Steam system upgrade for cancer institute

The Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow, a ‘world-class’ biological research facility that conducts studies into the basic biology of cancer, has streamlined maintenance of its steam systems with the help of Spirax Sarco, in the process ‘mitigating outstanding risk’ and freeing up in-house resource within its Facilities team to focus on other activities.

Steam is critical for humidification at the facility in ensuring optimal conditions for research, with minimal fluctuation. Spirax Sarco said: “Failure of the boiler or steam systems would, however, have a knock-on effect on the entire site, with every minute lost potentially jeopardising key research.” 

Alistair Wilson, the Institute’s Facilities manager, is responsible for all elements of the building’s upkeep and smooth operation, including security, cleaning, catering, mechanical and electrical services, alterations and refurbishment, and premises-related health and safety legislation. The Facilities team also has a key building liaison role on any new-build and major refurbishment schemes. For a team working at capacity, having to liaise with multiple suppliers on maintenance  contracts was becoming unwieldly. He explained: “Typically, when looking at boiler maintenance, we have one specialist firm to carry out work on the boilers, a second to undertake works on the controls, and a third for any works on the burners.” Keen to consolidate and simplify the existing maintenance set-up with the reassurance of a reliable preventative maintenance service, the Facilities manager spoke to the local Spirax Service specialist to discuss the most suitable way to achieve this, confident in the expertise of a team that works on such equipment every day. 

During their first visit, Spirax Sarco’s service engineers conducted a full boiler strip-down to inspect the internal components and assess the boiler’s performance. This included a full service of the feedwater and blowdown vessels and the electric condensate recovery unit.

A new service contract with Spirax Sarco also includes an annual steam trap survey, and, following the initial survey, the company reported back on detailed operating conditions for each trap, the total cost of steam losses, and the return on investment for rectification work. During the audit it became clear that the boiler controls had not been maintained correctly, while some of the steam distribution control applications had not been refurbished for around nine years. Leaks were apparent, with unstable steam supply at the humidifiers. To return the system to optimum operating levels, Spirax Sarco replaced a number of traps and valves, and provided a valve refurbishment and reconditioning service to extend some of the worn components’ lifespan. Spirax Sarco said: “Overall Alistair and his team now have significantly improved reliability and maintenance, and one integrated contract for the whole system. We even coordinate with the local engineering insurance inspector so that he doesn’t have to.”



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