Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Monday, October 20, 2014
Saturday, October 11, 2014
The cold section of the unit operates at varying temperatures below freezing, depending on the stage of the process. Impact tested carbon steel piping was utilized for the majority of the piping that had a design temperature greater than -50˚F. The original construction specifications did not require any
coating for piping designed to continuously operate below 20 ˚F. It was found that this criteria is acceptable, provided that the line is continuously operated below freezing. This is based on visual inspection of lines that were frozen, as they did not exhibit any significant signs of corrosion. The unexpected piping that was found with corrosion problems was not correctly identified based on
operating temperatures specified.
The original line list identified the operating temperature for the flowing case and did not consider normal operating temperatures based on stagnate flow. The cases presented below should have been originally identified as having a CUI potential. However based on the listed operating conditions, these piping systems were not identified to have a CUI potential and were not included in the inspection strategy. The first two cases represent intermittent flow conditions while the third case represents a deadleg condition. In the below cases, none of the piping was originally coated due to being identified as normally operating below 20 ˚F. The first case was identified in the background section which resulted in a through wall failure of an ethylene vapor line. The original specifications of theplant identified the line as operating at –12 ˚F. At this temperature, the line was not flagged to be included in the CUI inspection strategy. After investigation, it was found that the operating temperature was correct, when the pressure control valve was open and flowing. The normal operation of the valve was to be in the closed position, creating a stagnate leg with no flow. Under these conditions the typical temperature of the line was only slightly below ambient.
After removing the insulation at the location of the leak, it was found that the corrosion extended beyond the area of the leak and traveled further down the pipe back to the 14 inch line. The insulation was removed to the 14 inch line, where a severe area of corrosion was found on the branch connection, Figures 2 and 3.
The 14 inch line was also identified as having an operating temperature of –12 ˚F. The 14 inch line was the supply line to the system relief devices and under normal conditions was completely
With the 1-1/2 inch line requiring a smaller wall thickness, it was more susceptible to developing a through wall failure. The second case of CUI deals with a 1-1/2 inch carbon steel makeup line to the ethylene refrigeration system. The line branches off of the suction to the ethylene product pumps and runs to the ethylene refrigeration accumulator. This line was originally identified as operating at -11 ˚F. This line is in operation once per week, for approximately 3 hours, it is stagnate the remainder of the time. The piping orientation is shown in Figure 9.
The worst section of piping was located the furthest from the main header and within approximately 30 feet of the specification break. The line was found to be frozen and free of corrosion within 20 feet of the main header. The third case of CUI deals with a ¾ inch carbon steel bleeder off of a 12 inch acetylene converter feed main header. The bleeder piping and valve were located within 1 foot of the main header. The main header was originally identified as operating at 21˚F and normally is at this temperature. The CUI was caught on a visual inspection of the line, were the stem of the bleed valve that protruded through the insulation showed noticeable corrosion and was observed to be sweating. After removal of the insulation, it was found that the main header was frozen and free of corrosion. The ¾ inch piping was frozen next to the main header and showed signs of sweating back to the valve. The piping was assessed by profile radiography, where it was determined that the remaining wall thickness was approximately 1/16 inch localized in areas, Figure 11 . It was determined that the piping was acceptable to be in service up to the next scheduled outage. This line was hand cleaned and coated to arrest the corrosion and is scheduled for replacement with stainless steel.
Friday, October 3, 2014
Industry standards that are derived from NACE and API identify the piping systems that operate between 25 ˚F to 250 ˚F as having the greatest risk for developing corrosion under insulation (CUI). CUI can be broken into two categories, the first being corrosion of carbon steel due to contact with aerated water and forming corrosion cells. Carbon steel piping operating at temperatures greater than 250 ˚F is warm enough that the piping surface stays free of moisture. When operating below 25 ˚F any water that is present at the surface is frozen and does not provide a wet environment for a corrosion cell to develop.
The second main category deals with stainless steels and their susceptibility to external stress corrosion cracking and pitting; however this paper will discuss experiences with the corrosion of carbon steel piping. Currently all piping that is identified as operating from 0 ˚F to 300 ˚F and insulated are part of a CUI inspection strategy that involves identifying breaches in insulation and removing insulation in suspect areas. Systems that have the greatest potential for issues with CUI have been the steam utility stations, low pressure steam and condensate piping, and regeneration piping that are insulated for heat conservation and personal protection purposes. Since the external corrosion rates are relatively the same for small bore and large bore piping, the smaller nominal wall thicknesses of line sizes 1-1/2 inch and smaller are more prone to developing through wall failures.
Steam utility stations have shown the highest potential for CUI. These piping systems are constructed of carbon steel, insulated for heat conservation, and for the most part are dead legs that stay at ambient conditions, as these sections of piping are not equipped with a steam trap and are usually 20 feet from the header. The typical orientation of the piping is a vertical leg that drops down to grade level from a main header. The piping is insulated to help prevent heat lose and condensate formation. The typical design of the steam utility station is to put a u-bolt support and valve near grade level, however, the main issue with this orientation is that it leaves a high potential for water ingression due to the number of insulation penetrations. Although properly sealed at installation, which is caulking, over time the caulk has the potential to break the seal and allow moisture ingression and eventual coating failure and corrosion cells to form. Here the areas that pose the greatest potential to develop a leak have been at the u-bolt to pipe interface and on the topside of the valve.
Inspection for CUI starts with a visual inspection of the insulation for defects that could allow moisture to enter the system. Based on the orientation of the piping, areas of insulation are selected for removal to examine the base metal. The above case of the ethylene guard drier moisture analyzer was caught on a CUI inspection. The initial insulation inspection showed that there were several breaches in the insulation and that the insulation appeared to holding water. After removing the insulation around the valve assemble and support, a very small leak was found in the form of bubbles coming from underneath the corrosion scale at the u-bolt support location, Figure 10. The section of u-bolt in direct contact with the pipe was completely corroded away. The insulation was stripped further back to the main header to where the frost rings were present. This was approximately an 8 foot deadleg section of piping.
The section of piping that was still frozen near the header showed no significant signs of corrosion and the coating was still in good condition. During a maintenance unit outage, an operator was in the process of purging the process gas dryers, when the valve he was attempting to open snapped off at the 3/4 inch nipple between the valve and header. The valve was located on the dryer effluent filter bypass line. The system operates at 60˚F and is insulated. After investigating the process gas dryer system, a majority of the bleed valves were subject to CUI. The valves and nipples were replaced with stainless steel to prevent future instances of CUI at these locations. This is an example of piping that continuously operates at or near ambient conditions and is insulated to minimize ambient temperature swings, Figures 12, 13 and 14.