The concept of quality for a utility flux is related to final user requirements, generation capability, and distribution characteristics. Properties that can be used as quality measurements, might be standard pressure and temperature for steam, maximum allowable concentration of contaminants for industrial water, maximum allowable presence of moisture and oil for instrument air, correct tension, current and frequency for electricity and so on. Attention must be paid to quality from design to operation of generating and consuming equipment, passing through the distribution system. The quality needed for final usage must be embedded in its generation and preserved on distribution.
Analyzing quality from the point of view of utility use, as described above, it is possible to conclude that the quality concept can be quite flexible. Considering the data transport category, non-compliance of moisture or oil measurements in instrument air can bring serious disruption to the process control in a very short time. On the other hand, in the service category, these same parameters do not serve as quality measures to service air, used for displacement purposes. In process support, taking steam stripping as an example, despite the minimum pressure needed to overcome internal pressure, small variances in temperature influence the energy balance of the tower, but don' t cause major disturbances in the process.
In the energy conversion and exchange category, faulty quality parameters can induce dubious situations, concerning final usage performance. Lack of tension may not allow an electric motor driven pump to run, but a little lower pressure or temperature on a steam turbine, driving a pump for the same service, can make it go. The difference between these two relies on the timing for potential consequences. In the case of faulty tension, the process does not run and losses are instantaneous. In the second case, the process runs immediately, but energy consumption may be higher than projected or expected, because of utility conditions beyond their specifications. Of course, instant energy productivity is lower and costs higher, resulting in a less competitive operation. In the long term, however, the faulty conditions tend to accelerate equipment wear and may cause future process disruption. In the same example, feeding steam out of specifications to a turbine may provoke erosion, equipment performance reduction, and eventually its destruction, at least of some fundamental parts for its operation. That can reduce life expectancy and threaten projected investment return rates and payback.
A utility quality can be either a simple or complex concept, but the way it is accepted and used, can help determine costs and productivity.
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