News & Views, Volume 44 | Metallurgical Lab Featured Damage Mechanism – Long-Term Overheating/Creep (LTOC) in Steam-Cooled Boiler Tubes
By: Terry Totemeier
Long-term overheating and creep damage are often the damage mechanisms associated with the normal or expected end of life of steam-touched tubes, generally occurring after 100,000 hours or more of service life at elevated temperatures and pressures. Long-term overheating and creep can also occur when the rate or accumulation of creep damage is moderately higher than anticipated by original design. There are a number of possible reasons for this, but in general the problem can be attributed to one of the following: a non-conservative original design, higher-than-anticipated heat absorption, lower-than-anticipated steam flow, or wall loss caused by external wastage.
The mechanism of failure for LTOC is simply the accelerated accumulation of creep damage in the component over a span of time that is well short of the anticipated design life, but sufficiently long that creep is the dominant damage mode. This damage is typically associated with the operation of the tube above the oxidation limit for the material involved. This has two effects, which both contribute to long-term creep failure: reduction in wall thickness due to oxidation loss, and build-up of oxide on the tube internal surface, which insulates the tube from the cooling effect of the steam, leading to increasing tube metal temperatures over time.