Texas Genco requested Stress Engineering Services to assist in reviewing and assessing a failure that occurred in the cold reheat (CRH) steam line at the W.A. Parish Unit around 12:10 PM on July 15, 2003, resulting in a catastrophic failure scattering components within a 1,200-foot radius. Reliant Resources and Texas Genco conducted their own investigation involving metallographic examinations, fracture surface inspection, review of operating conditions at failure time, and studies related to the CRH line weld profile. Stress Engineering Services' efforts included computational fluid dynamics studies to address how attemperator droplet sizes might impact downstream piping system behavior, followed by mock-up testing and field monitoring using high-temperature strain gauges, accelerometers, and thermocouples. The field monitoring data, along with process data from Texas Genco, were used for finite element analyses calculating static stresses and transient stresses from attemperator cycling (thermal stresses) and line vibration (mechanical stresses). A consulting firm contracted by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) performed a fracture mechanics evaluation of the line, though detailed results are not included. The work by Texas Genco, Stress Engineering Services, and EPRI points to the stress concentration factor associated with the internal weld profile near the failure as the primary cause, with the cyclic thermal shocks from frequent intermittent attemperator use being sufficient to initiate the crack.

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