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Mid-Life Review of Repowered Boiler OMMI (Vol.

3, Issue 2) August 2004




S W Cameron & D J Irving, Mitsui Babcock Energy Limited, UK


This paper describes a review to confirm the fitness for purpose of a utility boiler for
continued use, following over twenty years service and a history of varying operating
regimes. The design study and the subsequent inspection identified components at risk and
confirmed their integrity for the future. An upgrade of the on-line temperature monitoring
system was also implemented to ensure operations personnel received data which was
relevant and accurate.

In addition, thoughts on the practical aspects, which should be taken into account during the
planning and execution of such an exercise, are presented. These demonstrate how important
it is that the organisation conducting the review, in this case an OEM and engineering
contractor, understands the asset owner’s business drivers.

1. Introduction

In order to retain competitive advantage, it is increasingly important that suppliers of

engineering equipment and services understand the economic and legislative pressures on
their clients. Operators of large-scale utility power plant need to satisfy the demands of
investors and shareholders by maximising revenues from, and maximising the life of,
operating assets while minimising unscheduled downtime. Meanwhile, compliance with
legislation and insurers’ requirements also demands the highest levels of safety and
mechanical integrity.

This paper describes the mid-life review performed on a 660MW oil and gas fired utility
boiler originally commissioned in 1980, and re-powered in 1999. The asset owner was
seeking to ensure maximum plant life and avoidance of failures, while the insurers were
seeking reassurance that measures were in place to minimise the possibility of component
failures. The approach taken to conduct the review was designed to take the operator’s
business issues into account.

2. Plant Configuration and Operating History

2.1 Boiler Design Parameters

The boiler is a Mitsui Babcock Energy Limited (formerly Babcock & Wilcox Operations
(UK) Limited) 660MW El Paso design, configured to fire NGL and/or HFO through 36 off
opposed wall fired burners. Steam conditions are 166.5 Barg/541 degC with reheat steam at
51 barg/541 degC. There are three stages of superheat, a two stage reheater, and there are two
Mid-Life Review of Repowered Boiler OMMI (Vol.3, Issue 2) August 2004 2

stages of attemperation between the superheat stages. To encourage uniform temperatures

across the total width, a mixing arrangement of manifolds split the steam flow into four
distinct passes, and swapped them between the centre and wing sections of the furnace.

2.2 Operating History

Following first synchronisation in 1980, operation was fairly constant at high load, using both
NGL and HFO, although seldom with both at the same time. The introduction of repowering,
which comprises 3 off GT/HRSG units, resulted in greater variation in the operating regime,
and introduced greater potential for fatigue damage. Figure 1 shows an overview of
operation (fuel mix and start frequency) from commissioning to the time of the review.

At the time of the review, the unit had operated for almost 110,000 hours (having been
designed for 150,000) with gas being fired for 81% of the operating period. The unit had
experienced over 400 starts, which were equally split between gas and oil.

3. Mid-Life Review

3.1 Review Scope

The design study phase of the review mainly concentrated on identifying components likely
to have endured damage (primarily due to creep), and to rank these in order of vulnerability.
The detailed scope was developed between Mitsui Babcock and the client throughout the
duration of the study. Original design data was used to create an initial list, with the main
components of interest comprising headers, manifolds and stubs in the primary, secondary
and tertiary superheat passes, and at the reheat outlet. Examination of the design stress
against BS1113 stress tables allowed a first approximation of ranking. It was considered that
components designed on the basis of yield properties were not susceptible to high creep strain
rates compared with those designed using rupture properties. Past inspection records and the
component replacement history were also taken into account when recommending the areas
for detailed analysis.

The final superheater and reheater outlet headers were calculated to be likely to require
further analysis, and the operational behaviour of these items was therefore reviewed to assess
the real risk of creep damage. The historical record indicated that certain components had
operated for periods above the design conditions, to varying degrees, with an example shown
in Figure 2. Temperature information was used to calculate the creep life of the components
of interest in accordance with the instructions set out in GOM 101 (Robinson’s Life Fraction
Rule). Some isolated branch nozzle geometries were analysed using the Reference Stress
Method to take account of the scatter in available creep rupture data, which may otherwise
have led to conservative life estimates.

Prior to any hands on assessment or remedial work, the client also wished to work alongside
Mitsui Babcock to develop an inspection plan. Recommendations for application of other
diagnostic techniques were also sought, together with specifications for upgrading the on-line
temperature monitoring system. The detailed scope of these activities was specified in detail
once the findings from the design review were known. The condition assessment was
subsequently performed on selected boiler components, together with some main steam and
hot reheat pipework welds, using a combination of metallography and NDT, and by applying
Mid-Life Review of Repowered Boiler OMMI (Vol.3, Issue 2) August 2004 3

a risk based approach. Ultrasonic inspection of the pipework was achieved through
deployment of a semi automated ultrasonic scanning system (Figure 3), which is particularly
adept at identifying fatigue related bore cracking, as observed on several other power stations.
The monitoring system upgrade comprised replacement or addition of over 100
thermocouples (dead space and steam side), together with controls and indicators, data
recording equipment, displays and integration into the central control desk.

3.2 Main Findings

The design based assessment predicted the highest levels of life usage were in the primary,
secondary and tertiary superheater and reheater outlet headers. The greatest damage was
calculated to have accumulated during the early years of operation, i.e. during high load
steady state operation.

The condition assessments revealed no cause for concern due to creep damage on the boiler,
although there were varying degrees of carbide spheroidisation on three components. These
were classified in line with industry practice, with no further action recommended. Other
minor flaws (thought to have been of manufacturing origin) showed no sign of in-service
propagation and again required no action. Two locations with creep damage were detected in
the main steam pipes, and these were subjected to grinding and dressing to prevent further

The unit was considered fit for further continued use until its next statutory inspection.

4. Practical Considerations

4.1 Design Review

The design review was awarded on the basis that the scope would be developed during
execution of the project. This would ensure the correct components were analysed in full,
while avoiding unnecessary analysis on areas where it became obvious there was no need for
concern. Proceeding on this basis ensured that the commercial pressures of the operator and
the requirements of the insurers were continuously taken into account.

The programme duration was based on the date of the outage so that the critical path activities
within the design study could, therefore, change as the focus on specific components changed.
It also had to be recognised that site related activities, i.e. condition assessments and remedial
work, could only be specified in detail once the design study findings were confirmed, and
that site activities had to be completed within the scheduled downtime. The fluid nature of
the scope required rigorous controls to be applied to ensure engineers were aware of the
impact their work was having on the overall schedule, and priorities might have to change.

Although Mitsui Babcock is OEM for the unit, it is not believed this provided a significant
advantage during execution of the design study, although possession of design information
possibly saved some time early in the project. As long as the original contract data sheets are
available, the quality of a study such as this is governed by the competence and experience of
the engineers. This opinion is backed up by the experience gained by MBEL when
performing similar studies on plant designed and supplied by others. A more significant
factor was the ability to apply the wide-ranging skills of in-house personnel. This was
Mid-Life Review of Repowered Boiler OMMI (Vol.3, Issue 2) August 2004 4

especially true when the design review was drawing to a close, at which point the inspection
teams were planning their tasks, and also when skilled trades were required to provide on-site
services. This prevented the client having to manage multiple interfaces, thereby bringing
associated cost advantages.

4.2 Condition Assessments and Monitoring System Upgrade

The effort required during the planning of site activities and the need for good communication
were very evident, as was the ability to work flexibly. The latter included being prepared to
change the scope to achieve economic benefits for the client, without adversely affecting the
end product. This was seen to be the case when the NDT and metallography teams were
issuing instructions for the plant to be prepared for inspection. Again, provision of the full
service from one organisation provided the platform to ensure all those involved were aware
of their own and others’ responsibilities, rather than expect the client, still coping with the day
to day issues associated with the asset itself, to do so.

For one off projects of this nature, continuity of personnel is clearly preferred, but unforeseen
circumstances can arise, which prevent this being possible, as can situations which can be
taken into account in advance such as working time directives. An organisation having the
“critical mass” to make replacement of specialist personnel with others already familiar with
the procedures and principles being employed again makes the management more
straightforward for the client, especially when the work is reliant on a relatively small number
of individuals (in this case less than 10).

The locations for new monitoring instrumentation were specified based on the process
conditions and material properties. However, there were occasions when site conditions made
it either unfeasible or cost prohibitive to apply the instrumentation at the exact locations. It
was, therefore, important that the engineers overseeing the installation were sufficiently
competent to know that other adjacent locations would suffice, to retain the balance between
practical aspects of installation against the value of the data. While no detailed analysis was
performed to assess the economic savings achieved by adopting a flexible approach, it would
be considerable compared with the actual installation cost, particularly when special measures
would have to be taken to gain access, e.g. via scaffolding.

Previous investment in instrumentation and data acquisition systems has proved invaluable
when performing the study, especially in the prediction of remaining life. The client on this
project is particularly enlightened in this respect and will have gained economic benefits
through the ability to scrutinise the plant continuously as well as proving the suitability for
continued and sustained operation to the appropriate bodies and stakeholders.

5. Conclusions

A mid-life review was performed on a repowered boiler with almost 25 years of highly
variable operation ranging from high load steady state to low load with frequent cycles. An
understanding of the issues facing the client to satisfy commercial and safety demands
allowed the scope to be developed and revised to provide the best business solution.

The design review phase predicted the components likely to have suffered creep damage
using a combination of design and operational data, together with inspection and maintenance
Mid-Life Review of Repowered Boiler OMMI (Vol.3, Issue 2) August 2004 5

records. Subsequent metallography and NDT confirmed the boiler condition did not require
any repairs due to creep, and that two locations on the main steam pipework required minor
attention to alleviate further creep problems. The temperature monitoring system upgrade is
also expected to provide further assurances about the plant’s integrity by ensuring the
operations personnel receive relevant, accurate on-line data. Access to high quality historical
operational data has proved invaluable in performing the study, and the project is a good
example of how investment in such systems can provide owners and insurers with the
reassurance they require for future operation.

Mitsui Babcock’s OEM status for the particular unit was not seen as a very significant
advantage in performing the review, but the ability to dedicate such a wide range of specialist
skills and site support as an integrated service was a vital factor. That resulted in reduced
need for the client to manage multiple interfaces, while the project highlighted the importance
of competent personnel, good planning and open communication. The need to be prepared to
adjust the scope to bring economic benefits, while not jeopardising achievement of the overall
goal, was also crucial.

6. References

1) CEGB Generation Operation Memorandum 101 (GOM 101)

2) Various Mitsui Babcock Engineering Reports and Documents


The authors wish to thank colleagues from Mitsui Babcock and the client organisation who
have contributed to the preparation of this paper through their dedicated efforts and hard work
during the execution of the projects described. The authors are also indebted to
representatives of the owner/operator of the asset for their assistance, although their identity
cannot be stated because of commercial confidentiality.
Mid-Life Review of Repowered Boiler OMMI (Vol.3, Issue 2) August 2004 6

1980 - 82 1983 1984 1985 - 1994 1995 1996 - 2000 2001 2002

% Annual






















Boiler 100

Running 90
Hours 60

No Of
















Starts 50

Fuel Mix U1 Oil Gas Oil Gas

Unit 1 Survey Periods

Unit 2 Survey Periods

Survey 1 Envelope - 34704 Hrs Survey 2 Envelope - 65717 Hrs Survey 3 - 9037 Hrs
EarlySurvey Data First Pi Data Current U2 Data
High Load factor High Load Factor
Gas and Oil Firing 100% Gas Firing Repowered U1 Data
Low start Frequency Low start frequency Medium Load Factor
Pressure Independent Coincident Pressure 100% Gas Firing
Total Low Start Frequency
Hrs Gas 88,130 81% Coincident Pressure
Hrs Oil 21,328 19% MBEL Acquired Data
Starts Gas 223 51%
Starts Oil 216 49%
Total Hrs 109458
Total Starts 439

Figure 1: Running Hours, Fuel Mix and Start Frequency Information

Secondary Outlet Header Metal Temperatures


Design temperature at MCR = 514'C



Hours at Temperature


1000 975.04



17.41 34.82 17.41
450 460 470 480 490 500 510 520 530 540 550 560 570 580 590 600
Temperature (degrees C)

Figure 2: Typical Survey Temperature Data

Mid-Life Review of Repowered Boiler OMMI (Vol.3, Issue 2) August 2004 7

Figure 3: Semi Automated Ultrasonic Inspection