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Piping Vibration and Integrity Assessment

Piping vibration analysis per EI 2008 Guidelines for the avoidance of vibration induced
fatigue failure (AVIFF).

Piping systems are subject to vibration-induced failures. To mitigate this integrity risk, a
piping vibration assessment is conducted during the design phase and high-risk locations are
tested during the operations phase. This piping vibration analysis (assessment) is based on the
Energy Institute (EI) AVIFF Guidelines and other applicable methodologies and makes up an
important part of an Asset Integrity Management (AIM) system.

The Energy Institute AVIFF Guideline is the recommended approach to identify and resolve
piping vibration risks. Wood has extensive expertise in pipe stress analysis, dynamic
vibration analysis, transient flow, and other related design studies. Our unique approach is
based on decades of actual field experience (troubleshooting) to solve piping vibration
problems – a unique advantage in the design industry.


 1 Background
 1.1 What is piping vibration?
 1.2 Why should I care about piping vibration?
 1.3 What piping is most at risk?
 1.4 Where does piping vibration come from?
 1.5 How can I address piping vibration?
 2 Piping Vibration Risks in Onshore and Offshore Facilities
 3 Overview
 4 Piping Vibration and Integrity Assessment - Scope
 5 Wood Advantages
 6 Summary
 7 Free webinar
 8a Related Information
 8b Related Services
 9 Keywords

1 Background

Piping vibration problems are a reality at onshore or offshore production facilities, pipeline
stations, refineries, and petrochemical plants. Facility owners are extremely sensitive to these
integrity risks because of the significant consequences associated with product releases from
ruptured piping.

Recent examples in the press highlight situations where

piping failures caused explosions, loss of life,
environmental damage due to onshore and offshore spills,
lawsuits, and facility shutdowns.
Severe safety and
Vibration can cause reliability problems on equipment, environmental consequences
fatigue failure on process piping, and small branch of piping fatigue failures.
connections including relief lines, instrumentation ports, nozzles, drains, and valves.
Vibration on compressor and pump packages is also a reliability issue but is addressed in
separate scopes of work.

1.1 What is piping vibration?

Piping vibration is simply the movement of pipe away from its static, at-rest position. Some
vibration can be seen by the naked eye, some vibration can be felt or heard, and some
vibration occurs only occasionally under certain operating conditions, and may not be
recognized until a piping failure has occurred.

1.2 Why should I care about piping vibration?

21% of hydrocarbon releases are due to vibration-induced fatigue failures (UK Health &
Safety Executive). These releases can have a significant impact on public and employee
safety, the environment, production and financial performance.

The piping system is by far the leading source of failures in facilities (Marsh & McLennan).
This is in part due to the sheer quantity of piping in facilities, but also due to inadequacies in
integrity programs to consider vibration and fatigue. The situation is compounded by the fact
that commonly used design codes do not consider vibration in detail.
Overall, only a small portion of piping is of high risk of failure, but identifying those high-
risk locations is the challenge. Piping vibration risks can be identified at any stage of the asset
lifecycle, but few companies have a systematic approach to evaluating these risks.

1.3 What piping is most at risk?

Small-bore connections are high-risk locations for piping vibration

Around 80% of vibration-induced failures are associated with small-bore connections
(SBCs). This is due to several reasons:

 Stress concentrations at the weld to the main pipe or vessel

 Large unsupported valves
 Lack of evaluation of vibration and fatigue risk, beyond a reactive approach after a
 Disconnects between the SBC design intent and site fabrication, particularly regarding
local support/bracing

The remaining 20% are generally associated with parent pipe girth weld failure.

1.4 Where does piping vibration come from?

Two main factors affect vibration: the strength of the excitation and the flexibility of the
piping system. Therefore, there are always two methods to solve piping vibration problems:
reduce the level of excitation to which the piping system is exposed or support the piping
system so that it can withstand the applied dynamic forces.
The excitation mechanisms that cause vibration originate from three main sources:

1. Acoustic/pulsation – time-varying changes in fluid pressure

2. Momentum – time-varying changes in fluid density and velocity
3. Machinery – unbalanced forces from operating machinery

Three main sources of piping vibration

Acoustic/Pulsation Momentum Machinery
 Flow-induced
 Dead leg pulsations
turbulence (FIT)
 Water hammer  Mechanical excitation
 Acoustic-induced
 PSV relief load from vibration
 Multiphase or slug transmitted to attached
 Pulsations from
flow piping
rotating machinery
 Cavitation and
 Rotating stall

1.5 How can I address piping vibration?

Figure 1: Typical vibration risks in a piping system

Risk-based assessments are the most cost-effective and reliable method to identify, quantify,
inspect, measure and mitigate vibration and fatigue risks. These assessments look at the
vibration integrity problems a facility faces, from start-up to shut-down.

The risk-based approach allows for a proactive management of vibration, only where there
are risks present. Risk-based assessments integrate with and complement conventional
integrity management programs that typically focus on corrosion/erosion – saving time and
money for operators.

Design and in-service inspection standards typically highlight the risk posed by vibration
but fail to provide appropriate management strategies, often leaving the identification of
vibration issues to operators.

The Energy Institute document “Guidelines for the Avoidance of Vibration Induced Fatigue
Failure in Process Pipework” is the industry standard for evaluating vibration integrity
risks; Wood’s vibration experts were heavily involved in its development and understand its

Wood conducts risk-based assessments for major operators globally and can help augment
your integrity management program to include vibration and start proactively addressing
vibration risk.

2 Piping Vibration Risks in Onshore and Offshore Facilities

Gas Plants, Refineries, Pipelines, Pumping and Compressor Stations

There are a number of common piping risks to be evaluated in a piping assessment:

 Small-bore connections (SBCs) and branch attachments connect to the main process
piping. These

 small attachments, typically less than 8 cm (3 inches) in diameter, are the most
common cause of integrity problems. Even if the main process piping has acceptable
vibration, the vibration can be amplified on SBC causing failures. For large facilities,
there can be thousands of SBCs that pose this integrity risk.
 Process piping vibration can cause excessive vibratory stress on nozzles and tees
leading to cracks.
 Failure of bypass lines, PSV or relief lines.
 Transient related events such as starting, stopping, emergency shutdown, or closing
and opening valves can cause momentum changes in the gas or liquid (fluid hammer),
resulting is excessive stress.
 Fretting and damage to pipe supports.
 Pipe stress analysis can be in conflict with vibration design requirements. Unless the
design resolves the conflict between Mechanical Vibration Design (adding stiffness to
control vibration) and the Piping Stress Analysis (increasing flexibility for thermal
analysis), there are risks that the piping system will experience stress failures.
 Figure 3 example of compact piping layout on an FPSO
 Space on an offshore production facility is limited, and the piping layout is often very
compact. As shown in Figure 3, the tight layout creates unique challenges in
controlling piping vibration.
 The piping
system is
vessels, or

Figure 2: Piping failure examples

Figure 3: Example of compact piping layout on an FPSO

headers. Elevated piping is typically much more flexible than rigidly connected or
buried piping because of the difficulties in designing sufficiently stiff piping supports
(that prevent vibration).
 Safety requirements often require “double block and bleed” valves on many small-
bore connections. The geometry of these valve configurations and the heavy overhung
weight creates much higher chances of excessive stress and failure.

3 Overview

Below is an overview of the Piping Integrity Assessment, which includes an Energy Institute
AVIFF assessment, static stress analysis, and field vibration audit:

The table below summarizes when each study is required:

Type Analysis System When required
Small-bore connection All connections not
All fluids
(SBC) reinforced or braced
High flow systems with
All fluids flexible and infrequent
Turbulence (FIT)
Flow-Induced Vibration High flow systems with dead
Energy Gas systems only
(FIV) legs
Acoustic-Induced Pressure-reducing devices
AVIFF Gas systems only
Vibration (AIV) like valves and orifice plates
Liquid systems Fast acting valves and
Water hammer
only emergency shutdown events
Blowdown or PSV releasing
Momentum change Gas systems only
Liquid systems Pressure-reducing devices
only like valves and pumps
High temperature/pressure
Piping stress analysis All fluids
Local specifications and
Piping External Loads All fluids regulations (e.g., seismic
Static Stress zone)
Analysis Restraint and Structure Flexible supports required, or
All fluids
Design high risk of piping vibration
Machinery and Machinery and equipment
equipment nozzle load All fluids with low allowable nozzle
analysis loads
Low inertia, high-pressure
Compressor surge control compressor
ratio, complex systems
Shell Transverse All fluids (but gas Thin-walled pipe near
Acoustical (STA) systems typically) compressors and pumps
Advanced High pressure, high power
Pulsation analysis compressor
Studies systems
Piping Dynamic Stress Reciprocating High pressure, high power
Analysis machinery systems systems
Many operating scenarios
Liquid systems
Transient pulsation with multiple units on and
Piping vibration (steady-
All fluids Always
Evaluation Mechanical Natural
Areas of high vibration or
Frequency (MNF) All fluids
poor support
Type Analysis System When required
Piping vibration When transient events cause
All fluids
(transient) high vibrations
When suspect due to high-
Pipe strain All fluids
frequency vibrations
Small-bore connection All connections not
All fluids
vibration reinforced or braced

This chart shows excitation sources studied in Wood's Piping Vibration Assessment

-FIT (Flow-Induced Turbulence)

-FIV (Flow-Induced Vibration)

-AIV (Acoustic-Induced Vibration)

-STA (Shell Transverse Acoustical)

4 Piping Vibration and Integrity Assessment - Scope

Wood recommends following the Energy Institute (EI) AVIFF Guideline as the high-level
screening methodology since it has a rigorous and systematic process to address the main
vibration risks. The assessment investigates both the main process piping and SBC. Both
transient and steady state conditions should be included in the Piping Vibration and Integrity

Wood has augmented the EI Guideline to provide superior integrity during the design and
field testing phase. These additional features are based on our experience in evaluating piping
vibration over the past 45 years.

Depending on the situation, the recommended scope may vary:

 For larger piping systems, the complete Piping Vibration and Integrity Assessment (as
outlined below) is recommended.
 Where the scope is limited to Small-Bore Connections (SBC), or Branch Connections:
o SBC Assessment

 For specific machine applications, the piping analysis may have a narrow scope:
o Flow-Induced Turbulence (FIT)
o Acoustic-Induced Vibration (AIV)
o Shell Transverse Acoustical (STA)
o Water Hammer Analysis (liquid systems)
o Fuel Gas Compressor Piping Transient Analysis
 In many applications, a Pipe Stress Analysis is also required and is typically linked to
the vibration service.
o Pipe Stress Analysis

Owners and Engineering Companies (ECs) retain Wood early in the project to conduct this
specialized work. Early involvement will save time and money, compared to making minor
piping changes late in the design or construction process.

Figure 4: Piping Integrity evaluation for refinery (1000+ process lines). Areas of high
likelihood of failure were identified, and follow-up recommendations provided to mitigate
vibration-induced risks leading to failures.

The EI guideline uses a staged approach.

1. A qualitative assessment is used as a screening tool to evaluate the excitation sources

and rank order the risks;
2. A quantitative assessment is then applied to the higher risk areas to determine the
likelihood of failure. Specialist activities are involved to address high-risk areas and
provide corrective actions.
3. Onsite survey and measurements are required to refine the quantitative assessment for
an as-built facility, or after a new facility is completed.

The initial focus would be on those systems that are considered to be safety and business
critical. Other areas of the plant should be subsequently assessed to ensure all potential issues
are identified.

Front End Engineering Design (FEED) Stage. A Vibration Design Review is

recommended for the piping design and machinery systems (including proposed skids and
foundation plan). This review provides valuable input to the vibration control strategies,
required engineering tasks, and input to improve the design process. Deliverables include
recommendations for the scope of vibration engineering and dynamics, methodology,
guidelines, required scheduling and design considerations.

To ensure an integrated vibration design, the scope should include the piping and support
systems for reciprocating compressors and pumps, centrifugal compressors and pumps, and
the foundation or structural supports.

Detailed Design Stage. The scope of work will include:

1. Assess piping system and identify locations with a high a likelihood of failure (LOF)
per Energy Institute approach.
2. Evaluate design standards for SBC and piping support assumptions for dynamic loads.
3. Provide recommendations to reduce integrity risks.
4. Implement specialized analysis where required (e.g., FIV, AIV, Pulsation Analysis,
transient studies).
5. Calculate allowable vibration limits at high LOF SBCs.
6. Integrate the vibration analysis with other aspects of the project, namely reciprocating
equipment, piping systems on centrifugal equipment, and dynamic analysis of
foundations and structure where appropriate.
7. Prepare test plan for field baseline measurements (commissioning and operations

During Commissioning and Operation

1. Conduct a baseline vibration survey during operation to verify vibration levels.

Measure mechanical natural frequencies (MNFs) of small-bore connections, inspect
pipe supports for pipe strain and alignment and conduct transient vibration testing
where required.
2. Remedy remaining issues with recommendations and further troubleshooting, if

Figure 5: Finite element analysis (FEA) used to calculate stress on small-bore piping.

Conducting this work requires specialists who are experts in dynamics, and have the
necessary experience, software tools, and field capabilities.