January 2007

Engineering Case Histories

Case 36: Pipe bowing stresses due to thermal differences

A pipe partially filled with a hot cycling fluid can cause weld failures

Sofronas, A., Consulting Engineer

By now the readers of this column are aware that the cases presented are not your everyday troubleshooting exercises. Many of these types of failures only occur once in one's career but are usually associated with expensive downtime or safety issues. The author has witnessed several failures caused by a very hot fluid only partially filling a pipe. Such partial filling is also known as thermal stratification. A cycling valve was involved in this case study. Cyclic stress developed and caused a weld to crack. This then resulted in a product leak. The foregoing analysis was performed so thermal imaging equipment could be used on other piping circuits to determine if similar plant piping wa

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