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Engineering Failure Analysis 14 (2007) 743–749

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Short communication

Failure analysis of gas turbine blades in a thermal power plant


a,* b
N. Vardar , A. Ekerim
a
Yildiz Technical University, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, 34349 Istanbul, Turkey
b
Yildiz Technical University, Faculty of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, 34220 Istanbul, Turkey

Received 8 March 2006; accepted 10 June 2006


Available online 24 August 2006

Abstract

A case study of failure analysis of a 40 MW gas turbine blade made of Udimet 500 is presented. The cause of failure is
found to be intergranular cracks which started during exposure to high temperature. The cracks initiated from the grain
boundaries and propagated to the critical length to result in catastrophic fracture. In many locations M6C type secondary
carbides were found agglomerated on grain boundaries. Also micro-cavities were found on fracture surfaces which served
as an origin of creeping failure mechanism.
Ó 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Failure; Crack; Gas turbine blades; Gas turbine blade failure; Carbide film

1. Introduction

There has recently been considerable interest in the analysis of gas turbine failure, e.g. [1–7]. The present
paper reports the investigation of a sudden blade fracture leading to a fatal engine failure of a 40 MW gas
turbine. The investigation of the failure was carried out by using several experimental tests, including optical
microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS), X-Ray diffraction
(XRD) and X-Ray fluorescence (XRF).

2. Background

It was reported that a 40 MW gas turbine operating on natural gas, belonging to a power plant, had been
deteriorated with a high level of noise after nearly 8000 h of service while the predicted service was 40,000 h.
According to the monitored operation graphs the unit had gone to power loss with high temperature and high
vibrations. When was entered to the exhaust section for inspection it had been noticed that there was a cat-
astrophic damage on the engine. Fig. 1 illustrates the catastrophic damage in the engine. Figs. 2–4 are the

*
Corresponding author. Tel.: +90 212 2582157; fax: +90 212 2364165.
E-mail address: vardar@yildiz.edu.tr (N. Vardar).

1350-6307/$ - see front matter Ó 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.engfailanal.2006.06.001
744 N. Vardar, A. Ekerim / Engineering Failure Analysis 14 (2007) 743–749

Fig. 1. The general view of the catastrophic damage in the gas turbine blades.

Fig. 2. Close-up view of the damaged blades of the gas turbine.

Fig. 3. Badly damaged turbine stator vanes and casing.


N. Vardar, A. Ekerim / Engineering Failure Analysis 14 (2007) 743–749 745

Fig. 4. Badly damaged turbine stator vanes and casing.

close-up view of the failures. As can be seen from these figures turbine stator vanes and casing as well as the
rotor assembly were badly damaged during the incident.

3. Visual inspection

Fig. 5 illustrates examples of the severely damaged three different turbine blades. As can be seen from these
figures, surface of the blades exhibit diversely coloured, especially greenish, reddish, yellowish regions and
dark-brown points and it is evident from the rubbing marks that the turbine blades were touched by other
objects during revolution. This surface damage might act as a stress raiser for crack propagation [7].

4. Experimental procedure

The investigation of the failure was carried out by using several experimental tests, including optical
microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS), X-Ray diffraction
(XRD) and X-Ray fluorescence (XRF). The cracked blades were obtained from the power plant. Examination
of the blade material was made for two different zones of the blade. One of them was near the cracked blade

Fig. 5. Three examples of damaged blades of the gas turbine.


746 N. Vardar, A. Ekerim / Engineering Failure Analysis 14 (2007) 743–749

tip while the other was close to the blade platform. The metallographic samples were polished by standard
techniques and were etched with solution of 20 ml HNO3 and 60 ml HCl.

5. Results and discussion

5.1. Quantitative examination of blade material

From the results of the quantitative examination of the blade material it was found that the composition of
the base alloy was 53Ni–18Cr–18.5Co–4Mo–3Ti–3Al and it was identical with Udimet-500 [8]. The presence
of Na, Si, K, Ca and S in the material was also revealed. The presence of Na and S very probably is the cause
of the dark points which were distributed in blade surfaces as mentioned in Section 4.1 [2].

5.2. Microstructural evaluation of blade material

Samples for microstructural evaluation were taken from the hottest zone of the blade airfoil. Fig. 6 shows
100 times enlarged view of the microstructure of the sample which were taken by optical microscopy. The
microstructure consists of grains of c and carbide particles precipitated in the matrix and grain boundaries.
In many locations were found continuous films of carbide in grain boundaries. In Fig. 7 is shown the details
of the continuous films of carbide in grain boundaries. These carbide films in grain boundaries are Cr-rich and
include 80% Cr while the other regions have around 17% Cr. These continuous networks of carbides reduce
ductility and toughness of the alloy to 30% of initial value and facilitate crack initiation and propagation
which leads to reduced lifetime [3].

5.3. Crack evaluation

A large number of cracks of different lengths were found at different regions of the damaged blades.
Fig. 8 shows two examples of the cracks. The details of these cracks can be seen from Fig. 9. As can be
seen from these figures the cracks propagate along the grain boundaries. When the cracks propagate along
the grain boundaries, the fracture is named as intergranular fracture [9]. It can also be seen from the figures
that the origins of the cracks are associated with the presence of carbides and that they propagated along

Fig. 6. Grain types of the blade material.


N. Vardar, A. Ekerim / Engineering Failure Analysis 14 (2007) 743–749 747

Fig. 7. Continuous films of carbides in grain boundaries in two different zones.

Fig. 8. Examples of cracks of different lengths at different regions of damaged blades.

Fig. 9. Details of the intergranular cracks.

the path linked to the alignment of these carbides. The appearance of the fracture surfaces in Fig. 10 resem-
bles a dimple-like fracture. The dimple-like appearance can be attributed to the micro-cavities that could be
related to intergranular decohesion of carbides [10]. These micro-cavities serve as the origin of creep failure
748 N. Vardar, A. Ekerim / Engineering Failure Analysis 14 (2007) 743–749

Fig. 10. Appearance of fracture surfaces.

mechanism [3,11]. Both of the film of carbides and micro-cavities play substantial role in the process of
fracture.

6. Conclusion

The failure analysis of the 40 MW gas turbine blades made of superalloy Udimet-500 after 8000 h of
operation at high temperature is carried out. The microstructural investigation of the blade airfoil revealed
the presence of continuous film of carbides in grain boundaries of the base material as a result of trans-
formation of carbides of MC type to carbides of M6C type due to high temperature operation of the
blades.
A large number of intergranular cracks were found in the failed blade airfoil. On the fracture surfaces were
found micro-cavities that served as the origin of a creep failure mechanism. On the other hand it is evident
from the rubbing marks that the turbine blades were touched by other objects during revolution. This surface
damage might have acted as a stress raiser for crack propagation.

Acknowledgement

The authors thank to Professor Sabriye PISKIN (PhD) for her worthy technical support and useful
discussion.

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