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API RP 571 - Damage Mechanisms Affecting Fixed Equipment in the Refining Industry

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API RP 571, Damage Mechanisms Affecting Fixed Equipment in the Refining Industry, is a recommended practice developed and published by the American Petroleum Institute (API) that provides an in-depth look at nearly 70 different damage mechanisms that can occur to process equipment in refineries. According to the third edition of this recommended practice, its purpose is “to describe the wide variety of service-induced damage and deterioration mechanisms, including corrosion and other types of metallurgical damage, that are most likely to affect the condition of the materials of construction commonly used in refinery equipment.” However, much of the information included in this document can also be applied to petrochemical and other industrial applications, as the user deems appropriate.

API RP 571 was originally published in 2003, and the third edition was released in March of 2020. This RP is intended to supplement API RP 580, API RP 581, and API RP 579, and is nearly 400 pages long.

What is a Damage Mechanism?

A damage mechanism is a mechanical or chemical process that results in equipment damage or material degradation. Damage mechanisms can range from corrosion, to cracking, to heat damage, and everything in between. Damage mechanisms can be grouped in the following categories:

  • Mechanical or Metallurgical Failure Mechanisms
  • Uniform or Localized Loss of Thickness
  • High Temperature Corrosion
  • Environment-Assisted Cracking
  • Other Mechanisms

Why Understanding Damage Mechanisms is Important

API RP 584 (Integrity Operating Windows) puts it best:

“In today’s operating environment, it is not enough to base future inspection plans only on prior recorded/known history of equipment condition. A fundamental understanding of the process/operating conditions and resulting damage mechanisms are required to establish and maintain an inspection program that yields the highest probability of detecting potential damage.” 

Damage mechanisms need to be properly identified and understood to determine damage location (general or local), damage propagation rates, and opportunities for mitigation. Proper identification of damage mechanisms is important when:

Each of the damage mechanisms found in API RP 571 is given a write up that consists of a description of the mechanism, a list of materials that are susceptible to that mechanism, critical factors that affect the mechanism (i.e., rate of damage), affected equipment and/or units where the damage mechanism commonly occurs, appearance or morphology of the damage, and measures that can be taken to to prevent or mitigate that particular mechanism. In many cases, pictures or graphics are included to provide additional valuable context to the reader.

Some examples of the types of damage mechanisms covered by API RP 571 are listed below.

Mechanical or Metallurgical Failure Mechanisms

Uniform or Localized Loss of Thickness

High Temperature Corrosion

Environment-Assisted Cracking

Other Mechanisms

API 571 Corrosion and Materials Certification

API offers a 571 certification through their Individual Certification Program (ICP). The body of knowledge and exam questions for this certification are derived from the API RP 571 document. As of November, 2021, there are over 1,800 active API 571 certified individuals globally [1].

Individuals who hold current API 510, 570, or 653 certifications automatically qualify to take the certification exam. Otherwise, qualification is based on a combination of education level and industry experience.

References

  1. https://www.api.org/-/media/Files/Certification/ICP/Overview/ICP%20Home/Statistics/ICP%20Statistics%20-%20November%202021.pdf?la=en&hash=332B7B50D9AEF49C24239236F229924597178C30

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API Recommended Practice 571, Damage Mechanisms Affecting Fixed Equipment in the Refining Industry

March/April 2000 Inspectioneering Journal

An API task group is working on the total revision of this API reference document 571.

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