July 2003

Maintenance and Reliability

Dealing with deceptive failure modes

Chemical failure mechanisms can disguise themselves as mechanical and vice versa

Bloch, K., Flint Hills Resources, L.P.

Equipment failures are often caused by multiple mechanical and chemical interactions. Root-Cause-Failure-Analysis (RCFA) is complicated by the fact that chemical failure mechanisms can disguise themselves as mechanical failure mechanisms and vice versa. Initial impressions may seem plausible, but corrective actions will be ineffective if RCFA fails to distinguish between chemical and mechanical causal factors. The following two case histories illustrate this point. They demonstrate the importance of resolving all ambiguity in the RCFA process. Case history 1: Steam generator tube reliability. Steam generator tube

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