Delayed unit coker drums operate in a severe service environment that precludes long term reliability due to excessive shell bulging and cracking of shell joint and shell to skirt welds. Thermal fatigue is recognized as the leading damage mechanism and past work has provided an idealized description of the thermo-mechanical mechanism via local hot and cold spot formation to quantify a lower bound life estimate for shell weld failure.
The present work extends this idealized thermo-mechanical damage model by evaluating actual field data to determine a potential upper bound life estimate. This assessment also provides insight into practical techniques for equipment operators to identify design and operational opportunities to extend the service life of coke drums for their specific service environments.
A modern trend of specifying higher chromium and molybdenum alloy content for drum shell material in order to improve low cycle fatigue strength is seen to be problematic; rather, the use of lower alloy materials that are generally described as fatigue tough materials are better suited for the high strain-low cycle fatigue service environment of coke drums. Materials such as SA 204 C (C – ½ Mo) and SA 302 B (C – Mn – ½ Mo) or SA 302 C (C – Mn – ½ Mo – ½ Ni) are shown to be better candidates for construction in lieu of low chromium alloy steel materials such as SA 387 grades P11 (1¼ Cr – ½ Mo), P12 (1 Cr – ½ Mo), P22 (2¼ Cr – 1 Mo) and P21 (3 Cr – 1 Mo).