Inspectioneering Journal

A Smart Approach to Inspecting Fired Heater and Boiler Coils

By Tim Haugen, Global Business Director - Inspection at Quest Integrity. This article appears in the March/April 2020 issue of Inspectioneering Journal


What keeps you up at night? If you are responsible for the integrity of fired heater or boiler coils, it may be an unexpected failure.

Matching the proper inspection techniques to detect specific types of damage of an asset is a critical component for achieving long-term reliability and performance. Universally, smart or intelligent pigging is now a standard practice for the inspection of fired heater and serpentine boiler coils. Its growth in popularity and industry acceptance as a superior method for the inspection of coils prompted the addition of smart pigging into API Recommended Practice (RP) 573, Inspection of Fired Boilers and Heaters, in 2013. The growth in popularity also led to a surge in the number of smart pigging companies in the market, creating additional complexities for asset owners when aligning tool capabilities with inspection needs.

In API RP 573, verification of a provider’s intelligent pig operating range is strongly recommended prior to selection, as capabilities may vary among the companies offering this service.

The tool’s measurement grid, also known as ultrasonic testing (UT) sample spacing, and the minimum detectable wall thickness should be the main capabilities verified to ensure the various types of damage mechanisms commonly found in fired heater and boiler coils are detectable (see Figure 1).

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