Creep calculations indicate a crude furnace radiant section carbon steel tubes exceeding their life fraction due to flame impingement reaching up to 700°C for a year. The ambiguity of the temperature and material data means the life fraction of creep calculations were based on limited inspection data and infra-red scanning giving a conservative indication of end of life. Due to unavailable tubes in stock, a planned pit stop cannot be arranged due to economic and safety reasons as the furnace may not be started back up safely. To safeguard the integrity of the furnace until the planned outage, the temperature on the furnace tube was stabilized to a current limit of 540°C through improvements in burner operations. The crude diet was also maintained within the crude acceptance envelope. Visual checks at every shift were done to ensure no observation from tube bulging or uneven flame pattern.
A decision tree was created to facilitate quick decision making using a go/no go criteria of which tubes to replace during the August 2015 planned turnaround. The criteria set for the decision tree required tube wall thickness, surface hardness test, tube outer diameter ring gauge to be examined. Failing any of the criteria will require the tube to be replaced. The replaced tubes (one worst and one representative) will also be lab tested through destructive examination to identify the degradation mechanism and high temperature properties of the worst tubes to quantitatively define the high temperature properties and life fraction of the tubes that are left in the furnace. The lab test will provide results after a year of creep testing and can give assurance of continued furnace operation for 4 more years until the next outage. The final decision after the examination based on the decision tree was made required 17 tubes to be replaced in this turnaround. The worst degraded tubes were found to be at the vicinity of the initial observed location around the flame impingement zone.