The Fulton name has been synonymous with heat transfer solutions since the company first introduced the vertical tubeless steam boiler in 1949 and Fulton was established in Bristol in 1966. Today, Fulton is still one of the world’s leading manufacturers and produces an unrivalled range of multi-fuel-fired steam and hot water boilers but, as Carl Knight explains, Fulton isn’t a name many have considered when specifying thermal oil systems. Until now!
Often referred to as a steam boiler manufacturer, Fulton also specialises in heat transfer solutions and as such considers all options – steam, hot water and thermal fluid – when responding to a customer’s requirements. In many cases, and to meet current trends, systems are manufactured as ready-to-ship, skid-mounted or packaged plant rooms; and are sold with training courses, service contracts and extended warranties to eliminate any areas of concern throughout the lifespan of the system.
Fulton’s thermal technology
Fulton’s thermal fluid heaters feature a four-pass, high-efficiency design that pre-heats combustion air. Their compact construction can, like many Fulton heat transfer systems, be skid-mounted with circulating pumps, expansion vessels and related pipework; and the range includes models with heat outputs to 3500kW with standard operating temperatures of 345°C (temperature outputs of 400°C are also available with optional heater enhancements and suitable thermal fluids).
A combined expansion tank and de-aerator that has been designed by Fulton allows nitrogen to be introduced to protect the thermal fluid from oxidisation, which means that the tank does not necessarily have to be situated at the highest point in the system. This is a particular advantage where plant room height is restricted or when a system is skid-mounted for a compact installation.
“Design and manufacturing resources for each thermal fluid project are shared and coordinated with Fulton Thermal Corporation in the USA but, no matter where your product originates, it will always be produced to the highest quality in a facility that is wholly owned and managed by the Fulton Group, which still remains a privately-owned family business.” says Carl.
The smallest of Fulton’s thermal systems is the twelve-model, electrically-heated FT-N range. Its compact, vertical design has the capacity to operate at temperatures up to 340°C and its low-Watt density elements provide low film temperatures and long element life. Heat outputs range from the 22kW FT-N0075 to the 504kW FT-N1720.
Fulton’s other vertical thermal system is the highly-efficient FT-C, an eleven-model range with outputs from 235kW to an impressive 4.1mW and operating temperatures to 345°C. The Fulton FT-C offers a compact, fuel-fired, four-pass heater design to allow for high fluid velocities and low film temperatures, which translates into system longevity. The FT-C’s compact design gives it the ability to be skid-mounted and means minimal floor space is required.
Fulton’s largest thermal fluid heater is the three-pass horizontal FT-HC, which features eight models with heat outputs from 0.7mW to 5.9mW and operating temperatures to 345°C. While the largest in terms of heat output the FT-HC is still compact and, like Fulton’s other thermal heaters, can be packaged as a skid-mounted system and is available with low emission gas burners and alternative fuel capabilities.
Thermal fluid versus steam
Fulton is well placed to offer customers an unbiased review of their heat transfer requirements and can compare thermal systems to conventional steam and electric alternatives. What is also essential is that Fulton’s new and existing customers are given the right advice, and Carl looks forward to ensuring that thermal fluid systems are recognised as a viable alternative to other heat transfer systems for many applications.
But, as Carl explains, at what point does thermal become the best or most cost-effective solution for a process?
“The choice between adopting steam or thermal systems is determined by the requirements of the process and its temperature range. In general, if the process requires a temperature above 0°C and below 180°C, steam is usually the first choice. However, if the required process temperature is below 0°C or above 180°C, thermal fluid is often the better solution.” says Carl.
He goes on to say that thermal systems, unlike steam, provide useable temperature with very little pressure, no flame, fewer regulations and lots of control.
Thermal technology in action
Steam is often a traditional source of indirect heat for brewing but, with an increase in micro-breweries and resurgence in craft brewing, the regulations and additional ongoing investment required for running a pressure-based system often adds too much cost when considering steam as a heat transfer solution. So when Rebellion Beer Company was looking to replace its ageing steam boiler system, they turned to two of the UK’s major thermal fluid specialists for help.
So when Rebellion decided that an upgrade to its original brewing equipment was required, and with its steam boiler reaching its end-of-life, they started reviewing heat transfer options.
“Having met with two suppliers to discuss the project, we were impressed with Fulton’s enthusiasm and interest in getting involved with what turns out to be one of only a handful of brewery-based thermal fluid projects in the UK.” says Mark Gloyens. “Fulton’s FT-C 240 vertical coil thermal system will save money on energy bills as it’s easily turned on/off as required and with minimal heat-up time. In contrast, the old steam system needed to be turned on in the morning and left running regardless of steam demand.”
The system also provided value-for-money, because thermal fluid heaters are non-pressurised and therefore not subject to pressure regulations. Additionally, Rebellion prefers to operate its thermal system at lower temperatures of around 135°C to ensure a quality product, making thermal fluid an ideal source of heat.
The system is also simpler than steam and was therefore less expensive to set-up and maintain. Additionally, Fulton’s FT-C is more compact than the steam system, which has freed up essential space for other process equipment.
As Fulton’s Carl Knight explains, unlike steam, thermal systems provide useable temperature with very little pressure and a variety of cost savings should therefore be expected. The additional control provided by thermal also allows multiple, easy and accurate temperatures throughout a single system that can also include cooling. There are also no freezing hazards, they provide rapid start-up/shutdown with minimal heat losses and there’s no requirement for blowdown or condensate losses.
“Whole life costs can also be cheaper because they require fewer insurance inspections, which minimises production downtime and shut down. There’s also no water treatment or chemical dosing requirement, therefore no waste disposal and minimal maintenance costs.” says Carl.
Fulton’s system is now used throughout Rebellion’s processes. From the mashing-in and wort boiling processes, to heating the CIP system.
Summarising, Carl says that Fulton are experts in all heat transfer solutions and because they offer a complete range, they are well placed to offer customers an unbiased review of their requirements.