Inspectioneering

Failure Analysis

Explore this topic

It is undeniable that every plant will experience equipment failure at some point during its lifetime. Despite this, avoiding failures is the goal of every asset integrity professional in the oil and gas industry. As such, using Failure Analysis to avoid recurring failures is vital to the industry.

Failure analysis can be defined as “the process of interpreting the features of a deteriorated system or component to determine why it no longer performs its intended function.” Failure analysis involves using deductive logic to find the root causes, either mechanical or human, of a failure. Once that is done, inductive logic is used to find the latent causes, which are most often organizational in nature. Finally, an engineered solution should be determined to help prevent recurrences of the failure in the future.

When it comes to failures that could have been catastrophic but weren’t, a more thorough analysis with specific steps is required. These steps consist of:

  1. Diagnose the failure

  2. Collect background data on the failure

  3. Examine the equipment under low power magnification

  4. Analyze the critical pieces in detail

  5. Determine the physical damage mechanisms behind the failure

  6. Determine any other potential root causes of the failure

Once the causes of the failure have been determined, it is then possible to identify solutions to prevent the failure from happening again. If this cannot be done, then it is important to at least come up with ways to mitigate the damage should the part suffer failure in the future.

Failure analysis is an essential part of maintaining a safe and reliable plant or factory. Because of this, a good failure analysis program should be present in every high quality reliability maintenance program and be implemented at every site to understand the root cause of problems, avoid the recurrence of issues, and reduce the cost of unreliability.

Topic Tools

Share this Topic

Contribute to Definition

We welcome updates to this Integripedia definition from the Inspectioneering community. Click the link below to submit any recommended changes for Inspectioneering's team of editors to review.

Contribute to Definition
Articles about Failure Analysis
September/October 2021 Inspectioneering Journal

This follow-up article discusses the important topic of establishing Heat Exposure Zones and Level 1, 2, and 3 fitness-for-service assessments following a plant fire.

Authors: Greg Garic
July/August 2021 Inspectioneering Journal

Part 1 presents a brief overview of the process of assessing equipment in a post-fire "return-to-service" effort and discusses some common issues that may arise during that process.

Authors: Greg Garic
May/June 2021 Inspectioneering Journal

It can be challenging for failure analysts to present complex information to audiences that don't the same knowledge on specialized subjects. Sometimes, failure mechanisms can be summarized with images that can tell the whole story...

Blog

Like many processes, root cause analyses are only as good as the information being used. If critical data about the failure mechanism is lost during repairs, then this information will be unknown to the group trying to determine the root cause(s).

Authors: Inspector Frank
March/April 2020 Inspectioneering Journal

Field hardness tests can provide valuable information when evaluating piping and pressure vessel anomalies. This article summarizes laboratory examinations designed to gain a better understanding of UCI hardness test results taken in the field.

Authors: Ana Benz
Partner Content

Auto-refrigeration can impose low temperatures onto process vessels and piping causing them to be at risk of brittle fracture, the sudden break-before leak phenomena that can result in catastrophic rupture of the equipment.

July/August 2019 Inspectioneering Journal

A significant number of pipeline failures due to external or internal corrosion have resulted from MIC, some with catastrophic consequences. This article demonstrates a three-step failure analysis process used to investigate the failure mechanism.

Blog

What do you do when you first discover a mechanical failure? Maybe your pipe sprang a leak, a drive shaft snapped, or a welded joint fractured, and you need to find out why. This infographic details some steps you can take to avoid critical mistakes.

January/February 2018 Inspectioneering Journal

The actions you take immediately after a failure are critical in understanding the cause and appropriate steps to remedy the problem. However, the wrong moves might prevent you from getting the answers you need.

Authors: Neil Burns
November/December 2017 Inspectioneering Journal

In-service equipment failures present a considerable challenge to reliability engineers. This article presents a case study of a convection tube failure in a furnace and the analyses that were performed to understand the root cause and determine the...

Authors: James R. Widrig
July/August 2017 Inspectioneering Journal

Failure analysis of piping that has experienced corrosion damage provides operators with valuable information needed to prevent future failures. Effective processes and procedures are essential when investigating the cause of corrosion on pipelines...

Partner Content

What do you need: CONSULTING - Subject matter experts, consultants, or team of highly skilled engineers to help solve my problem. SOFTWARE - My team requires software, products, or resources that will solve the problem. TRAINING - I require...

July/August 2017 Inspectioneering Journal

This article outlines the engineering and assessment methodologies applied during the analysis of a failure of a 15-foot diameter reactor tank supported by four legs.

July/August 2017 Inspectioneering Journal

Most plants have pieces of equipment with chronic problems that impact profitability due to the frequency of outages, cost of repairs, and lost production. It is critical that specific actions are taken to identify and eliminate these “Bad...

Authors: Rick Hoffman
May/June 2017 Inspectioneering Journal

Read a firsthand account of how organizing Process, People, Plant, and Performance can reveal breakdowns in your corrosion management practices and drive down corrosion related leaks.

Authors: David E. Moore
July/August 2016 Inspectioneering Journal

This article summarizes a recent finite element analysis (FEA)-based study that employs creep simulation techniques to investigate the elevated temperature response of piping with peaked longitudinal weld seams.

May/June 2016 Inspectioneering Journal

Aging equipment, along with more aggressive service, makes it more important than ever to carry out fitness-for-service (FFS) assessments in support of run/repair/replace decisions. Testing material in the service-degraded condition enables...

Partner Content

Becht’s industry-leading Corrosion and Metallurgical experts are here to help with significant owner-operator experience covering the refining, petrochemical and chemical industries. This expertise is leveraged to help our clients become more...

March/April 2016 Inspectioneering Journal

Achieving fired heater reliability in conjunction with meeting performance standards can be a challenging feat. Performance is a measure of the degree to which the fired heater is in an operable condition at any given time.

Authors: Tim Hill
September/October 2015 Inspectioneering Journal

If everyone in an industrial setting actively looked for things that were not right or seemed different, or looked at small mistakes as opportunities to prevent larger ones, what would the future look like?

Authors: Virginia Edley
Blog

Service failures and safety incidents of machines, structures, and pressure equipment have been experienced in the oil and gas industry for many years without warning, with varying degrees of consequential damages to health, safety, environmental,...

Authors: Jeremiah Wooten
Blog

Corrosion Under Insulation (CUI) is an insidious damage mechanism that, despite being incredibly well-known and understood, still makes up an inordinately large percentage of global maintenance expenditures. CUI has been extensively researched and...

Authors: Nick Schmoyer
September/October 2014 Inspectioneering Journal

A small leak from top tubesheet-to-tube welds prompted further inspection of the 1¼Cr- ½Mo Ammonia Converter Boiler Feed Water (BFW) Exchanger during a planned shutdown. Further cracks were identified in the top channel to tubesheet butt weld that...

Partner Content

TEAM believes that quality inspections are the key to reliability. Our inspection crews are made up of specialty trained, experienced technicians who adhere to the highest quality standards. Our API 653 inspectors deliver thorough, reliable...

November/December 2013 Inspectioneering Journal

Service failures and safety incidents of machines, structures, and pressure equipment have been experienced in the oil and gas industry for many years without warning, with varying degrees of consequential damages to health, safety,...

Authors: Fernando Vicente
January/February 2013 Inspectioneering Journal

In this article you will find the failure investigations of six 0.094 inch thick carbon steel vessels. These vessels were in service in natural gas well facilities; some functioned as dryers and were subjected to cyclic loads. Metallographic tests,...

Authors: Ana Benz
July/August 2012 Inspectioneering Journal

This is the last out of the ten articles in this series. Clearly, Continuous Improvement (CI) has a major role in achieving excellence in PEI&R. All the advances we’ve made over the years in achieving excellence in PEI&R stems from our continuous...

Authors: John Reynolds
March/April 2012 Inspectioneering Journal

Risk Based Integrity Management (RBIM) is the latest process for developing strategies to properly operate and maintain a manufacturing or production facility in the Oil, Gas, and Petrochemical Industry (OG&P). RBIM is a significant change from...

Authors: Barry Snider
January/February 2011 Inspectioneering Journal

Describes a non-destructive sampling procedure which records and preserves the topography of a metallographic specimen as a negative relief on a plastic film (replica).

Authors: Leo Vega
January/February 2006 Inspectioneering Journal

After a pressure equipment or piping failure, it’s not uncommon to find out during the failure analysis part of the investigation that the failure initiated at a welding flaw of some sort.

Authors: John Reynolds
    Downloads & Resources related to Failure Analysis
      Sponsored eBook

      This eBook offers practical guidance for, and real examples of, in-service degradation attributed to corrosion under insulation. It provides a detailed discussion on CUI detection, characterization and evaluation, and mitigation or remediation.

      Sponsored eBook

      This eBook offers practical guidance for, and real examples of, in-service degradation attributed to thermal fatigue. It provides a detailed discussion on thermal fatigue detection, characterization and evaluation, and mitigation or remediation.

      eBook

      This publication outlines 101 Essential Elements that need to be in place and functioning well in order to effectively and efficiently preserve and protect the reliability and integrity of pressure equipment (i.e. vessels, exchangers, furnaces,...

      News related to Failure Analysis

        Inspectioneering Journal

        Explore over 20 years of articles written by our team of subject matter experts.

        Company Directory

        Find relevant products, services, and technologies.

        Talent Solutions

        Discover job opportunities that match your skillset.

        Case Studies

        Learn from the experience of others in the industry.

        Integripedia

        Inspectioneering's index of mechanical integrity topics – built by you.

        Industry News

        Stay up-to-date with the latest inspection and asset integrity management news.

        Blog

        Read short articles and insights authored by industry experts.

        Expert Interviews

        Inspectioneering's archive of interviews with industry subject matter experts.

        Event Calendar

        Find upcoming conferences, training sessions, online events, and more.

        Downloads

        Downloadable eBooks, Asset Intelligence Reports, checklists, white papers, and more.

        Videos

        Watch educational and informative videos directly related to your profession.

        Acronyms

        Commonly used asset integrity management and inspection acronyms.