Failure research promises billions of savings for industry

Wednesday March 5, 2014 15:53

Impartial advice ECN improves equipment availability

Equipment failure and downtime in large power plants, petrochemical plants, the offshore and process industries amount to billions of unnecessary costs. Analysis of cause of failure, such as choice of materials, manufacturing methods, and stress and environmental conditions can help companies save costs for repair and maintenance as well as improve equipment availability. As stated by Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN). ECN performs failure analysis for companies in aviation, aerospace, petrochemical, steel, and energy sector.

Bas van Bree, Business Developer ECN: “Each failing piece of equipment can cause costs in the order of tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands euros. But failure analysis also pays off for smaller equipment. Finding and acting on the cause of failure can save maintenance costs, improve equipment availability, and prevent consequential damage.”

ECN experts collaborate in multidisciplinary teams to establish the cause of failure in an impartial way. They look at design and engineering, choice of material, manufacturing processes, and materials processing. After establishing cause of failure, they provide advice on the best solution, process optimization, and prevention of future failure.

Cause failure key to improvement
Van Bree: “This type of equipment is often operated under harsh conditions. Equipment that fails leads to large costs. That is why failure analysis is important. Knowing the cause of failure is the key to improvement. We have the right analysis infrastructure for this type of work.” Besides experts on failure and corrosion analysis, materials research, joining techniques, and manufacturing engineering, ECN houses laboratories with state-of-the-art equipment in which harsh conditions can be simulated for accelerated testing. For corrosion, ECN can produce results in a matter of days using innovative testing methods, where traditional methods may take up to six months.

A practical example
Recently, ECN analysed the failure of a heat exchanger pipe that had blown. The heat exchanger was installed in a waste for energy plant. Such failure occurs frequently. The heat exchanger expands and shrinks due to variations in temperature. Layers of fouling build up on the pipes and are removed by hitting the pipes with hammers. After establishing failure cause and mechanism, ECN found out that the pretreatment of the welds was not sufficient. This was corrected and now failure of the welds no longer occurs.



Category: Corporate