86th GM Presentation Amato

The 86th General Meeting Speaker Presentation

"National Board Inspection Code (NBIC) Tools for Historical Boilers"

Joel Amato

The following presentation was delivered at the 86th General Meeting Monday General Session, May 8, 2017. It has been edited for content and phrasing.

INTRODUCTION: Joel Amato has been the chief boiler inspector for the state of Minnesota for 18 years. Prior to joining the state, he served in the United States Navy, and now has a total of over 30 years of industry experience. Joel is active in six important National Board groups. He's Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee, and a member on the Committee for Qualifications. Additionally, he is a member on three NBIC committees: The Main Committee, the Subcommittee for Repairs and Alterations, and Chairman of the Historical Boiler Subgroup. Joel represents a state with a considerable amount of historical boilers.

Mr. Amato's slide presentation can be accessed here.

MR. AMATO:  Thank you. Today I'm going to talk a little bit about historical boilers. We are going to start at the beginning. Winston Churchill once said, "Those who failed to learn from history are condemned to repeat it." And I hope we never go down that road with historical boilers, because there was a time when they were not very fun to be around. And then, of course, there is the definition of insanity, which is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Historic boilers are boilers that are being preserved, restored, and maintained for demonstration, viewing, or educational purposes. Therefore, they are not used every day. It's a big hobby, and with any hobby, there are people who are very passionate about it.

So how did it all start? Well, everybody has seen Hero's Engine; right? This was the boiler in the engine room, one unit was built by Hero of Alexandria, and it was built around 10 to 70 A.D. It's called the Aeolipile.  There is no document anywhere indicating that it was ever put to practical use in ancient time, but it was the start of steam power. So then when we progress, we are going to move forward to the self-propelled steam engine which became popular in industrialized countries from about 1850 to 1930. The uses included threshing grain, plowing, mining construction, sawmill operation, and the hot pond.

Around the 1880s to 1890s it was the peak of the logging operations in Minnesota. Minnesota was covered with these giant white pines, and they logged over 2.3 billion feet of lumber every year from 1880 to 1890. This is enough lumber to build over 600,000 two-story homes, or you could build a nine-foot-wide boardwalk around the Equator.  That's how much lumber they cut out of Minnesota. Well, the problem in Minnesota is that we do have winters, and the logs that were being floated down the river would get to the sawmill and would be frozen. So what they did was create a hot pond.  They actually pumped steam into this little pond next to the sawmill, and they thawed out the logs before they ran them through the sawmill. Otherwise, they would damage the sawmill if they were cutting frozen logs. Thawing the logs also increased production. Not only did the steam engine allow greater production for farming and lumber, the number of steam traction engines produced increased greatly. There were 91 manufacturers of steam traction engines from 1850 to 1930. Now, if you compare that to the automobile industry, the automobile industry had 1,800 automobile manufacturers from 1896 to 1930.

There are some interesting facts from some of the manufacturers. There is the Minneapolis line, they had detachable flues. For easy removal and cleaning, they were threaded into the boiler. On this announcement it actually states the note, that the boilers equipped with these will be charged an extra price.[Slide 7] It was the new and upcoming thing. But you don't see too many boilers with them anymore, so it must not have panned out too well. There are a couple other designs. There is the sloped crown sheets. They wanted to keep that crown sheet wet to make sure the boiler did not explode. And this one has a sloped design, making it better for going downhill when you are going forward. [Slide 8] Here is a 30-horsepower Gaar-Scott engine owned by T.Takeda, Erin, Texas, breaking 600 acres of black hog wallow land for rice. [Slide 9] 

Prior to the development of the ASME Code in 1913, there were no construction standards in the U.S. Very few inspection programs existed prior to 1881, which is when Minnesota developed its inspection code. And there were no water treatment programs. They just grabbed water from wherever they could get it – the pond, the river, puddle. Operator training was also very limited, and there were very few licensed operators. So the incidents and accidents were plentiful. Between 1850 and 1930, there were many explosions that resulted in loss of life, and many of these were due to improper repairs and untrained operators. Many of these historical boilers, though, still exist today. In fact, Minnesota has approximately 160 that are still in operation. And if you look close at this engine here, it is a Minneapolis return flue, and there it is in operation today. I can't say it's exactly the same engine, but it's exactly the same design. [Slide 13]

Now that I have you on the edge of your seat, I know the question you all want to ask: How do you keep a 100-year-old boiler operating safely? From where we stand now, it is relatively easy, because this has been developed: The National Board Inspection Code (NBIC). The National Board Inspection Code was first published in 1945; it was 27 pages, providing guidance and rules for the inservice repair and alteration of boilers. Now, in 2017, it’s in four parts – installation, inspection, repairs and alterations, and pressure relief devices. It is now over 800 pages. The main reason is public safety by maintaining pressure-retaining items by providing rules for installation, inspection and repair, thereby ensuring that these items may continue to operate safely. Here was the cover of the 1945 NBIC.[Slide 15]  And I brought up the table of contents for it too, and I like the first chapter: No repairs by welding without the inspector's approval. [Slide 18]  So they had to have an inspector there to make sure they were doing it right. Today, it also provides the general and detailed requirements for the inspection of pressure-retaining items, and it's for all pressure-retaining items and boilers and pressure vessels, but right now we are just going to focus on how it helps inspectors, owners, and operators with historical boilers.

This is the NBIC Historical Subgroup. [Slides 20-21]  These are the people that are developing these codes and making it all happen. They are the ones with the knowledge and the experience to write the codes. We meet twice a year with the NBIC. And we are kind of unique. We report to both the Part 2 on Inspection and Part 3 on Repairs and Alterations for Historical Boilers. And I would like to welcome everybody to these meetings. When we do meet, our meetings are open, and anybody can attend, and we actually take a lot of comments from the visitors that are in our meetings. So it's great if you guys have the time, show up and help us out.

And I have to thank an individual here. His name is Mr. Reetz, and he really laid a good foundation for me. I came in, and they already knew what to do, it was all good. So thank you, Bob, I really appreciate that. You did a great job.

We are going to talk about the inspection requirements in Supplement 2 on Historical Boilers in Part 2, and how it helps inspectors, owners and operators. Supplement 2 provides inspector guidance and requirements on inspection and examination methods, and there are seven examination methods that they can use.

There’s one of my inspectors inside a historical boiler.[Slide 24]  And I have got to tell you a little story about my first historical boiler inspection. I had started working for the State of Minnesota, and I had probably been working there for about three months. And we had a checklist that we had to go through. You had to inspect a fire-tube boiler, a water-tube boiler, a cast iron boiler, and a historical boiler. One of the other inspectors came up to me one day and said, “Hey, Joel, have you ever done an historical boiler inspection?”  And I said, “No, I haven't. “  And he said, “Come on, I'm going to do one.”  Well, let me tell you about Steve, the guy that invited me out on this inspection. Steve was about 6'4" and about 300 pounds. I didn't know what a historical boiler was; right? So I get out to this historical boiler, and I look at this little tiny thing, and I look at the door that's about a twelve-by-fourteen square opening. And I looked at Steve and I looked at that door and I went, I know why you invited me here today. At that time in my career I was about 175 pounds, a lot lighter than I am today, so he was actually able to stuff me in there so I could do the inspection. That's how my first day of training on historical boilers went.

The only required inspections for Supplement 2 are the ultrasonic, the visual, the inservice inspection, and the hydrostatic tests. On the initial inspection of an historical boiler, you have to do all four of these. So if it's a boiler that was sitting in a barn for fifty years, and they bring it out to Minnesota, we have to do all four of these inspections on it.

The NBIC Supplement 2 establishes an inspection frequency. The first year after that initial inspection where you use all four inspections as I mentioned, you do an inservice inspection. The second year after that, you do the visual. Third year, hydrostatic. Fourth year, inservice. Fifth year, ultrasonic. Sixth year, hydrostatic. And seventh year, you are back to the first year, so you go back to the inservice inspection. And we will talk a little bit more about those inspection types.

During the initial inspection, when you are doing all four of those inspections, you have to establish the maximum allowable working pressure (MAWP) for the boiler. The beauty of the new NBIC is that inspectors no longer have to perform calculations. I don't know who thought of it, but it was brilliant. They came up with a chart that actually provides the inspector with the MAWP. Because not only does it help the inspector to prevent errors, he doesn't have to sit down and write down all these numbers and possibly mix them up after he's crawled out of his nice little tiny boiler. It also allows the owner/operator to double-check the results. The owner/operator can see the book and make sure that it's exactly correct. So here for the ultrasonic inspection, we just use the shell inside diameter -- if you had a shell diameter of 24, and you got a UG reading of .3, you would go over, and the MAWP would be 259.[Slide 29]  It makes it really easy for inspectors.  And that was for the barrel.

For the stayed surfaces, they do the same thing. They do an ultrasonic measurement of the stayed surface; they need to use the stable pitch across the top. If it's four and a half inches, and you have got a reading of .3, your MAWP is 129.[Slide 30]  It makes it very simple for the inspectors. It also provides guidance on inspections where you find a locally thinned area or a reading that may not jive with other readings that are near that. That happens a lot. Most of the seals back then might have had laminations, or you might have a pit in the back side of the seal. You'd get one small reading and the other readings around it would be a lot greater. This gives the inspector guidance on what to do in that situation.

For the hydrostatic testing on the historical boilers, it's just a leak tightness testing. The pressure for all hydrostatic tests is going to be 1.25.  It's the MAWP that you establish from the ultrasound test. It is held for 10 minutes or as long as it takes the inspector to perform the visual inspection, and the water temperature has to be between 60 and 120 degrees. On the visual examination, here are a few things that they look at. They need to look at the fuseable plugs, any openings or connections in the boiler, mechanical attachment points of the equipment that's mounted to the boiler as far as the engine goes, the boiler tube sheets, and the boiler tubes.

The inservice inspection is really important. I know in Minnesota we do the inservice inspections at every show, and while they fire up these boilers, we actually go to the operators and make them do all of this before every show. Because not only do we want to make sure the engine is operating properly, we also want to make sure the operators know what they are doing. The operator has to demonstrate the two means of supplying feedwater to the boiler, the tricocks and the correlation with the gauge glass level, the gauge glass upper and lower shutoff valves, the gauge glass blowdown, the pressure gauge, and the safety valve test. The inspector would also verify the stamping and the set pressure of the relief valve at that time.

Minnesota's license law also dates back to 1881 for the licensing requirements for boiler operators, and I believe there was only one state – I found this in different areas, but I believe that Alabama was the first to require a license back in 1837.

So now we are going to talk about NBIC Part 3. This talks about the repairs and alterations to these boilers. It's Supplement 2 again, and it's specifically for repairs and alterations to historical boilers, and it does not include locomotives. Locomotives are a separate entity. It also talks about repairs to stayed surfaces, riveted seams, unstayed surfaces, tubes, stay bolts, and all parts of the historical boilers. As you can see, that's probably not an authorized repair there. The brazing on it looks like a water column of some kind. Not acceptable. This is a good guide for inspectors, owners and operators too, and it talks about all welded repairs must be performed by a National Board certified R stamp company. So that's a good weld. Looks like it barely holds shucked corn. So it gives good examples now. I know this sounds silly, but there are a lot of pictures, right, and so you can actually see the examples of how the repairs can be done. And to me it's so much better when you have a visual reference rather than just talking about seal welding a tube or seal welding a stay bolt, but when you have these visual references, these detail diagrams, it really helps a lot, especially for owners and repair organizations.

It also talks about the acceptable attachments of tubes, and for weld buildup or wasted areas. That is another good thing about those charts. When you looked at the chart and saw it was .30 and we only had about 150 or 200 psi, if the operator or the owner wanted to get up to a higher pressure, he could look at that pressure and go, Well, gee, my minimum plate thickness has to be this. So if they wanted to go in and do weld metal buildup on the thin areas, they can raise their pressure back up. It works well that way.

Another note in the NBIC says it should be recognized that the safety of these boilers is dependent upon the knowledge and the training of the operator in proper use, repair, maintenance, and safe operation of each specific boiler. We can make sure that the boiler is safe for operation, but only if the water level is maintained, the water chemistry, when the fires that they put into them is correct, so the operator plays a very important role in this.

That's why I'm going to put a plug in for the University of Rollag, which is in Minnesota. It's a two-day school for operators, held annually on Father's Day weekend and is open to all. It will give you 16 hours of credit towards your historical boiler operator's license in Minnesota. All chief inspectors can attend for free. There are also steam schools in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Oklahoma, and I'm sure there are others out there too. And if you do have them, that's great, because it is very helpful.

I believe there is a movement in the Canadian provinces now to go to a standard historical boiler operator's license across the provinces. I'm looking forward to seeing where that goes, because that would be great. And reciprocity between the Canadian provinces and the U.S. jurisdictions for these boilers would be wonderful. Some of them that you have are very unique up there, and we have the same down here, and I know we would love to cross borders and show off. So the closer we can get to that, the better.

See now the age old question: How many chief inspectors does it take to safely operate a historical boiler? Well, at least two. I had the privilege – Rob Troutt last year came up to Minnesota, and he went to the University of Rollag with me, and we got to operate these engines for a whole weekend and learn a lot about them. And I'll tell you what, it was one of the first schools out there, the University of Rollag, so if you have any questions on it or would like to attend, please let me know. I can make sure that you get a seat. All you have to do is pay for your travel, your room and your expenses to get up there and back, and you get to learn about historical boilers.

MR. TROUTT: Rollag is one heck of a school.

MR. AMATO: Yes, the class is amazing, and actually the classes in Wisconsin and Iowa are taught by some of the same instructors in Minnesota. It's a great school. It's definitely worth attending.

So does anybody have any questions on historical boilers?

MR. CREASER: The things that you would learn around your historical traction engine-type boilers, is that transferrable to other older technology boilers, where you might have rivets, you know, stationary boilers in a building? 


MR. CREASER: That's all transferrable?

MR. AMATO: Yes, they are constructed with very similar designs. I mean, it's still riveted construction. We have a lot of old riveted construction boilers in Minnesota. Because we have had a license law in Minnesota for so long, our boilers have always been taken care of by licensed engineers. So they found out that there are more riveted construction boilers in Minnesota than anywhere else in the world.

MR. CREASER: Do you use these same type of rules on those types of boilers?

MR. AMATO: No, it depends on what it's used for. These rules are specific for hobby and historical boilers. If they have a riveted boiler that's used for heating a school, that falls under a lot more stringent requirements for inspection. So these are specifically for historical boilers, which are only operated part-time.

MR. PERDUE: Does Minnesota require a roll bead on the flues on the firebox side?

MR. AMATO: For a high-pressure boiler, yes, all tubes have to be rolled and beaded or welded.

MR. PERDUE: On the old traction boilers, how about the other end? Just the one?

MR. AMATO: No, both sides. The flue, the smokebox and the firebox.