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Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical

Engineers, Part E: Journal of Process


Mechanical
Engineering
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Failure Evaluation on a High-Strength Alloy SA213-T91 Super Heater Tube of a Power Generation
J Ahmad, J Purbolaksono, L C Beng and A Ahmad
Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part E: Journal of Process Mechanical Engineering 2010 224:
269
DOI: 10.1243/09544089JPME332
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CASE STUDY

269

Failure evaluation on a high-strength alloy SA213-T91


super heater tube of a power generation
J Ahmad1 , J Purbolaksono2 , L C Beng1 , and A Ahmad2
1
Kapar Energy Ventures Sdn Bhd, Kapar, Malaysia
2
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Universiti Tenaga Nasional, Kajang, Selangor, Malaysia
The manuscript was received on 3 December 2009 and was accepted after revision for publication on 12 April 2010.
DOI: 10.1243/09544089JPME332

Abstract: This article presents failure investigation on a high-strength alloy SA213-T91 superheater tube. This failure is the first occurrence involving the material in Kapar Power Station
Malaysia. The investigation includes visual inspections, hardness measurements, and microscopic examinations. The failed super-heater tube shows a wide open rupture with thin and
blunt edges. Hardness readings on all the as-received tubes are used for estimating the operating
metal temperature of the super-heater tubes. Microstructures of the failed tube show numerous
creep cavities consisting of individual pores and chain of pores which form micro- and macrocracks. The findings confirmed that the super-heater tube is failed by short-term overheating.
Higher temperatures of the flue gas due to the inconsistent feeding of pulverized fuels into the
burner is identified to cause overheating of the failed tube.
Keywords: high-strength alloy steel, failure analysis, hardness measurements, overheating,
micro-structure examinations
1

INTRODUCTION

The enhanced ferritic steels such as grades 91,


92, and 122 have recently been utilized for power
plant applications [1]. As these materials have very
good creep strength, the applications of the materials significantly contributed to fabrication practices, particularly in terms of appropriateness of
the micro-structures in components [2]. In particular, a chromiummolybdenumvanadium steel tube
(SA213-T91) has been available in the market since two
decades ago. The SA213-T91 material has better hightemperature strength and oxidation resistance than
those of the widely used materials such as T11 and T22
[3]. The 9Cr1Mo1V steel was co-developed by the
Combustion Engineering and the Oak Ridge National
Laboratory in the late 1970s [4].
Recently, the first occurrence of the boiler tube
failure involving a high-strength alloy SA213-T91
occurred in Kapar Power Station Malaysia. This article

presents the failure investigation comprising visual


inspections, hardness measurements, and microscopic examinations. Hardness readings on all the
as-received tubes are used for estimating the operating
temperature of the super-heater tubes. Discussions
on the failure mechanism and the root cause are
presented and the recommendations for preventing
similar failure in the future are made.
2

OPERATIONAL BACKGROUNDS

email: judha@uniten.edu.my; j.purbolaksono@gmail.com

After 38 012 h in service, the boiler unit had undergone a planned outage for 45 days. Next, the boiler
unit was returned to service with an average operating
steam pressure of 163 bar (16.3 MPa) for serving loading of 500 MW. Unfortunately, the unit was forced to
shut down, due to the tube leakage involving material
of T91 (9Cr1Mo1 V steel) at the super-heater region
just after running for around 38 h. The failed tube
and 11 other neighbour tubes were then removed and
replaced. The neighbour tubes experienced a localized wall thinning, due to the steam impingement
which was escaping from the failed tube. Figure 1
shows the failed super-heater tube after removal of the
neighbour tubes. The super-heater tubes had an outer
diameter of 50.8 mm and a wall thickness of 7.2 mm.

JPME332

Proc. IMechE Vol. 224 Part E: J. Process Mechanical Engineering

Corresponding

author: Department of Mechanical Engineering,

Universiti Tenaga Nasional, Km 7 Jalan Kajang-Puchong, Kajang,


Selangor 43009, Malaysia.

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270

J Ahmad, J Purbolaksono, L C Beng, and A Ahmad

6. There was no evidence of wall thinning at some


distance away of the rupture region.
7. There was the presence of numerous longitudinal
marks/lines along the side of the ruptured edges.
8. The information most likely indicates that the failed
tube had experienced short-term overheating.
4

Fig. 1 The ruptured super-heater tube in the location


after the removal of the neighbour tubes

3 VISUAL INSPECTIONS

MICROSCOPIC EXAMINATIONS

The metal structures at different locations of the asreceived failed tube are examined. Figure 2 shows
the locations of the samples taken for the examinations (i.e. at the failure region (Locations 2 and 3)
and at 60 cm away from the rupture end (Location
1)). Figures 3 and 4 reveal the presence of numerous
creep cavities either by individual pores or a coalescence of pores. The coalescences have formed microand macro-cracks. Figure 5 shows numerous creep
cavities and a crack propagating towards the inner
surface of the tube (Location 3). The findings of the
microscopic examinations confirmed that the failed
tube had operated at a high temperature prior to
failure.

Visual examination on the as-received failed superheater tube revealed the following features as follows.

1. The tube was failed by a wide open rupture in the


dimension of 13 cm length and 7 cm width and
leaving thin edges (see Location 4, Fig. 2).
2. A half-width of the tube wall with a length of 30 cm
was blown out, and the remaining ruptured part
was leaving blunt edges (see Locations 2 and 3,
Fig. 2).
3. There was no swelling at other parts of the tube.
4. There were no unusual deposits on the external and
internal surfaces.
5. There was no evidence of active corrosion on either
the external or internal surfaces.

Hardness measurements on the tube samples that


experienced a localized wall thinning due to steam
impingement are carried out. The measurement on
the failed tube was also conducted. At the time of
failure, the steam poured out of the boiler tube, leading to an immediate rapid cooling (fast quenching)
process which would significantly influence the hardness value of the tube metal in the vicinity of the
rupture region becoming significantly higher than that
of the other parts. Thus, the sample of the failed
tube was representatively taken from the location of

HARDNESS MEASUREMENTS

Fig. 2 The failed T91 super-heater tube with blunt and thin edges
Proc. IMechE Vol. 224 Part E: J. Process Mechanical Engineering
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JPME332

Failure evaluation on a high-strength alloy SA213-T91 super heater tube of a power generation

Fig. 3

Photomicrographs for Locations 1 and 2 showing micro-structural changes in cavity


formations

Fig. 4

Photomicrographs for Location 3 showing crack with some micro-cracks (in circles) and
creep cavities

Fig. 5

Photomicrographs showing numerous creep cavities and a crack propagating towards the
inner surface of tube (Location 3)

60 cm away from the rupture region. The hardness


readings are then used for estimating the operating
metal temperature at the time of failure, considering
that the operating service is 38 h.
Correlation between hardness (HV) and the Larsen
Miller parameter for 9Cr1Mo1 V steel in the asquenched condition may be expressed as [5]
Hardness (HV) = 933 0.018 25 P

(1)

where P is the LarsenMiller parameter and defined as




9
TC + 492 (C + log t)
(2)
P=
5
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271

in which TC is the temperature in degrees Celsius,


t is the rupture time in hours, and C is a constant
equal to 20.
Equations (1) and (2) are used for estimating the
operating metal temperatures of the as-received tubes
based on the hardness readings, and the estimations
are tabulated in Table 1. It can be seen from Table 1,
the estimated metal temperatures indicated that the
tubes had experienced higher-temperature operation.
The hoop stress h developed in the tube may be
determined as
h = p

(r + (h/2))
h

(3)

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272

J Ahmad, J Purbolaksono, L C Beng, and A Ahmad

Table 1

Estimated operating tube metal temperatures

Number

Tube samples

Hardness
(HV)

Operating
temperatures ( C)

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12

1
2
3
4
5
6
Failed tube
7
8
9
10
11

246
255
260
250
235
235
246
262
271
250
249
248

695.8
683.1
676.0
690.1
711.3
711.3
695.8
673.2
660.5
690.1
691.5
693.0

Table 2 The maximum allowable stresses for different temperature [6]


Temperature ( C)
Maximum allowable
stress (MPa)

566
88.95

593
71.02

621
48.27

649
29.65

Fig. 6

where p is the operational internal pressure, and r


and h are inner radius and wall thickness of the tube,
respectively. Thus, the operating hoop stress can be
calculated equal to 49.35 MPa. The maximum allowable stresses for SA213-T91 for different temperatures
[6] are presented in Table 2. Referring to Table 1
for the estimated metal temperature and Table 2
for the maximum allowable stresses, the operating
hoop stress in the super-heater tubes is found to be
excessive.
Diagram of LarsenMiller parameter with stress
variation to rupture for T91 steel [1] as shown in Fig. 6
may also be utilized to estimate the metal temperature at the rupture region, considering that there
is no scale on the internal surface. Parameter T in
Fig. 6 is the absolute temperature in degrees Kelvin
( C + 273). For the operating stress of 49.35 MPa, the
LarsenMiller parameter obtained by referring to the
minimum curve in Fig. 6 is 32 750. Hence, the metal
temperature at the rupture region may be estimated at
around 732 C. It indicates that the temperature of the
failed tube had gone extremely high.

DISCUSSION

The thin-edge rupture of the failed tube and the severe


deterioration of the metal structure indicated that the
failure was failed by the short-term overheating. The
estimated metal temperature at the time of failure
indicated that the failed tube had operated at much
higher metal temperature than the temperature alarm
of 570 C. The overheating is also confirmed by the
presence of numerous creep cavities, either by individual pores or by chain of pores. The coalescences of

Diagram of LarsenMiller parameter with stress


variations to rupture for grade 91 steel [1]

the pores have formed both micro- and macro-cracks,


resulting in tube rupture.
The estimated temperature of the failed tube based
on the hardness reading is about 695 C (Table 1).
However, as reported by Jones [7] the rupture region
must significantly have a higher temperature. Hardness readings of the 11 neighbour tubes also show
high metal temperature operation. It may indicate
that the high-temperature operation had generally
occurred in the super-heater region. Therefore, the
combustion issue is reasonably suspected to be the
root cause of the failure. It is a more reasonable cause
than that by the tube blockage which usually leads to
steam starvation and overheating. Inconsistent feeding of pulverized fuels into the burner is identified to
cause the fluctuation and uneven distribution of heat
causing a sudden high flue gas temperature.
Even though the failure is most likely caused by
the combustion problem, the issue of tube blockage
should not be totally ruled out. Therefore, in order to
ensure that the internal tube is free from any leftover
of the foreign materials, video boroscope inspections
at the bottom region of vertical super-heater header
are strongly recommended during the next outage.
However, after the feeding of pulverized fuels into the
burner is cautiously taken care of, the boiler unit may
have run normally till the next planned outage.
Several recommendations could be considered to
avoid a similar failure in the future as follows.
1. Combustion issue that includes a pulverized mill
and combustion system inside the boiler furnace
should be addressed correctly.
2. Consistent feeding of the pulverized fuels into the
burner should be maintained.

Proc. IMechE Vol. 224 Part E: J. Process Mechanical Engineering


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JPME332

Failure evaluation on a high-strength alloy SA213-T91 super heater tube of a power generation

CONCLUSIONS

Failure investigation by visual inspections, hardness


measurements, and microscopic examinations on a
high-strength alloy SA213-T91 super-heater tube was
presented. The estimated metal temperatures based
on the hardness readings of the tube samples indicated
higher-temperature operation at the time of failure.
Findings of the microscopic examinations showed
numerous creep cavities consisting of individual pores
and chain of pores forming micro- and macro-cracks.
It may be deduced from the findings that the superheater tube was failed by short-term overheating.
The inconsistent feeding of pulverized fuels into the
burner was identified to cause the fluctuation and
uneven distribution of heat, resulting in a sudden high
flue gas temperature or overheating.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

4 Sikka, V. K., Ward, C. T., and Thomas, K. C. Modified


9Cr1Mo steel an improved alloy for steam generator application. In Ferritic steels for high-temperature
applications, Proceedings of the ASM International Conference on Production, fabrication properties, and applications of ferritic steels for high temperature applications,
Metals Park, Ohio, 1983, pp. 6584.
5 Viswanathan, R., Foulds, J. R., and Roberts, D. A. Method
for estimating the temperature of reheater and superheater tubes in fossils boilers. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Life extension and assessment,
The Hague, 1988.
6 ASME. ASME international electronic stress table, Table
1A: The maximum allowable stress values for ferrous
materials, Section II, Part D of The ASME boiler and pressure vessel code, 1998 (ASME International, New York).
7 Jones, D. R. H. Creep failures of overheated boiler, superheater and reformer tubes. Eng. Fail. Anal., 2004, 11,
873893.

APPENDIX

The authors wish to thank Kapar Energy Ventures


Sdn Bhd Malaysia for permission of utilizing all the
facilities and resources while conducting this study.
Authors 2010
REFERENCES
1 Masuyama, F. Creep rupture life and design factors for
high-strength ferritic steels. Int. J. Press. Vessel Pip., 2007,
84, 5361.
2 Perrin, I. J. and Fishburn, J. D. A perspective on the
design of high-temperature boiler components. Int. J.
Press. Vessel Pip., 2008, 85, 1421.
3 French, D. N. Metallurgical failures in fossil fired boilers, 2nd edition, 1993 (John Wiley and Sons Inc.,
New York).

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273

Notation
C
h
p
P
r
t
T

constant used in LarsenMiller parameter


wall thickness
operational internal pressure
LarsenMiller parameter
inner radius
rupture time
operating temperature

stress

Subscripts
C
h
R

degrees Celsius
hoop
rupture

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