Economic analysis of boiler tube failures OMMI (Vol. 2, Issue 2) Aug. 2003


Economic Analysis of Boiler Tube Failures in NSW
RF Small, Connell Wagner PPI, 116 Military Rd, Neutral Bay, NSW 2089 AUSTRALIA

1. Introduction The NSW (New South Wales, Australia) boiler tube failure reduction program formally commenced in 1988, and has run continuously since then. The aim of the program was to improve overall plant reliability through reduction in the numbers of boiler tube failures across all the major power stations in NSW. The EPRI methodology of the time was chosen for the program, and has remained substantially in place throughout 16 years of industry restructure and introduction of the National Electricity Market (NEM). The program has been dramatically successful, reducing loss of availability from tube leaks from 15% at commencement, to less than 1% today. This paper looks at the economics of tube leaks in NSW focusing on the cost of leaks versus the cost of prevention. This study is ongoing, and is being undertaken in response to international interest shown in the program after a presentation to the Operating Pressure Equipment conference held in Sydney in April 2003.

2. NSW Power Stations NSW has seven major power stations with total capacity of 11,520MW, all black coal fired, shown in Table 1. Power Station Boiler type No x Capacity MW 4 x 660 4 x 660 4 x 500 2 x 660 2 x 300 2 x 660 2 x 500 Estimated short run marginal cost of generation $/MWh 1 11.81 14.55 12.87 12.06 15.68 14.23 13.05

Bayswater Eraring Liddell Mt Piper Munmorah Vales Pt Wallerawang


Table 1. NSW Power stations participating in the boiler tube failure reduction program Nominal steam conditions for all stations are approx. 540C, 16MPa/540C, 5MPa superheat/reheat temperature and pressure.

engineering.Economic analysis of boiler tube failures OMMI (Vol. technical experts. and management. and maintenance. (At the commencement of the program it is understood that mean loss of availability due to boiler tube failures was of the order of 15%) -Corrective action based on defining and reporting current boiler tube failure problems including cost of each failure. -All modes of boiler operation to be controlled by established metal temperature and feedwater quality limits Originally the program was run by a NSW wide “Boiler Technical Panel” featuring representatives from all power stations. Delta Electricity. Initially these were less than 2% loss of availability due to boiler tube failures within seven years. Eraring Energy and Macquarie Generation. 2003 2 Originally these stations were owned by the Electricity Commission of NSW. analysis root cause of failure. 2. and application of state of the art repair methods. then Pacific Power. -All boiler tube failure repairs to be inspected and tested and to include quality assurance provisions for welder certification. -Control action based on continuous monitoring and recording of boiler tube failures using standardised cause codes. using a team approach for permanent solutions. operations. 3. Issue 2) Aug. Two major changes have occurred to the NSW electricity industry since the program was established: In 1996. implementation of policies and procedures that address boiler tube failure controllable parameters. This measure ensured the involvement of the whole organisation -Performance targets. and effect of measures taken to reduce failure rate. This panel met and reported approximately quarterly to discuss progress. disaggregation from one body into three competing utilities effectively removed centralised management from the program. and in 1999 the introduction of the National Electricity Market has caused very volatile electricity pricing. welding procedures and selection of replacement tube material. -Every boiler tube failure problem to be assigned a team of trained personnel to to define root cause and to perform a cost/benefit analysis of alternative corrective/preventative actions. The new disaggregated . -Preventative actions based on understanding management. however in 1996 the industry was disaggregated into three competing smaller utilities. Nowadays the discipline to control boiler tube failures comes from the requirements for high plant availability imposed by the NEM. Principals of the program The major features of the program upon establishment are as follows2 : -Full management support via an executive committee.

with an abrupt rise in 2003 (Financial year 2002-3). Figure 1 NSW Boiler Tube Failures 1987-2003 70 60 Number of failures 50 40 30 20 10 0 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 Year Total boiler tube failures 660MW 500 & 350MW Figure 2 % Availability loss due to boiler tube failures 1.2 0 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2003 Figure 1 shows an increase in tube failures from 1997.2 1 0.4 0. Percent availability losses due to boiler tube failures since 1997 are shown in Figure 2.6 0. Results of the Program The number of boiler tube failures per year since 1987 is shown in Figure 1. 2.6 1.8 Mean 660MW Mean 500 & 350 MW Mean 0. Despite this increase in number of leaks.Economic analysis of boiler tube failures OMMI (Vol.4 1. 2003 3 utilities have responded to this in different ways however all are still guided by the original principals of the program 4. Issue 2) Aug. mean availability .

In the centrally-coordinated dispatch process. 2. the National Electricity Market Mana gement Company (NEMMCO) continually balances electricity supply and demand requirements by scheduling generators to produce sufficient electricity to meet customer demand.Economic analysis of boiler tube failures OMMI (Vol.0 0 2. $ TOTAL DEMAND. the Australian Capital Territory.0 0 5.00 12 . Today. 2003 4 losses due to boiler tube failures are generally well below EPRI target of 1%.00 13 . These bids are comprised of prices and associated quantities the generators are willing to schedule in the dispatch process. A key objective of the NEM is to promote competition at each stage of the electricity production and supply chain.00 11 .0 0 4. Victoria and South Australia.3 Spot prices and electricity demand for 26 September 2003 are shown in Figure 3.00 17 . Issue 2) Aug. MW 0.00 15 .00 19 . Generator operators compete by providing offers and bids for supplying energy to NEMMCO. The National Electricity Market The National Electricity Market (NEM) commenced operation on 13 December 1998. as part of the process of deregulation of the Australian power industry. New South Wales. the NEM supplies electricity to 7. 5.00 21 . All the electricity output from generators is pooled.0 0 10 . and retailers and wholesale end-users pay for the electricity they use from the pool. The spot market is the whole process whereby prices for electricity are set and then settled.00 22 .0 0 7.00 18 .7 million Australian customers on an interconnected national grid that runs through Queensland. This result indicates a continuing focus on minimising time out of service from tube failures.0 0 6. and then scheduled to meet electricity demand. Approximately $8 billion of energy is traded through the NEM per year.0 0 3.00 23 .00 16 .00 20 . and indeed show an improving trend through the same period. Figure 3 NSW Electricity Demand and Spot Price 26 September 2003 25 10000 9000 20 8000 7000 Spot price $ 15 6000 5000 MW 10 4000 3000 5 2000 1000 0 0 9.00 14 . Soft electricity prices have been a feature of the NEM for the past year.00 Time RRP. Generators are paid for the electricity they sell to the pool.0 0 .0 0 8.0 0 1. Comparison of these prices with marginal costs for generation shown in Table 1 is instructive.

000MWhrs lost production. as the utility may have had surplus capacity in other units at the time and be able to take up the load.000 repair cost per boiler tube failure. Estimating cost of lost production is more problematic.71% translates to approximately 2.6 day outage of a 660MW unit represents 41. Average loss of availability since 1997 of 0. This is an overly simplistic approach however. and the cost of lost p roduction. These periods generally last less than one hour. or average $26. Using the example above. Repair costs are generally in the range $10-$100.000 depending on the extent of damage and difficulty accessing the failure location. this would have cost $12. an average pool price of say $25/MWhr RRP could be assumed and by multiplying the loss MWhrs availability a cost of failure can be estimated. Start up oil costs are presently approximately $200. 2. Figure 4. A rule of thumb for repair costs of $10. in which case the failure costs v irtually nothing in terms of lost production.000. For example. the cost of the repair.1 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Days out of service Nil lost production cost repair High RRP Repair Mean RRP Repair Half RRP Repair . The worst case would be the unit taken out of service with a boiler tube failure when the utility has no surplus capacity and replacement power must be bought at a very high pool price of say an average of $300/MWhr RRP.3M. a 2. Cost of boiler tube failures The cost of boiler tube failures is comprised of three main components.000 per day out of service seems appropriate for NSW.6 days out of service per leak. the cost of start up oil to return unit to service. 4 It is understood that at present this is a highly unlikely scenario. Issue 2) Aug. Cost of boiler tube failure in a 660MW unit 100 10 $M 1 0. at a cost of approximately $1M. the risk of such a confluence of events will rise.Economic analysis of boiler tube failures OMMI (Vol. however as the Australian electricity market tightens over the next three years or so. 6. Based on the the above chart showing electricty prices. 2003 5 Price spikes exceeding $4000 per MW occasionally occur when demand is high and problems with generators or interconnectors restrict supply.

Looking at the total number of failures since 1987. Tube failure reduction has been achieved using targeted management. 7. material defects and corrosion fatigue caused many leaks but h ave now fallen to insignificance. Issue 2) Aug. 2. material defect failures were almost entirely due to sigma phase embrittlement of superheater tube bends at one power station. and in the refurbishment of Liddell and Munmorah power stations. In terms of boiler tube failure prevention these refurbishments addressed reheater standby corrosion and waterwall tube hydrogen embrittlement/corrosion fatigue through large scale tubing replacement works. In the period 1987-1990 large capital investments were made in new plant. Dealing with the prevention of these mechanisms first. In this case prevention was effected by closure of the entire plant during the early days of the program. This effect of reducing tube leaks by closing older plant and commissioning new is shown in Figure 6. Figure 5 Tube failure types 1987-2003 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Gr it e ro sio n Co rro sio nf ati gu e W eld ing Sh de ort fec ter ts m ov erh ea tin g So otb low er ero sio n Of f lo ad co rro sio Hy n dro ge nd St res am sc ag orr e os ion cra ck ing Hi gh tem pc ree p Air ero sio n Th erm al fat igu e M ate ria ld efe cts ero sio n total 1998-03 Since 1998 thermal fatigue. placing great reliance on pro-active measures during scheduled outages. St ea m . grit erosion.Economic analysis of boiler tube failures OMMI (Vol. Cost of prevention of boiler tube failures The occurrence of boiler tube failure mechanisms is shown in Figure 5. Since then no capital spending of any significance has been made to address boiler tube failures and the mean age of plant has been rising continuously. where the curve representing age of plant mirrors somewhat the boiler tube failure curve during the early years . it can be clearly seen that the market position at the time of failure has an overwhelming effect on its total cost. 2003 6 Putting these costs together in Figure 4. and welding defects have caused most failures.

2. 2003 7 Figure 6.000 per outage. Low market prices for electricity have forced utilities to reduce marginal costs and consequently coal ash contents have tended to rise as cheaper coals are purchased. followed by installation of shields as required. Some plants are presently considering replacing economisers.25 leaks per year per boiler) increases. however capital cost of approximately $10.Economic analysis of boiler tube failures OMMI (Vol. Most erosion failures occur at locations that are beyond this conventional management approach. If there is market exposure. higher savings are achieved. As erosion is a progressive mechanism. management of erosion consists of surveys of tube thickness and shield condition. or selective tube replacement if wall thicknesses are below minimum requirements.5 In this case it is the difficulty obtaining access to the tubes for thickness measurements and corrective measures that leads to tube failures. This effect (which has parallels in other progressive mechanisms such as creep and fatigue) tends to increase the probability of failure as plant ages.5M is difficult to justify unless present rate of tube failure (0. however this expenditure has been justified due to rising failure rate estimated as 4 -5 leaks per year per boiler over the next four years. Removal of casing/tube surveys costs approximately $1.1M. Finned economiser tube is such a location due to the double difficulties of poor/impossible access for thickness measurement and shielding. . Economiser tube bends close to casing walls are another such location. It is estimated that such management costs of the order of $30-50. affecting all the plant in NSW. Boiler tube failures 1987-2003 160 140 120 No of boiler tube failures 100 80 60 40 20 0 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 Mean hours service per boiler x1000hrs Installed capacity MW x1000 Year Grit erosion/sootblower erosion is presently the major cause of boiler tube failu res. Casing removal during this work is shown in Figure 7. In most power stations. but prevents the occurrence of approximately 5 -10 leaks per boiler per year. This management therefore saves of the order of $1-2M in repair costs. Issue 2) Aug. the rising age of plants also means tube thicknesses in erosion zones are generally decreasing. (assuming no lost production costs).

shield installation and selective tube replacement Wall thickness data from surveys are shown in Figure 8. Economiser tube bends exposed to conduct tube surveys.5 1 0. Prim Econ Bank Rear Bend wall Thickness Data Average 4. and the steady aging of plant as discussed above. 2003 8 Figure 7.Economic analysis of boiler tube failures OMMI (Vol. Issue 2) Aug.5 0 1 11 21 31 41 51 61 71 81 91 101 111 121 131 141 151 161 171 Minimum Tube No (from RHS to LHS) Thermal fatigue is another failure mechanism that has been on the increase over the past five years. This is a laborious process usually involving local removal of oxide followed by surface non destructive testing. Such a location is shown in Figure 9.This increase is thought to be a result of widespread cycling operation (see Figure 3 for an indication of daily plant cycling trend). . Figure 8. It can be seen that many tubes had wall thickness of 1mm or below.5 4 3.5 Thickness mm 3 2.5 2 1. Thermal fatigue generally occurs at weld toes and its detection during outages requires careful preparation and testing. 2.

Thermal fatigue cracking at saddle lugs welded to a reheater tube. 2. the example of external stress corrosion cracking affecting the stainless steel tubes of the secondary superheater panels in some of the 660MW boilers is instructive. however it is not possible to conduct 100% inspections of all susceptible locations during outages. Presence of highly adherent oxide at weld toes greatly increases time and cost of conducting surveys It is understood that targeted inspections of known problem areas in boilers cost approximately $30-50K per outage. It is therefore expected that the trend of increasing thermal fatigue failures will continue. This success is due to cracking being confined to relatively isolated and by now well known locations which can be fully prepared and inspected during planned outages. Cost of replacement secondary superheaters is estimated at around $5M. These defects usually date from time of construction. detection of these defects is beyond the normal management approach. It is estimated that 1-5 leaks per boiler per year are prevented by this careful management. With the exception of badly profiled/wrongly sized welds which can be found with visual surveys.Economic analysis of boiler tube failures OMMI (Vol. however it achieves full success in preventing tube failures. A feature of the NSW boiler tube failure reduction program has been the continuing success against furnace wall tube hydrogen embittlement and corrosion fatigue. especially in the older power stations. These surveys are effective in detecting cracking. as . an expenditure difficult to justify providing success of present management approach continues. To illustrate this point. This mechanism calls for a very similar mana gement approach to the one used for thermal fatigue (with similar costs per outage of $30-50K). despite the handicap of all work needing to be undertaken from furnace high climbers. Issue 2) Aug. Welding defects are causing a rising number of boiler tube failures. 2003 9 Figure 9. and are distributed randomly throughout the boiler. To date the power stations constructed later than 1980 have not shown many failures of original welds and it is hoped that better non destructive testing undertaken during their construction may have prevented many faulty welds from being placed in service. This is therefore another mechanism where the trend of increasing failures is expected to continue.

It has been the experience in NSW that once these mechanisms take hold they are very difficult to el iminate. For this reason these failures usually take longer to repair and result in greater than average loss of availability. with an expected tightening electricity market likely to increase the cost of boiler tube failures coming at a time when number of failures is expected to rise. Short term stress rupture has caused most creep failures in NSW boilers. Reduction in tube leaks has been achieved without significant capital expenditure. involving vigilance against entry of foreign materials during outages and selective radiography of susceptible locations such as flow restricting devices (both measures estimated to total less than $10K per outage). 2. with the usual culprits being pieces of hacksaw blade. estimated to cost around $70-200K per outage depending on extent of replacements. Ultrasonic bore oxide measurements. In the plants where these mechanisms remain active. Creep life of superheater and reheater tubing is monitored continuously using an online computer based system in most boilers in NSW. The cost of this management has been shown to be significantly less than the cost of the tube leaks saved. . Moderate steam condition chosen for NSW boilers help yield long creep lives for most superheater and reheater tubing. emphasising the importance of constant. 8. This success is even more impressive when it is considered that in the 660MW boilers no tube failures due to these mechanisms have occurred. even in times of a soft electricity market. This trend is expected to continue. Conclusions The NSW boiler tube failure reduction program has saved the industry millions of dollars through dramatically increased availability of boilers. welding debris. 2003 10 shown in Figure 5. rolling programs of planned tube replacement are used to minimise failures. This is reflected in the statistics for 2001 (see Figure 2) when several of these failures occurred in the one year. The root cause is almost invariably foreign material causing steam circuit blockages. and the few failures due to long term creep rupture that have occurred have been confined to some under-designed stages of reheater tubing in some 500MW boilers.Economic analysis of boiler tube failures OMMI (Vol. Issue 2) Aug. erosion. and gasket material. instead relying on targeted management during planned outages. These failures are characterised by the explosive release of large volumes of steam and can therefore quickly create escalating numbers of consequential failures unless the boiler is promptly shut down. A rise in the number of failures over the past five years is attributed to the aging of plant causing increasing numbers of leaks due to thermal fatigue. and occasional tube sampling is also undertaken to cross check results. excellent feedwater control as the major preventative measure. and very close attention to boiler water chemistry. The future presents several challenges. Preventative measures are inexpensive however. coins. and original weld defects.

Draft of 21 March 2003. 3. ECNSW Policy Statement-Boile r Tube Failure Reduction Program. . 2003 11 9. 2. ACIL Tasman. National Electricity Market Management Company official release September 2003. Acknowledgements The author thanks the NSW power station plant owners. Based on communication with boiler plant manager September 2003. Based on communication with power station operations manager. 2. Issue 2) Aug. 17 June 1988. operations staff and asset managers for their continuing cooperation. References 1. SRMC and LRMC of Generators in the NEM. 5. 10. 4.Economic analysis of boiler tube failures OMMI (Vol.

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