Inspectioneering Journal

Reducing Boiler Tube Failures

By Kent Coleman at Electric Power Research Institute. This article appears in the July/August 2012 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.

Boiler and heat recovery steam generator (HRSG) tube failures have been the primary availability problem for operators of conventional fossil-fueled and combined-cycle power plants for as long as reliable statistics have been kept for each generating source. Tube failures emanate from poor initial design, poor operation and maintenance, harsh fireside and cycle chemistry environments, and lack of management support for comprehensive reduction programs.

In almost all causes of serious availability or performance losses, the problems are usually repetitive in nature and result in multiple forced outages. Industrywide, equipment availability loss due to boiler tube failures in coal-fired utility power plants with generation facilities above 200 megawatts (MW) averages around 3%.

The repetitive nature of these failures indicates that the return to service of a unit has historically been more important than understanding the mechanism and root cause of each boiler tube failure or HRSG tube failure.

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