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An Enhanced, CO-Based, Low Excess Air Control System Saves Energy While Reducing Emissions

To heat liquids and induce chemical reactions during production processing, the refining and chemicals industries rely on process heaters and boilers that consume large amounts of fuel. Bambeck Systems and Valero Energy received a grant from AMO to demonstrate how fuel can be saved by fully automating the available air to the three types of heaters typical to a refinery. Using a Bambeck fast CO analyzer to monitor the heater flue gas, a control scheme is installed to reduce the oxygen until a small amount of CO is produced. Using this parameter in the control scheme optimizes the air needed for combustion, thereby not wasting fuel to heat unneeded air.

The three requirements to successfully implement this technology are the fast CO analyzer, a new control strategy, and operator education. The analyzer provides CO data to the existing heater control system. The current control strategy is then modified to reduce the air to the heater via the controllable entrances, including stack dampers, fans, and burner registers. When a small amount of CO is generated, the control system automatically maintains that point, changing the controllable entrances as more or less air is required as indicated by the CO analyzer. Since fuel Btu content can change rapidly, the fast CO analyzer responds to the change in demand for O2 and, through the control system, sends commands to the dampers, fans, and registers to open or close. Because operators historically used an O2 monitor to ensure that the combustion process has excess air, the operators need to be educated to feel comfortable seeing very low O2 readings. The heater is safer because CO is a precursor to a combustible condition and O2 is not. In addition, reducing the excess O2 also reduces both NOX and CO2 (greenhouse gas).

Bambeck Ultra-Low Excess Air Control System

Impacts of Commercialized Technology
  2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Energy Savings (Trillion Btu) 0.048 0.139 0.276 0.338 0.411 0.411 0.411 0.411 0.235 0.235
Emissions Reductions
(Thousand Tons)
Carbon 0.799 2.301 4.581 5.604 6.825 6.825 6.825 6.825 3.900 3.900
NOx 0.006 0.017 0.034 0.042 0.051 0.051 0.051 0.051 0.029 0.029
SOx 0.003 0.008 0.016 0.020 0.024 0.024 0.024 0.024 0.014 0.014
Particulates 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000



  • Developed and being marketed by Bambeck Systems, Inc.
  • Commercialized in 2002 with over 700 of the original technology installed.
  • Bambeck's ultra-low systems gaining industry reputation overseas.


Can be used by the chemicals, petrochemicals, and refining industries.



Monitors the unburned fuel gases and controls the amount of air available for the combustion process, providing the minimum amount needed.



Reduced Emissions

Reduces NOX emissions from 30% to 45% and CO2 in proportion to the size of the heater.



Eliminates the possibility of any dangerous combustible conditions developing in the heater.


Contact Information

Robert J Bambeck
(949) 250-3100 x121
Bambeck Systems, Inc.