Boiler Starting Failure – Troubleshooting

Failure in boiler starting is a common phenomenon on ship. There can be several reasons for the failure in staring of a boiler. In this article we will learn about the most common reasons for not starting of boiler.

1) Fuel inlet valve to the burner is in close position:

The fuel line for boiler’s burner consists of several valves located at fuel tank, pumps suction, discharge valve, or valve before the boiler burner. Any of these can be in closed position resulting in starvation of fuel.

2) Line filter at the inlet of the fuel line for burner is choked:

If the system runs in heavy oil then there are chances of filters in the line getting choke. To avoid this, boiler system are normally built for changeover from diesel to heavy oil during starting and heavy to diesel during stopping. This keeps the filter and the fuel line clean.

marine boiler

3) Boiler fuel supply pump is not running:

There are two main reasons for fuel pump not running. Normally when the pumps are in pairs, the change over auto system is kept in manual position, and if the operating pump trips, the stand by pump will not start automatically. Another reason is tripping of pump due to short circuit in the system etc.

4) Solenoid valve in the fuel supply line is malfunctioning

Nowadays most of the system adopts advance automation, but their can be a possibility wherein the solenoid in the fuel supply line is malfunctioning and not opening.

5) Flame eye is malfunctioning:

A Flame eye is a photocell operated flame sensor fitted directly on the refractory to detect weather the burner is firing or not. If the flame eye unit is malfunctioning, then it will give a trip signal even before the burner starts firing.

6) Air or Steam ratio setting is not proper

For proper and efficient combustion, air fuel ration is very important, if the supply of air is excess then there will be excess of smoke, and if it exceeds more than normal level the combustion will burn off causing flame failure.

7) Forced draft fan flaps malfunctioning

For removing excess gases trapped inside the combustion chamber forced draft fan (FDF) are used for pre purging and post purging operation and are connected with a timer to shut the fan flaps. If the flaps are malfunctioning then continuous forced air will go inside the chamber, preventing the burner to produce flame causing flame failure of the boiler.

INA boiler 2

8) Any contactor switch inside Control panel is malfunctioning

Boiler control panel consist of several contactors and PLC cards. Even one contactor malfunctioning may result in trouble for boiler starting.

9) Trip not reset

If any previous trips like low water level, flame failure, emergency stop etc. has not been reset than boiler will not start.

10) Main Burner atomiser is clogged

Main burners consist of atomizer for efficient burning of fuel. If the atomizer is clogged by sludge and fuel deposits then burner may not produce flame and trip the boiler..

11)   Pilot Burner nozzle is choked :

A Pilot burner nozzle is very small and can be blocked by carbon deposits and sludge resulting in flame failure. Some pilot burner consists of small filter which can be clogged after continuous operation resulting in flame failure because of carbon accumulation.

12)  Electrodes are not generating spark

Initial spark for generating a flame is produced by electrode which may be due to carbon deposits on them or fault in the circuit of electrodes etc.

If you liked this article, you may also like to read-Boiler cleaning, Boiler mountings & Boiler Gauge glass Maintenance

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About Author

An ardent sailor and a techie, Anish Wankhede has voyaged on a number of ships as a marine engineer officer. He loves multitasking, networking, and troubleshooting. He is the one behind the unique creativity and aesthetics at Marine Insight.


  1. Rotary cup burner while running on gas at low firing flame comes back from burner plate and melt sparking plug cover and cable

  2. @Abdul. Looks like the Atomiser assembly needs to be checked. Also check the recommended pressure for air or steam (used for atomisation) given by the maker when changing to gas oil.

  3. powerpanel 1 offline indicAted in monitor..please help..i cannot auto the boiler anymore

  4. Should the power light be blinking on and off my fuel pressure is good my eye is clean electrons seem ok it runs on auto for about ten minutes and shut down. I have no Manuals

  5. Any suggestions on why the striker on pilot would continue striking as if pilot is not lit when it is actually already lit??

  6. if boiler not fired on HFO. What action will you take as duty engr . to continue with safe operation ??

  7. If fuel is the problem, change it to DO and then fire the boiler. If the burner is still nor firing, check the burner assembly.

  8. Boiler firing on MGO but fail to fire on HFO.
    Vessel observed that during firing on HSFO, the pilot burner firing normally but main burner flame not catching up and then flame failure alarm activating.However while on MGO the main burner flame coming normally.

    HSFO pump pressure and temperature, atomising air pressure compared with manual specifications and noted that all are with in the range.

    Vessel carried out the following checks:

    1. Fuel oil pump filters cleaned and pump inter changed and noted the pressure is normal. Fuel line Y-filter cleaned.
    2. Rotory cup drive belt renewed.
    3. Rotory cup assembly opened and cleaned.
    4. Outer and inner air annular rings inspected and found to be in good condition.
    5. Pressure of the fuel oil before entering the burner checked and compared with MGO and both are noted to be same.
    6. Pilot burner cleaned and nozzle renewed.Pilot burner swirler inspected and noted to be in good condition.Pilot burner pump filter cleaned.
    7. Flame eye renewed.
    8. Two sections of fuel piping after the compound regulator opened and inspected for any sludge or obstructions but noted that the piping was in clean condition.
    9. Fuel oil crackling test carried out for any possibility of water in the fuel and noted normal.
    10. Compuond regulator linkages with air flap checked and noted to be normal.

    Vessel bunkers has been changed to new bunkers on 15th Sept 2018.

    Vessel checked all system parameters and compared with makers manual and noted that all are within the range.

    For the past 20 hours vessel tried possible causes for boiler failure to fire on HSFO but not yet succeded.

    Requesting to advise further trouble shooting inorder to make the boiler to fire on HSFO

  9. Same as saacke boiler..,set to automatic.purging ang start to ignite but around 10 secods it fails to fire.,try in emergency operation or manual.,it is in normal burner is firing..whats possible problem?._

  10. it seems the problem with the pilot burner as post 10 seconds, it should ignite the main burner. The following can be the reasons- electrode fouled, Distance between them needs to adjust, Nozzle fouled etc.

    take out the pilot burner and check its functioning.

  11. hello there what can i do if i’m getting water alarm how can i fix it anything would be helpful thank you

  12. Hello sir. When boiler start misfire alarm came every time started. Only in first start after reset it will be fire in good combustion. Already clean all filters pilot and main burner.

  13. @Danne: Do check the nozzle of the pilot burner for the angle and length of the spray ( as per the manual). Also, flame eye needs to be cleaned.

  14. sir my ship boiler igniter is on but ignition pump not running. boiler trip by sequence failure. what is tge reason for ignition pump not running? thanks.

  15. Have a different problem here on our Saacke Boiler,
    Switch on Automatic mode after low steam pressure, no response from the boiler.
    Then switch to Manual, combustion air fan is running but cannot increase or decrease load/damper, tried to fire the Igniter and Oil valve did not activate,. the rotary cup atomizer did not run also.
    What could be the problem?

  16. Hello sir, when boiler is ignite in purging position what is the problem?our boiler is saacke.. i can start only in emergency mode. I’ll wait for your reply

  17. In my vessel use boiler saacke burner , pilot burner can firing , but main burner / automizer can’t following firing , but leave a alarm trip flame eye fail , we use mdo , can you give me advice ?

  18. Hello, i have an Auxiliary Boiler RP-400M-I burner from Kangrim and i have the follow problem :

    I am ruining on MDO and yesterday during day time we received alarm ”Flame Failure”, we opened the burner checked electrodes(were OK) and clean all the filters, after restart boiler fired for around 14 hours. After 14 hours we received same alarm, again cleaned filters but this time with out success. Next day we opened the boiler and re-adjust the electrodes, cleaned filters again but with out any success. We changed also the nozzle with new one, with out any succes also.
    After all of above we start it in manual mode(emergency mode) and started, but it takes around 5-8 seconds to keep pressed ignition button(for the spark of electrodes) and the valve for oil open, for the boiler to start firing. The pressure is in range, around 28 BAR in ring line.We also drained the MDO tank to check if it has water, but no water in MDO is present.
    For auto operation, my boiler burner controller is from SIEMENS LAL 2.25 and its set for 2.5 seconds to give spark to my electrodes, this set point is from factory and i cant open the box to increase/decrease this set point, because for manual operation(emergency start) i have different burner controller.

    The boiler run on auto operation for like 14 days with out any problem in MDO.

    What can be the problem? Do you have any advice? Can it be the MDO? or this Burner controller from SIEMENS is not working properly?

  19. what could cause an Aalborg mission 2000 boiler to explode when the emergency shutdown button is activated

  20. Sir facing flue gas temp.high alarm .cleaned tubes with air.boiler is saacke and burner is SKVJM 14, Before flame was bright orange but now flame is more like red than orange.
    Used many soot sticks but still giving alarm after every 3or 4hours.belt tightness also checked.Apms is okey.pls advise….regards

  21. auto firing is ok, but when fire manually,fan is only running but no purging at all..our boiler is aalborg..tnx

  22. Issue of flame trouble and extraneous light alarm how can i solve the problem

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