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Abstract

One of the coils in the radiant section of a primary reformer furnace used in an ammonia plant was found leaking. The bottom of one of seven outlet headers (made of ASME SA-452, grade TP316H, stainless steel) was revealed during examination to be ruptured. It was revealed by metallurgical examination that it had failed as a result of intergranular fissuring and oxidation (creep rupture). The ruptured area revealed that the header had failed by conventional long-time creep rupture as a result of exposure to operating temperatures probably between 900 and 955 deg C. Three samples from different sections (ruptured area, slightly bulged but nonruptured area and visually sound metal) were inspected. The presence of pinhead-size intergranular fissures throughout the cross sections of the latter two samples was observed. An ultrasonic attenuation method was employed to investigate the remaining headers. All headers were revealed by ultrasonic readings to be in an advanced stage of creep rupture and no areas were found to be fissured to a degree that they needed immediate replacement. As a conclusion, the furnace was deemed serviceable and it was established that in the absence of local hot spots, the headers would survive for a reasonable period of time.

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