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Lessons Learned from the Rupture of a Steam Superheater Header

By Peter Tait, Global Expert - Static Equipment at Methanex. This article appears in the January/February 2021 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.
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Abstract

A 110 barg (1,595 psi) stainless steel superheated steam coil outlet header ruptured, producing an instantaneous release of high-pressure steam. The failure occurred at a methanol plant after eight years in service, and without any prior indications. The failure mechanism was determined to be stress relaxation cracking adjacent to the longitudinal seam weld, which resulted in a large “window” torn out of the side of the header. The initial investigation focused on the materials and fabrication of the header, but deeper analysis highlighted that code compliance does not always equate to fit for service. This article walks the reader through the header specification, design, fabrication, and inspection processes to identify where opportunities were available to question and act to proactively address the vulnerabilities that resulted in the header rupture.

Introduction

One of the biggest fears for any executive leader in the chemical and energy industry is a loss of primary containment event, which brings with it the potential for fatalities, significant equipment damage, and downtime.

Methanex experienced such an event in April 2019. Fortunately, the rupture occurred at shift change so all on-site personnel were in the control room and there were no injuries, but given the energy release associated with the event, there was potential for far greater consequences than what was experienced.

This case study suggests how the strategic, systematic approach to technical knowledge acquisition/assimilation, management, and utilization in the design, fabrication, maintenance, and operation of assets should evolve.

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Comments and Discussion

Posted by Harold Babuik on February 26, 2021
Excellent. Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Don MacIsaac on March 15, 2021
Great article. It covered both the technical,... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Ali Meshaikhis on March 15, 2021
Thanks for sharing Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Ron Mays on March 15, 2021
When operating between 450 and 850 degrees C.,... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Mohamed Abdelbasset on March 16, 2021
Excellent article, Thanks for sharing Peter Some... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Andy Gysbers on March 16, 2021
I believe that given the location of the failure... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Rajaram Chidambaram on March 16, 2021
Hi Peter , Excellent article. I co-authored a... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Uzor Ejikeme on March 16, 2021
Thanks for sharing. That was an enormous amount... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Nasser Turki Al-Lasla on March 28, 2021
Thanks for sharing important subject. Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

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