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TLE Tube Failure

Background: TLE inlet tubesheet tube failure associated with localized material loss. A metallurgical failure analysis was conducted to identify the failure mechanism.

Figure 1: Visual Inspection of Tube-Tubesheet Damage and As-Received Sample Depicting Through Cracking


Figure 2: SEM Micrographs and EDS Analysis (wt.%) of Maximum Thickness Loss Regions

Summary: TLE tube-tubesheet failure was associated with excessive localized metal loss due to high temperature erosion and metal dusting. Carbide phases at the tubesheet ID known to facilitate metal dusting were observed. Inlet gas flow accelerated metal loss. High levels of carbon were detected via EDS analysis. A flaky oxide scale on the shell side suggested film boiling due to improper cooling. Scale forming elements like Ca, Mg, Al were also detected at the maximum thickness loss regions.

Take Away: Temperature excursions coupled with improper cooling can lead to premature failures of TLEs. The microstructural changes in the material due to thermal exposure can further facilitate the loss of material under synergistic mechanisms of metal dusting and erosion.