ports were cleaned, the program continued with the port expansion joint welding. The regenerator skews on the hot face were sealed on the inside above the port entrances and on the outside above the target walls. The regenerator skews above the target walls were also welded on the cold face to complete the sealing program. The entire process, including port cleaning and welding, took 15 days to complete. The plant remained in production throughout the procedure.
The reduction in NOx emissions was achieved due to the ceramic welding, port cleaning and checker burnout, as well as the resulting decrease in air/fuel ratio and gas set point. According to plant personnel, the flame changed from a "rolling flame" to a "longer, cleaner flame" after the port cleaning was completed. "We had less turbulent air and gas mixing at the port neck area, which cleaned up the flames," noted one plant spokesman.
As a result of these maintenance procedures, the Cardinal FG Portage plant was able to improve its overall glass melting process. "The ability to run with sealed regenerator skew lines, clean port pans and a better burn in the tank were all factors that have allowed our facility to run more efficiently," said a plant spokesman.
For more information about furnace repairs and cleaning, contact Fuse Tech Inc., 3400 Silica Rd., Sylvania, OH 43560; (419) 841-9323; fax (419) 842-0693; e-mail Dshamp8@aol.com; or visit http://www.fusetech.com.
Cardinal FG's Portage plant can be reached at 1650 Mohr Rd., Portage, WI 53901; (608) 742-1966; fax (608) 742-3688. Visit http://www.cardinalcorp.com for information about other companies and subsidiaries within Cardinal Glass Industries.