Commercial & Industrial Heating and Drying

Exponent’s engineering team has in-depth experience with the equipment, processes and controls associated with a commercial & industrial heating and drying systems. We have technical specialties in design analysis, operational performance maintenance review and failure analysis of various types of heating and drying equipment.  This includes a vast array of combustion systems such as, boilers for power and heating services, dryers, furnaces, kilns and even residential furnaces.

Our staff consults on wide range of issues related to radiant, convective, and conductive heat transfer; multiphase fluid flow; and solid, liquid, and gaseous fuel combustion. This includes fuel chemistry, pollutant formation and abatement; material suitability, control system failures, component failure analysis, root cause investigations, fire origin and cause investigation; and force majeure support. Industrial users of such equipment include electric power utilities, foundries, forges, smelting and heat-treating facilities, agriculture facilities, chemical plants, and petroleum refineries, as well as pharmaceutical, food, textile, paper, and wood manufacturing facilities. Below is a sample list of some of the equipment we have investigated:

  • Power and package boilers 
  • Steam and combustion turbines 
  • Melting and heating furnaces 
  • Baking and curing ovens 
  • Convection and radiant dryers 
  • Rotary and tunnel kilns 
  • Incinerators, thermal oxidizers, and flares 
  • Burner management and combustion safeguards       

Exponent provides consulting services for the following:

Boilers, Dryers, Flares, Furnaces, Kilns, Ovens and Thermal Oxidizers

Exponent has consulted on all aspects of boiler, dryer, furnace, kiln and thermal oxidizer design, operation, maintenance and associated failures. Often we are called upon to investigate breaches in pressurized water or heat-transfer fluid vessels and piping, fuel explosions, structural failures, water chemistry and corrosion, and burner safeguards. We have also performed third-party reviews of these systems including the configuration of combustion instrumentation and controls, and their adherence to relevant standards. We have experience with nearly all types of solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels combustion systems including many types of biomass and biofuel systems.

Burner Management & Combustion Safety 

Burners of various sizes, utilizing various fuel types, are an integral part to most utility, commercial, and industrial plants. Burners are used to generate steam in a boiler, remove moisture from food products, cure coatings, and even help reduce the amount of hazardous substances that enter our environment. Burners and their operation are often considered to be an old and well-understood process, and, thus, the hazards that they present may sometimes be overlooked as facilities focus on other areas and equipment. It is important that these burners and their control systems not be overlooked when assessing the risks associated with the operation of a facility.

Our projects include a variety of consulting services, such as:

  • Safety Critical System Design Reviews
  • Evaluation and Support for Functional Testing
  • Boiler and Combustion Systems Safety
  • Combustion Controls
  • Third-Party Review
  • Process Hazard Analysis
  • Incident Investigation

Exponent’s consultants assist burner owners and operators of boilers, ovens, furnaces, oxidizers, and dryers in identifying and mitigating operating risks. Exponent leverages its experience in analyzing numerous failures to provide unique and advanced services relating to industrial and commercial combustion equipment and systems. This experience includes analyses of equipment failures, human-machine-process interactions, control system design, and root causes. We utilize a multi-disciplinary team to address the various aspects and issues related to system design, installation, control, startup, operation, and maintenance.

Our typical projects include a variety of services and can range in scope. We have performed design reviews of safety critical systems such as Burner Management Systems (BMSs) and Combustion Control Systems (CCSs). We have evaluated process narratives, functional specifications, operating and maintenance procedures, training, control systems and logic. We have provided support for functional testing, including documentation of instrumentation and control element loop-checking processes, observation and documentation of functional testing, and onsite reviews of equipment and functional testing.

Air Pollution Control

Exponent engineers have analyzed issues related to rapid performance degradation of SCR catalyst systems for NOx control. We have developed methods for estimating release rates of particulate matter from fabric filter baghouses with one or more failed bags. Our experts have consulted on carbon burnout issues in coal fly-ash, and rates of mercury volatilization (and downstream particulate recapture) in coal combustion.


We have addressed problems associated with refractory degradation and premature thermal insulation failure. We consult on steam blowouts from failed gaskets, and we interact with metallurgists in our Materials practice to assist us evaluate fluid or thermal issues that can create conditions for boiler tube or turbine blade failures. Our consultants have testified on the historical use of asbestos insulation and gaskets in power generation, including the chronology of suitable alternatives becoming available.

Industry Affiliations & Standards Expertise

Exponent engineers are principal members of the NFPA 85 (Boilers & Combustion Systems), NFPA 86 (Ovens & Furnaces) and NFPA 87 (Fluid Heaters) technical committees of the National Fire Protection Association, ASME Controls and Safety Devices for Automatically Fire Boiler, and the C-16 (Thermal Insulation) and F-03 (Gaskets) technical committees of the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM). Below are some examples of Exponent’s industry affiliations and technical background.

  • AIChE – American Institute of Chemical Engineers
  • ANSI – American National Standards Institute
  • ASHRAE – American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers
  • ASME – American Society of Mechanical Engineers
  • ASTM – American Society of Testing and Materials
  • CCPS – Center for Chemical Process Safety
  • HI – Hydraulic Institute
  • IEEE – Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
  • ISA – International Society Of Automation
  • NBIC – National Boiler Inspection Code
  • NFPA – National Fire Protection Association
  • SFPE – Society of Fire Protection Engineers
  • UL – Underwriters Laboratories