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To develop a Predictive Tool for Boiler Tube Failure

7. Boiler Tube Failure Predictive Tool

Wear rate equation gives first hand estimation of failure. The flue gas flow
analysis gives the estimation of flue gas velocity and temperature in various zones. If
in any zone the estimated velocity is found higher than the critical velocity. This
velocity when used in wear rate equation will give the time required to remove the
tube material till the critical thickness is reached. This material removal rate gives
estimation of remnant life of the tube. The flow visualization will also enable to
identify the sections/zones in the flue gas passage where the velocity is increased.
After identifying the zones of increased velocity, the efforts can be made to reduce the
velocity. The predicted velocity used in wear rate equation will predict the expected
life of boiler tube installed. The predicted flue gas temperature will help to predict the
tube surface temperature. Thus the predictive tool is developed. In the subsequent
sections this predictive tool is discussed.
7.1 Boiler Tube Failure Mechanism
Coal used in the power plant under study is high ash content coal. This fly ash
gets carried away with the flue gases. These ash particles, in some zones, as discussed
and estimated in earlier chapter, attains very high velocity. In the low temperature
zone such as economizer the particles get sharpened. These high velocity particles are
bombarded over the tube surfaces in flue gas path, leading to erosion of surface.
Abrupt increase of velocity is localized and not over the entire surface or zone. This
erosion continues leading to localized thinning of tube. The tube is subjected to
internal high pressure (114 bar) and external high temperature flue gases. Due to
thinning the surface temperature goes on increasing. The thinning when reached to a
critical thickness, bulging of tube starts. This then leads to bursting of tube and the
tube fails.
The deduced generalized erosion rate equation for material,
Wtotal = cos2 α sin ηα + k sin2 α  will give the volume of material eroded in 1
2φ  
So using of impacting particle velocity, mass flow rate of impacting particles, impact
angle of particles and the tube material the volume of material eroded in one minute
can be determined.

To develop a Predictive Tool for Boiler Tube Failure

So the time in which the tube may fail can be find out using equation, Time, t = ,
minute where A.L is the volume of material removed.
To predict the failure it is required to know:
(i) Critical thickness
(ii) Mass flow rate of impacting particles
(iii) Time required in removing the material to reach the critical thickness
(iv) Remnant life of the tube
7.2 Critical thickness of tube
The mechanical design of economizer mainly involves calculation of required
thickness of the tubes based on the design pressure of economizer. Economizer tube
bundle is referred to as pressure part of boiler as it is subject to high internal pressure
water in the tubes. The mechanical design of all the pressure parts of boiler that is
planned to be set up in India are governed by commonly referred as. IBR [48], Indian
Boilers Act, 1923 & Regulations, 1950
Chapters VII of IBR provides guidelines for design of Boiler and Superheater
Tubes, Headers and Other Pressure Parts. Article 337 included in chapter VII provides
the requirements for material and construction.
Article 338 of chapter VII of IBR provides the formula to be used to calculate
the working pressure of the tubes for a given thickness. This equation can be modified
to calculate the minimum required thickness of a tube that is subject to internal
pressure. The actual formula is provided below.
2 F (T − C )
WP = -------------------------------------(71)
(D − T + C)
WP = Working pressure of boiler, kg / cm 2
T = Minimum thickness of tubes, i.e. nominal thickness less the permissible negative
tolerance, mm
C = Corrosion allowance ( C = 0 for working pressure exceeding 70kg / cm 2 )
D = External diameter of tube, mm
F = Permissible stress for the material at the working metal temperature, kg / cm 2 .
The working metal temperature for economizer tubes is calculated as (TDesign+110C)

To develop a Predictive Tool for Boiler Tube Failure

where TDesign is the maximum water temperature for which the part of the element is
designed i.e. . at or below 454°C ,
T .S . Et
F= or whichever is lower,
2.7 1.5
where T .S . = minimum tensile strength of material at room temperature
Et = Yield point (0.2 Proof Stress) at working metal temperature ‘t’.
From ASTM specifications for SA 210 Gr A1,
T.S. = Minimum tensile strength at room temp.= 4150 kg/cm2
Et = yield point (0.2 Proof Stress) at working material temperature = 2550 kg/cm2
Hence F = minimum [(4150/2.7), (2550/1.5)]
Thus F= 1537 kg/cm2
For D= 44.5 mm and F=114 bar,
Approximately 12.5% erosion allowance is provided and actual thickness is
calculated. the critical thickness is obtained as 2.23 mm

7.3 Determination of Failure time:

Few assumptions are made for further estimation.
(i) Bombarding of fly-ash particles is localized.
(ii) Particles are bombarded at maximum predicted velocity in the zone.
(iii) There is no change in velocity.
(iv) Eroding particles are bombarded at 30o so as to get maximum erosion.
Let us consider a portion of tube subjected to fly ash at high velocity. Let the surface
targeted is 10 mm wide. (Fig. 7.1)

Volume of eroded

Fig 7.1 Tube with eroded section

To develop a Predictive Tool for Boiler Tube Failure

It is assumed that the erosion takes place in a profile shown with hatched area in
figure 7.1.
From geometry of figure,
x 2 + ( r1 +t cr ) =r22

x= ( r - ( r +tcr ) )
2 1
----------------------------------------------------------------------- (72)

θ=sin -1  
 r2 
The area of hatched section.
π 2  2θ 
A= D ×  - x ( r1 +t cr ) ------------------------------------------------------------(73)
4  360 
The tube may fail if the volume equal to hatched volume is removed,
Volume of eroded material = A × L

7.4 Prediction of failure time of Economizer tube.

Consider a economizer tube of external diameter D=44.5 mm and Tube thickness
t=4.5 mm
It is subjected to pressure of 152 kPa and yield point stress of 255 MPa
tcr = 1.65 mm
x = 12 mm and,
θ = 32.630
A= 50.81 mm2
The crater diameter [L] measured from the test comes out to be 10 mm.
It is assumed that the crater length is 10 mm. But in actual practice the length
subjected to maximum velocity is more/less than 10 mm. So the life calculated will be
changed according to the length subjected to maximum velocity.
Now the area exposed to flue gases is, A= [(2*x)*L] =2*12*10=240 mm2
Mass flow of fly ash particles impacting
The mass flow rate of flue gas is 910 tones / hour, 253 kg/sec i.e. M=0.032 kg/min.
The fly ash is bombarded on 113.16 m2 exposed area that means 2.23 kg/sec.m2
Deduced generalized wear rate equation for SA210 Gr A1 is

To develop a Predictive Tool for Boiler Tube Failure

Wtotal = cos2 α sin 2α + 0.37 sin 2 α  f  Ha 
2 × 47.21    H  ----------------------------(74)

In this equation putting the values of M =0.032 kg/min, α=30o and average velocity
14 m/sec.
Fly ash particles’ hardness is around 500 HV and hardness of SA 210 Gr A1 is 124
The volumetric material removed per min is 7.32x10-4 mm3/min.
The time in which the tube may fail can be find out from the equation, Time, t =
51× 10
7.32 × 10 −4
= 696514 min
= 11608 hours
= 483 days
= 1.32 years
This result reasonably agrees with the test results published by CPRI,
Bangalore. P. R. Krishnamurthy, S. Seetaramu and P. Sampathkumaran, in their paper
titled “Erosion wear in thermal power plants” stated that the average wear life of
bends and such components made up of carbon steel is 6000 to 12000 hr and that of
mild steel is 5000 hrs. [37] The estimated life well agrees with the actual.
This means if the tube (44.5*4.5 mm) made of SA 210 Gr. A1 is subjected to
abrasive particles of fly ash with velocity of 14 m/s (aprox) and mass flow rate 0.032
kg/min and impact angle 300 with internal pressure of 159 kPa will lead to wear.
This continuous wear when reaches the critical thickness the part may fail in
1.32 years approximately. But the flue gas velocity will never be constant for the
entire life span of the tube, mass flow rate of eroding particles will also not remain
same and these particles will also not always be impacted at an angle of 300. This
uncertainty when taken in to account ± 20 % error is allowed.

To develop a Predictive Tool for Boiler Tube Failure

7.5 Use of Predictive tool

Developed Predictive tool will be used in following manner.
a) Estimation of Flue gas velocity and Temperature:
i) Know the fuel to be used. Use the ultimate analysis to determine the FGT
i.e. Flue gas inlet temperature.
ii) Use this FGT as input to fluent
iii) Run simulation till a converged solution is obtained.
iv) Use the result file to estimate the velocity and temperature of velocity over
all zones of boiler.
v) Locate the zones of abrupt change and increase/decrease in velocity and
vi) Register the maximum velocities.
vii) Determine wear
b) Estimation of wear of tube material:
i) Note down % ash of fuel used.
ii) Note down quantity of fuel used.
iii) use the value of maximum velocity of flue gases. This is the value
obtained from simulation.
iv) Determine the critical thickness for the given tube material
v) Determine the volume of material removed in one minute.
vi) Determine the time required for attaining the critical thickness.
vii) Tube failure determines the time required in minutes for material removal
in m3.
viii) This time gives the estimated time at which the tube may fail, based on the
ix) Determine the probable life span of all critical tube banks or the tube
banks in the critical zone.
x) Once the probable time of failure is known then the prospective tubes are
to be repaired during the planned shutdown or for the critical cases a
forced shut-down is to be taken to avoid the losses in outage period.
c) Estimation of Remnant life of tube:
i) Keep record of date of installation of tube bank.

To develop a Predictive Tool for Boiler Tube Failure

ii) Using the data of velocity, coal etc. Calculate the life span of each tube
coil. Keep a record of this life span.
iii) On a particular day between the date of commissioning and failure the
remnant life can be estimated.
iv) On the basis of remnant life a decision during any shut-down, can be taken
to continue the tube or replace.
Thus the tool will predict the tube failure as well as remnant life of the tube.