Finite Element Analysis (FEA)

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Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is a computerized system of theoretical modeling used to predict stress locations and causes of failures in different materials. This method is useful for simulating, modeling, and analyzing problems that could affect complicated systems, such as oil pipelines or oil platforms.

FEA is based on the idea that most engineering problems can be solved more easily by using mesh generation techniques to divide a component into a large number of smaller, finite elements. Each of these finite elements can then be analysed individually. The analysis works by using equations to predict the behavior of each individual object under specific conditions. These individual behaviors are then calculated together to gain an understanding of how the system will behave as a hole under the set conditions.

Some of the things that can be analysed and predicted by FEA include: the effects of stress, damage caused by contact between parts, fatigue and fractures, vibration fatigue, and damage due to fire or heat transfer. The method is particularly useful because it tends to be more accurate than other methods and can examine a complicated system with great precision. Likewise, it can be performed much more quickly than traditional hand calculations.

On the other hand though, use of computerized models has several limitations as well. They are unable to account for things such as: human error in input data, the properties of materials, and geometrical features that could possibly be missed by analysts. Likewise, there is to expected a certain amount of error in every type of numerical analysis, and FEA is no different in this regard. The degree of error in any one analysis is dependant on the type, size, and accuracy of the model used in the analysis.

FEA is covered, along with other fitness-for-service analysis techniques, under API RP 579-1 / ASME FFS-1.

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Articles about Finite Element Analysis (FEA)
September/October 2023 Inspectioneering Journal

Failure of internal attachment welds became a chronic issue for an NGL plant. Identifying design discrepancies was key to eliminating repeated failures.

May/June 2023 Inspectioneering Journal

This article describes a storage tank built in a permafrost area and how FFS and FEA were used to address the challenges of foundation instability.

January/February 2023 Inspectioneering Journal

The specialized predictive techniques used in assessing the vibration behavior observed and recorded on a pre-flash column overhead piping system.


Fatigue is interesting as a failure mechanism for many reasons. First off, it accounts for roughly 80% of industrial failures. Think about that for a second.

Authors: Inspector Frank
November/December 2022 Inspectioneering Journal

Part 2 of this Damage Control series on high-temperature creep discusses engineering evaluation methods that can be used to predict the remaining creep life of components. Comparisons between the Larson-Miller Parameter and the MPC Omega are offered.

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September/October 2022 Inspectioneering Journal

An assessment of the vibration behavior observed and recorded on a pre-flash column overhead piping system and the strategic methodologies used based on a proactive troubleshooting technique.

January/February 2022 Inspectioneering Journal

The application of a detailed design-by-analysis method using ASME Sec-VIII Div-2 confirms field-observed ratcheting and fatigue type failures in the tubesheet due to the complex cyclical thermal-mechanical loading encountered during operation.

January/February 2022 Inspectioneering Journal

A finite element analysis (FEA) was performed on five different models of varying configurations as an approach to establish best practices in the choice of the most appropriate factor of safety, depending on the type of metal loss.

Authors: Marcos Delgado
May/June 2021 Inspectioneering Journal

In this article, FFS assessment methods are summarized and practical guidance is offered for qualifying CUI damage on carbon and low-alloy steels.

July/August 2018 Inspectioneering Journal

API 579-1 is a complex document covering several different types of equipment that may contain flaws or damage. Due to its complexity, this article condenses it into six things you need to know.

Authors: Greg Garic, P.E.
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May/June 2018 Inspectioneering Journal

This article details the experience an oil company had when using FEA to evaluate the implications of a damaged pipeline. Specifically, it presents an efficient method that combines analytical techniques with FEA to determine the pipeline’s...

January/February 2018 Inspectioneering Journal

Given the concern throughout industry regarding the potential for brittle fracture failures, PWHT guidance to address potential issues arising from the recent changes in PWHT code requirements for carbon steel is examined in this article, and...

September/October 2017 Inspectioneering Journal

Due to its high-cost, Level 3 FFS is typically carried out after Levels 1 or 2 and only in extreme cases. However, advancements in inspection technology and improved use of inspection data have made Level 3 analysis more practical and affordable,...

Authors: Tyron Kimble
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.

November/December 2016 Inspectioneering Journal

This article exhibits how modern inspection methodologies combined with innovative computational analysis practices demonstrate the value of conducting fitness-for-service (FFS) assessments on sectional piping.

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Meet our team at booth #1652 where we will be showcasing DIMATE PACS and our latest AI advancements. Our cutting-edge software is designed to revolutionize the way energy companies conduct inspections, improve asset safety, and increase margins.

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 2015 Inspectioneering Journal

Historically, regulations regarding dent severity have been governed by one of two metrics: dent depth or strain. In the case of the former, plain dents with a depth up to 6% of the nominal diameter are permitted in both gas and liquid pipelines....

November/December 2013 Inspectioneering Journal

While there are many types of damage mechanisms that can occur in a piece of equipment, localized metal loss is one of the most common. If an inspection reveals that metal loss has occurred, many questions are raised...

March/April 2013 Inspectioneering Journal

If an operator finds cracking in a furnace waste heat boiler, excessive thinning in an absorption tower, or severe bulging in a converter, FFS assessments—not standard code analyses—are needed to evaluate the unit’s mechanical...

Authors: Greg Garic, P.E.
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