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Thielsch Engineering, Inc.

195 Frances Avenue, Cranston, RI 02910


Tel. (401) 467-6454 Fax (401) 467-2398
E-mail: hthielsch@thielsch.com
Superheater and Reheater Outlet Header
Inspections, Failures and Repairs -
Scheduled and Forced Outage
Considerations
Helmut Thielsch, P.E.
President
Thielsch Engineering, Inc.
Florence Cone
Senior Metallurgical Engineer
Thielsch Engineering, Inc.
Presented at 8
th
Annual Outage
" Best Practices" Conference
August 26 to 28, 2002
Clearwater, Florida
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SUPERHEATER AND REHEATER OUTLET HEADER
INSPECTIONS, FAILURES AND REPAIRS -
SCHEDULED AND FORCED OUTAGE CONSIDERATIONS
Helmut Thielsch, P.E., and
Florence Cone
Thielsch Engineering, Inc.
195 Frances Avenue
Cranston, Rhode Island 02910
ABSTRACT
This paper provides details of a number of failures that have occurred in Superheater and
Reheater Outlet headers. About one-half of these failures resulted in forced outages. The
other half were discovered during scheduled outage inspections.
This paper discusses the methods used to repair those headers, on occasion on a
temporary basis. It also discusses the various inspection techniques which, if utilized as
part of a routine inspection program, are capable of identifying conditions likely to result in
failures.
INTRODUCTION
Failures in Superheater and Reheater Outlet headers are relatively infrequent. Unfortu-
nately, when failures do occur in these components, the necessary repairs may require
several weeks to complete. Due to the substantial costs associated with any forced
outage, it is imperative to perform routine inspections of headers. In this manner, con-
ditions with the potential to result in failures can be identified, monitored and addressed
before they do result in failures.
FAILURES IN HEADERS
Failures in headers can be caused by any one or a combination of the following five factors:
(1) design deficiencies, (2) manufacturing or material defects, (3) fabrication or erection
defects, (4) service-related deterioration or (5) upset operating conditions. The majority of
failures are caused by service-related deterioration, either alone or in conjunction with the
other four factors. Occasionally, failures do occur solely as a result of one of these factors.
Case History No. 1
In November of 1998, after 16 years of service, a Superheater Outlet header at a
generating station located in a midwestern state began leaking steam. The subsequent
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investigation by plant personnel revealed that the leak was the result of a circumferential
crack, Fig. 1. This crack, which was located in tube row No. 4, extended for 360 around
the circumference of the header. Over most of its length, this crack extended through the
full cross-sectional thickness of the header. There was pronounced separation between
the mating fracture surfaces, at some locations measuring as wide as 0.5".
In order to determine the feasibility of repair, two separate but concurrent courses of action
were undertaken. This included a metallurgical evaluation of the failed header to determine
the cause of the cracking and the condition of the entire header remote from the cracking.
It also included an inspection of the failed header and of a second Superheater Outlet
header in the same unit to identify any other cracking or other conditions of deterioration
that might be present in the headers and to determine the extent and severity of that
cracking.
The results of the metallurgical evaluation confirmed that the cracking was the result of
thermal fatigue and that any metallurgical deterioration was confined to the immediate
vicinity of the cracks. (Further investigation confirmed that the design of the header was
marginal, thereby exacerbating the effects of normal operation and any upset operating
conditions, and leading to premature failure.)
The inspection of the headers included borescopic examination which is well suited to
identify ligament cracking. It also included ultrasonic examination. (The latter technique
was utilized to size the depth of any ligament cracking.) The results of the inspection
revealed the presence of ligament cracking in the vast majority of tube rows in both
headers. In the failed header, the most severe cracking was located in tube rows Nos. 1
to 8. In the other header, the most severe cracking was located in tube rows Nos. 37 to 47.
The extent of the cracking was such that it would take many months to repair each and
every crack by welding. (Replacement of the headers would have required a significantly
longer period, approximately six to nine months.) As such, a decision was made to
investigate the possibility of allowing some ligament cracking to remain in place until the
headers could be replaced during a regularly scheduled plant outage.
Calculations were made to establish the size of ligament cracking that could be safely left
in place for 18 months, at which point the unit was scheduled to undergo an extended
outage. These calculations confirmed that ligament cracking with a depth of less than 1.0"
could be left in place without endangering the operating integrity of the headers during the
next 18 months of service.
The repair program ultimately implemented involved removing those sections of the
headers with the most severe cracking and replacing them. (The replacement sections
were fabricated from pipe produced in accordance with ASME Specification SA-335,
Grade P22. The pipe was furnished with an outside diameter of 16" and a nominal
thickness of 3.5". Thus, it represented the same seamless pipe used in the fabrication of
the original header.)
In those instances where the ligament cracking still in place exceeded 1.0" in depth, the
cracks were excavated and the resultant cavities repaired by welding.
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The photographs provided in Fig. 2 illustrate one of the headers during in-place machining.
The photograph provided in Fig. 3 illustrates the final bevel on the remaining portion of the
original header. The photographs provided in Fig. 4 illustrate a replacement section being
positioned, fit up and welded.
The repairs to the Superheater Outlet headers were completed in substantially less than
two months, thereby minimizing the length of the forced outage. The repair welded
headers provided satisfactory service until they could be replaced 18 months later.
Case History No. 2
The previous case history is somewhat unusual in that the Superheater Outlet header in
question experienced a guillotine-type failure after approximately 16 years of service.
While ligament cracking is not uncommon in Superheater Outlet headers, it typically results
in more gradual deterioration, i.e., the type that can be effectively monitored by periodic
inspections. The header shown in Fig. 5 is a case in point. Fabricated from pipe produced
in accordance with ASME Specification SA-335, Grade P22, it had an outside diameter of
11-3/4" and a wall thickness of 2-7/8".
The photographs provided in Fig. 6 illustrate the ligament cracking discovered in this
header after 130,000 hours of service at a pressure of 1,900 psig and a temperature of
1000F. As is apparent, the ligament cracking varied somewhat in severity, ranging
between 1/8" and 3/4" in length (the full width of the available ligament). In the worst case,
it was estimated to extend 30% into the available cross-sectional thickness.
The photographs provided in Fig. 7 illustrate the ligament cracking in the same header after
180,000 hours of service. The cracking had not changed appreciably in severity. This
header thus has continued to be operated, with periodic inspections monitoring the integrity
of the header.
Case History No. 3
At some point, ligament cracking will progress to such an extent that repair or replacement
of the subject header becomes imperative. (The decision to repair or replace is dependent
upon a variety of factors. However, as a general rule of thumb, it is typically impractical to
repair Superheater Outlet headers subject to ligament cracking except in instances where
the ligament cracking is of limited incidence. This is due to the fact that the ligament cracks
must be excavated from the outside diameter of the header. The heavier the wall thickness
of the header, the more welding that will be required to effect a repair.)
The header shown in Fig. 8 is a case in point. This header, placed in service in 1952, was
fabricated from pipe produced in accordance with ASME Specification SA-148, Grade P3B,
a 2 Cr - 1/2 Mo low-alloy steel. The header had accumulated well in excess of 375,000
hours of service. The original operating conditions involved a pressure of 1,350 psi at a
temperature of 1000F. During recent years, the operating temperature has been reduced
to 950F.
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An inspection of this header performed in March of 2002 confirmed that it was subject to
severe ligament cracking. In a number of cases, the ligament cracking extended across
the full width of the ligament, Fig. 9. Moreover, in a number of instances, the cracking
extended approximately 80% over the length of the tube bore, Fig. 10. Ultrasonic sizing
of representative cracks confirmed that the cracks exhibited the "bathtub-shaped"
morphology typical of ligament cracking. Away from the tube holes, the ligament cracks
comprised between 30% and 60% of the available cross-sectional thickness.
The inspection of the header also revealed cracking in the header-to-tube welds. This
included circumferential cracking, Fig. 11. It also included radial cracking, Fig. 12.
A metallurgical evaluation was performed on a sample removed from this header. This
metallurgical evaluation confirmed that the ligament cracking in the header was the result
of thermal fatigue, Fig. 13. Some creep deterioration was observed associated with the
ligament cracking, however it was predominantly confined to the immediate vicinity of the
ligament cracks.
Based upon the results of the metallurgical evaluation which confirmed that the header was
extremely unlikely to experience a catastrophic failure, i.e., a failure with the potential to
result in injuries to plant personnel, the Superheater Outlet header was returned to service.
At some point in the foreseeable future, this header will have to be replaced or the unit
retired.
Case History No. 4
As noted previously, the repair of ligament cracking in heavy-wall headers may not be cost
effective. This is not the case for ligament cracking in light-wall headers, e.g., Reheater
Outlet headers. Ligament cracking was discovered in the Reheater Outlet header shown
in Fig. 14 when the tube stubs were removed in preparation for retubing of the Reheater
section. The cracking, shown in Fig. 15, was moderate in severity. It was unlikely to result
in a leak within the next several years. Despite this, a decision was made to repair the
header. The retubing provided a perfect opportunity.
The repairs involved localized excavation of the cracking by arc air gouging and grinding,
Fig. 16. This was followed by welding and postweld heat treatment of the completed welds.
This 2-1/4 Cr - 1 Mo low-alloy steel header, after the repairs, has continued to provide
satisfactory service at the operating temperature of 1000F, as confirmed by intermittent
inspections.
Case History No. 5
The header shown in Fig. 17 was manufactured using rolled plate produced in accordance
with ASME Specification SA-387, Grade D, a 2-1/4 Cr - 1 Mo low-alloy steel. It had an
outside diameter of 18" and a wall thickness of 3.302".
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The intended operating conditions for this header involved a pressure of 2,050 psi at a
temperature of 1050F. Reportedly, there was some temperature variation along the length
of the header, with the quarter points operating 20F higher.
After approximately 250,000 hours of operation, a leak developed through the seam weld
in this header. The subsequent investigation by plant personnel confirmed that the leak
was the result of a longitudinal crack. On the outside diameter surface of the header, this
crack had an overall length of 30.5". Ultrasonic examination confirmed that this crack was
substantially longer on the inside diameter surface of the header, approximately 7 ft. in
length.
The subsequent investigation by plant personnel also revealed that one of the hangers
supporting the header had cracked during previous operation, Fig. 18. The failure of this
support had allowed the header to sag approximately 0.5" in the vicinity of the leak.
Several samples were removed from the cracked header in an effort to determine the
cause of the cracking and to establish the condition of the header remote from the cracking.
This information would be necessary to determine the feasibility of repairs by welding.
One of the samples removed involved a plug sample, Fig. 19. This plug sample, although
it would complicate any subsequent repair activities, was particularly useful because it
permitted the full cross-sectional thickness of the header to be evaluated.
When this plug sample was examined visually, it was apparent that the inside diameter
surface did not parallel the outside diameter surface. Rather, it had a much greater degree
of concavity than would be typical. It was subsequently determined that the concavity was
introduced during fabrication of the header. Specifically, the longitudinal seam weld
present in this header was machined to remove any reinforcement. The machining
performed along the inside diameter surface of the header resulted in the removal of
excessive metal. The wall thickness values recorded on the plug sample ranged between
3.140" and 3.559". The minimum wall thickness value recorded at the seam weld location
was 5% below the design minimum wall thickness, and 12% less than the maximum
recorded wall thickness of the header base metal.
When the samples removed from the header were evaluated metallurgically, it was
subsequently determined that the crack was located at the approximate centerline of the
longitudinal seam weld, Fig. 20. Advanced creep deterioration was observed immediately
adjacent to the crack. This included void formation, void linkage and microfissuring. At a
slight distance from the primary crack, the creep damage was limited to isolated void
formation.
The base metal was also examined. It did exhibit microstructural transformations asso-
ciated with the prior years of high-temperature service including carbide spheroidization
and agglomeration. There was, however, no evidence of creep deterioration.
The results of the metallurgical evaluation confirmed that repairs by welding were possible
and that they could be considered permanent in nature. (Any material subject to advanced
creep deterioration would be removed during the excavation of the crack.)
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The results of the metallurgical evaluation also confirmed that the cracking in the seam
weld was the result of several factors. This included the 12% reduction in wall thickness
created by the cosmetic machining of the seam weld. It also included the fact that the weld
had been completed using a low-carbon filler material. (The carbon content of a low-alloy
steel weld deposit has a direct influence on its resistance to creep deterioration; the lower
the carbon content, the lower will be the creep resistance.) The third factor contributing to
the failure of the header was the bending stresses introduced into the header when the
hanger supporting it failed, allowing it to sag 0.5".
The repairs to the header were completed in accordance with a proprietary low-stress
welding procedure. It involved excavating the crack in its entirety using both arc air
gouging and grinding. Due to the width of the resultant root gap, it was considered prudent
to utilize backing bar segments. The welding was performed utilizing the shielded metal
arc (SMAW) or "stick" welding process. The final weld, Fig. 21, was postweld heat treated
at a temperature of 1250F. It should be noted also that a final weld reinforcement of 3/8"
was provided to compensate for the original counterbore on the inside of the header.
This header has now been in service for about 13 years subsequent to the repair of the
seam weld. No further cracking has occurred at the location of the seam weld.
Case History No. 6
The photographs provided in Fig. 22 illustrate a Superheater Outlet header installed at a
midwestern utility. These photographs were taken after the fillet weld securing an
inspection cap to the west end of the header had failed catastrophically. Fortunately, the
3,600 psi steam escaping from the 3-1/4" hole was contained within the penthouse above
the boiler.
During the course of the investigation, it was determined that the inspection caps on this
and the other Superheater Outlet header in this unit were installed several years after the
unit had been placed in service. The Original Equipment Manufacturer directed that the
fillet welds attaching these inspection caps to the header have a throat measurement of
3/4".
Measurements performed on the fillet weld that failed, Fig. 23, confirmed that it was grossly
undersized, having a throat measurement of 3/8". This fabrication deficiency resulted in
the weld being subject to stresses substantially higher than intended by the designer. This
in turn resulted in accelerated creep deterioration in the weld. Amazingly, despite being
grossly undersized, this fillet weld was in service for 15 years before it ultimately failed.
Case History No. 7
A similar failure occurred in a Superheater Outlet header owned and operated by a north-
eastern utility, Fig. 24. The inspection cap, shown in Fig. 25, was installed as part of OEM
recommended modifications to the header. The metallurgical evaluation confirmed that the
failure was the combined result of an undersized weld (1" throat versus the recommended
1.5" throat) in conjunction with the use of a low-alloy steel filler material with a low carbon
content to complete the fillet weld in the chromium-molybdenum alloy steel header.
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Case History No. 8
The header shown in Fig. 26 is located in the High Temperature Superheater of a boiler
owned and operated by a northeastern utility. This header, which was forged and bored
from a 2-1/4 Cr - 1 Mo low-alloy steel billet, was placed into commercial operation in 1955.
The operating conditions involve a pressure of 2,460 psi at a temperature of 1050F.
In 1977, the High Temperature Superheater was retubed. The tube stubs were supposed
to be replaced at that time. However, it appears that the contractor neglected to do this,
electing instead to build up the existing header-to-tube welds by a process of weld
overlaying.
In 1986, a firm performing inspection of the header recommended its replacement, citing
accelerated creep deterioration. The owner chose to delay replacement of the header,
instead instituting a program of periodic inspection and repair. The most recent inspection,
approximately 16 years after the recommendation for replacement, did reveal cracking in
a number of header-to-tube welds. This cracking, the typical appearance of which is
illustrated in Figs. 27 and 28, was caused by bending stresses, thermal fatigue associated
with cyclic service as well as residual welding stresses introduced during the weld
overlaying of the header-to-tube welds performed in 1977.
All of the cracks were removed by grinding. Only four of the resultant cavities were
sufficiently deep to require repairs by welding.
Using this approach of periodic inspection and maintenance, the owner considerably
extended the life expectancy of this header without experiencing an unacceptable number
of forced outages. (Of course, the owner probably spent somewhat more money on
inspection and maintenance than he otherwise would have.) Nevertheless, the continued
operation of the header was considered to be safe and cost effective.
Case History No. 9
In some instances leaks in header-to-tube welds, in addition to resulting in forced outages,
may also result in damage to the body of the header itself. The Reheater Outlet header
shown in Fig. 29 is a case in point. A leak in a header-to-tube weld had gone undetected
for some period of time. The steam escaping from the header, at a pressure of 475 psig
and a temperature of 1000F, eroded the header along the outside surface. The resultant
grooves, oriented radially, were present over an arc of approximately 120. The most
severe groove had an overall length of approximately 6" and a maximum depth in excess
of 1". The depth of the grooves was such that after repairs by welding, it was necessary
to subject the header to a postweld heat treatment.
Case History No. 10
The header-to-tube weld shown in Fig. 30 had failed catastrophically after approximately
10 years of service. The failure was unusual in that the header-to-tube weld had pulled
completely free of the header, leaving behind a "donut-shaped" cavity. The shape of the
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cavity indicated that the cracking that produced the catastrophic failure paralleled closely
the fusion line of the header-to-tube weld.
The inspection of the remaining header-to-tube welds on this header confirmed that over
50 header-to-tube welds were subject to similar cracking, albeit not as severe.
(Interestingly, when exploratory grinding was performed on header-to-tube welds that were
free of surface cracking, cracking was discovered approximately 1/8" below the surface.
This subsurface cracking followed the same pattern exhibited by the header-to-tube welds
containing visible cracking. It followed the header side toe of the header-to-tube weld.)
A metallurgical evaluation performed on samples removed from the header-to-tube welds
confirmed that the cracking was the result of advanced creep deterioration. The creep, the
typical appearance of which is illustrated in Figs. 31 and 32 was confined predominantly
to the fine-grained, low-temperature heat-affected zone. The results of the metallurgical
evaluation further confirmed that the creep was due to the fact that the header had not
been supplied in accordance with the chemical composition requirements of the specified
material grade. It was supposed to be a 2-1/4 Cr - 1 Mo low-alloy steel. Instead, it
contained less than 0.5% chromium and less than 0.25% molybdenum. The header also
contained surprisingly large amounts of nickel (0.5%) and copper (0.3%).
The material discrepancy was significant in that the strength and therefore the creep
resistance of a steel is heavily influenced by alloy content. Thus, the creep resistance of
the header as furnished would have been significantly less than that of a header of the
specified material grade. The effect on the creep-rupture properties of the header was of
sufficient magnitude that the header-to-tube welds cracked, and in one case failed, in only
10 years of service.
Although material discrepancies of this type are uncommon, they do occur. It is for this
reason that owners and operators of power plants should give consideration to performing
Positive Material Identification (PMI) for any new construction or major repair.
Case History No. 11
The header shown in Fig. 33 was fabricated from ASME Specification SA-335, Grade P22
pipe. The pipe was furnished with a nominal thickness of 5.0". (The actual wall thickness
was 5-1/4".)
The header was placed in service in 1969. The operating conditions involved a
temperature of 1005F and a pressure of 3,800 psi.
In 1991, after 121,000 hours of service, the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)
performed an inspection to monitor the ligament cracking known to exist in the header. The
remote visual (borescopic) inspection confirmed the presence of the ligament cracking, Fig.
34. It also revealed a linear indication extending approximately 8 ft. along the inside
diameter surface of the header, Fig. 35. The OEM performed an ultrasonic examination
in the area of the linear indication and recorded ultrasonic signals or reflectors which were
interpreted as progressive cracking extending 3-1/2" or 70% through the available cross-
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sectional thickness, Fig. 36. The OEM recommended replacement of the header to be
accomplished within 6 months of the inspection.
The utility, in the interest of prudence, requested a second opinion. The videotape
documenting the cracking that existed in the header was carefully reviewed. At that time,
it was noted that the cracking had not progressed in the ligaments between adjacent tube
holes. Rather, it "skimmed" the edges of the tube holes in a tangential fashion, Fig. 37.
This is not typical of cracking produced by hoop stresses, making it extremely unlikely that
the cracking was in fact 3-1/2" deep. To further confirm this, the header was inspected
using the radiographic examination technique. This inspection revealed slight fissuring
extending off the tube holes in a "starburst" pattern typical of ligament cracking. There was,
however, no additional longitudinal cracking between adjacent tube holes. Based upon the
results of this inspection, the utility was advised that the longitudinal cracking was
superficial in nature, probably less than 1/4" in depth, and related strictly to thermal fatigue,
i.e., intermittent wetting and drying of the inside diameter surface of the header, most likely
as a result of condensate flashing to steam during start-up.
Due to conflicting opinion, the Authorized Inspector requested the utility to remove a
through-wall plug sample from the header. This was accomplished using a magnetic-based
drill equipped with a 4" diameter hole saw, Fig. 38.
The visual and nondestructive examinations of the plug sample, shown in Figs. 39 and 40,
confirmed that the cracking was superficial "craze-type" cracking that related to thermal
fatigue. It extended less than 1/8" into the available cross-sectional thickness.
The "reflectors" or indications initially interpreted as cracks actually represented laminations
and/or stringer inclusions present in the pipe from which the Superheater Outlet header had
been fabricated. The photographs provided in Fig. 41 illustrate these indications as
revealed by liquid penetrant examination. The photographs provided in Fig. 42 illustrate
these indications as revealed by optical microscopy.
The 4" diameter 5-1/4" deep through-wall hole saw cavity was subsequently rewelded
through the full cross section. After a stress relief heat treatment and a complete
nondestructive examination, the header was returned to service. (The total scheduled
outage period involved a period of 7 days from the initial shut down to the return to
operations.)
Subsequent inspections have confirmed the continued soundness of the header at the
location of the laminations and of the repair weld areas.
Case History No. 12
An ultrasonic examination of another Superheater Outlet header in a southwestern state
performed in 1994 resulted in a report of progressive cracking extending 50% into the 4.10"
wall thickness of the 26.75" OD header. The header represented a 2-1/4 Cr - 1 Mo alloy
steel subject to an operating temperature of 1000EF and a pressure of 450 psi. The header
was fabricated from plate produced in accordance with ASME Specification SA-387,
Grade D.
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The shell section was rejected by the initial inspection contractor. Repairs by welding were
subsequently scheduled by the plant operator. Subsequent re-evaluations by the perfor-
mance of ultrasonic, radiographic and borescopic examinations and comparisons of the
results against extensive crack identification standards, confirmed that the indications
initially identified as cracks actually represented patterns significantly different from
progressive cracks that have been evaluated by sectioning pressure vessels, headers,
drums and piping.
The initial inspection results thus were accepted as inconsequential material defects
representing nonmetallic inclusions or laminations in the header material. Subsequent
reinspections have confirmed that there have been no changes in the position of these
indications.
A scheduled long repair outage thus was shortened by several weeks. This Superheater
Outlet header continues to provide satisfactory service.
Case History No. 13
Fig. 43 illustrates parallel Superheater Outlet headers installed at a midwestern utility. The
unit in which these headers was installed had been brought off line due to leaks. The
subsequent investigation by plant personnel confirmed that the initial leak was the result
of transverse cracking in a header-to-tube weld, Fig. 44. Additional transverse and
circumferential cracking was present in varying degrees in approximately 70% of the
header-to-tube welds, Fig. 45.
The transverse cracking was the result of unusually high residual welding stresses
introduced during prior repair welding of the header-to-tube welds. The circumferential
cracking occurred during normal operation (although residual stresses may have played
a contributory role).
The high-pressure fluid escaping through the transverse cracks caused erosion damage
on various other tubes, Fig. 46, and the body of the header.
The headers were then repaired by welding. The repairs included replacing those tubes
subject to erosion, weld overlaying the body of the header, and repair of those with the
potential to produce leaks within one year of additional service.
Case History No. 14
In 1988 after 250,000 hours of operation the high-temperature Superheater tube pendants
on a Secondary Superheater Outlet header were being replaced. The header had originally
been placed in service in 1957, Fig. 47. It consisted of a forging produced to ASME
Specification SA-182, Grade F22, representing a 2-1/4 Cr - 1 Mo alloy steel. Until 1988 the
operating conditions involved a temperature of 1050F and a pressure of 2700 psi.
When the tube stubs were removed from the header, cracking was observed in a number
of tube holes.
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An inspection was performed to assess the remaining life of the Superheater Outlet
headers. This included liquid penetrant examination of the accessible tube holes, and
videoborescopic examination of both headers.
As shown in Fig. 48, the cracking in this header initiated at the corners of the tube holes.
It then progressed along the inside diameter surface of the header toward adjacent tube
holes, while at the same time progressing along the bore of the individual tube holes toward
the outside diameter surface of the header. This is typical of cracking produced by thermal
fatigue.
The inspection of this header also included a metallurgical evaluation of a sample removed
from the worst-case ligament cracking, Fig. 49. The cracking, as it progressed into the
cross-sectional thickness of the header, was widened significantly as a result of corrosion
fatigue. This aspect makes ligament cracking sometimes appear significantly more severe
than it actually is.
The results of the inspection confirmed that the ligament cracking in the Superheater Outlet
headers was confined to the midspan of each header. It also confirmed that the ligament
cracking was moderate in severity. The headers would be expected to provide satisfactory
service for many additional years. The only repairs deemed necessary were those to the
ligament from which the sample had been removed, Fig. 50. However, the operating
temperature has been reduced from 1050F to 1000EF. The header has now continued
to be in service for an additional 100,000 hours.
Case History No. 15
The original shop fabrication and welding performed by the fabricator of a Superheater or
Reheater Outlet header can also affect significantly the tendency toward cracking and the
need for forced outages.
In identical Superheater Outlet headers involving 2-1/4 Cr - 1 Mo alloy steel composition
installed in two units in a northeastern power plant, extensive and repeated cracking
occurred on opposite sides of the tubes in the outer circumference of the header-to-tube
welds, Fig. 51. The cracking followed the fusion line of the welds along the heat-affected
zone of the headers. During the initial 45,000 hours of operation of the header in Unit No.
1, 43 failures resulting in steam leaks occurred.
The original welding had been performed by the header fabricator by the flux-cored welding
process with an inadequate preheat treatment. Repair welding of the header-to-tube welds
involving a wider groove was performed by the shielded metal-arc process. This solved
the problem with cracks recurring only on very rare occasions.
The two headers have now been in service for 250,000 hours.
Case History No. 16
A Secondary Superheater Outlet header in a northeastern power plant was inspected by
the Original Equipment Manufacturer for its suitability for continued service in 1986. This
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header had been fabricated from 24" diameter by 4.875" wall pipe produced to ASME
Specification SA-335, Grade P11. This represented a 1-1/4 Cr - 1/2 Mo alloy steel. This
header originally had been placed in service in 1961. At the time of the inspection in 1987,
the header had been in service for 177,000 hours at a temperature of 1005F and a
pressure of 2200 psi.
The initial inspection resulted in the conclusion that the header had experienced creep and
needed to be replaced.
Subsequently, a 4" diameter plug sample was removed from the header with a hole saw,
Fig. 52, for a detailed metallurgical evaluation. Inspection through the hole where the plug
sample had been removed revealed very minor fissuring on the inside of the tube holes,
Fig. 53.
Metallurgical examination of the header plug sample across the 4.875" wall thickness
confirmed the absence of creep. The satisfactory condition of the header material was also
confirmed by stress rupture testing and the comparison of the test results with published
Larson-Miller data.
GENERAL COMMENTS
The case histories discussed herein illustrate the potential for failures to occur in
Superheater and Reheater Outlet headers. Due to the potential for failure, this type of
equipment should be subjected to periodic inspections. Although scheduled outages are
most cost effective, about one-half of header failures causing steam leaks through the
headers cause forced outages. However, if header-to-tube welds are included in forced
outage statistics (as described in Case Histories 10 and 15), then the majority of
Superheater Outlet failures represent forced outages.
The initial inspection should be performed before the header is placed in service (and
preferably before it is installed in the boiler). This inspection should include material
verification. It should also include visual examination of the welds on the header to confirm
that they are of adequate size and free of visible defects.
The subsequent in-service inspection program for headers should include several non-
destructive examination techniques. These include wet fluorescent magnetic particle
examination of the header-to-tube welds, any other attachment welds, and all girth and
seam welds, to detect any cracking and/or fissuring that might be present in the welds, the
adjacent heat-affected zones or the adjacent base material. (The girth and seam welds
should also be subjected to ultrasonic examination to detect the presence of any
subsurface cracking or defects.)
The inspection program for headers should also include metallurgical evaluation using
replication, hardness testing, and if warranted, sample removal to determine the material
condition of the header and to identify any evidence of microstructural degradation
associated with the prior years of high-temperature service. (It should be recognized,
however, that the microstructure along the outside surface of the header, because of
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decarburization, frequently differs from the microstructure 1/8" to 1/4" below the header
surface.)
Header inspections should also include remote visual (borescopic) examination of the
inside diameter surface of the header. If ligament cracking is discovered, ultrasonic
examination may be necessary to size the depth of the cracking.
Of course, any condition revealed by an inspection must be evaluated carefully to
determine its cause and significance. Some conditions may lead to leaks and potentially
catastrophic ruptures. In the majority of instances, however, the conditions observed are
noncritical.
If a condition is determined to be noncritical, it should be left in place and monitored on an
as-needed basis. If a condition is determined to be critical, the feasibility of repair versus
replacement should be evaluated.
Headers can generally be repaired by welding. Repair welding, if performed properly, can
very significantly extend the life of a header. Moreover, in most cases, repair welding is
generally more attractive than replacement with respect to both cost and schedule. Many
headers after well planned and executed repair welding programs have now provided
entirely safe and satisfactory service for periods of 10, 20 and even more years of service.
Despite this, repair welding of headers should not be undertaken lightly. In a number of
instances, seemingly minor repairs have produced major cracking in a very short period of
time because of inappropriate welding procedures, inexperienced welders, or inadequate
control over the repair welding process.