Radiographic Inspection for Creep Fissures in Reformer-Furnace Tubes
Two steam-methane reformer furnaces were subjected to short-time heat excursions because of a power outage, which resulted in creep bulging in the Incoloy 800 outlet pigtails, requiring complete replacement. Each furnace had three cells, consisting of 112 vertical tubes per cell, each filled with a nickel catalyst. The tubes were centrifugally cast from ASTM A297, grade HK-40 (Fe-25Cr-20Ni-0.40C), heat-resistant alloy. The tube was concluded after metallurgical inspection to have failed from creep rupture (i.e., stress rupture). A project for detecting midwall creep fissuring was instigated as a result of the failure. It was concluded after laboratory radiography and macroexamination that if the fissure were large enough to show on a radiograph, either with or without the catalyst, the tube could be expected to fail within one year. The set up for in-service radiograph examination was described. The tubes of the furnace were radiographed during shut down and twenty-four tubes in the first furnace and 53 in the second furnace showed significant fissuring. Although, radiography was concluded to be a practical technique to provide advance information, it was limited to detecting fissures caused by third-stage creep in tubes because of the cost involved in removing the catalysts.