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Troubleshooting Tube-Deterioration Mechanisms in Direct-Fired Heaters

By Babak Maghbooli and Hamidreza Najafi |

A practical step-by-step guide for reducing future tube failure Forced outage of a direct-fired heater is the worst nightmare for any operator in a petroleum-refining or petrochemical plant. Since fired heaters are not replaceable by spares, forced outage in many cases means emergency shutdown of the entire plant. In most cases, actual tube failure or even severe tube deterioration are responsible for outage of a direct-fired heater. Tube-deterioration mechanisms are not only an economical concern, but also a matter of safety of plant and personnel. An unpredicted tube rupture may lead to disastrous explosions and severe human casualties. In order to prevent such unwanted events and keep the fired heater tubes functional as long as possible, many petroleum refineries and petrochemical plants have organized a preventive program, which according to the American Petroleum Institute [1] is referred to as a “reliability program.” Reliability programs A good reliability program includes various detailed inspection programs performed both during heater operation and overhaul or occasional maintenance shutdown periods. Continuous assessments of the remaining lifetime of tubes and the supervision of heater performance are also included…
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