May 2017

Special Focus: Maintenance and Reliability

A deeper examination of thermal expansion issues in process equipment and piping

Piping and process equipment that operate at high temperatures experience thermal expansion. If free thermal expansion is restrained, mechanical stresses are created within the component.

Tharakan, J., Suncor Energy Inc.

Piping and process equipment that operate at high temperatures experience thermal expansion. If free thermal expansion is restrained, mechanical stresses are created within the component. Thermal stresses are self-equilibrating and reoccur due to deformation, or if restraints are removed. Thermal expansion issues in piping are investigated through computerized stress analysis software. Thermal growth of a pipe is accommodated by bending that causes longitudinal stresses in the pipe. The magnitude of stresses is proportional to the temperature difference from installation to operation. Each startup/shutdown causes cyclic thermal stresses in the piping. The cyclic stresses get amplified at str

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