In 1997, heat exchanger tube failures accounted for 31% of the unplanned downtime in the Lyondell’s Gulf Coast plants. This resulted in over $12MM of unplanned production interruptions. A multi-disciplinary team studied the tube failure modes and developed a systematic program to improve the heat exchanger reliability. The team issued recommendations in the areas of heat exchanger design, construction, operation, maintenance and inspection. This paper mainly discusses the three critical areas surrounding the reliability of heat exchanger tubes. They are tube testing, strategy on retubing exchangers during turnarounds and design improvements.

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