The frequency and extent of vessel bulging and cracking being registered in delayed coke drums throughout the global coking industry has accelerated significantly as refinery operators reduce their cycle times. Several theoretical approaches have been developed to identify how a bulged area may lead to drum damage; however, limited information has been presented to match the theoretical predictions with actual surface damage reported by coke drum operators.

The results of hundreds of laser scans spanning the last 25 years have been analyzed to correlate vessel bulging with observed surface damage. Specific categorizations of bulge profiles, and the proximity of these to circumferential weld seams (circs), have been calibrated against hundreds of real-world examples of drum damage and failure, including through wall cracking and stress cracking of the cladding, and further associated with the triggers for repair strategies implemented by industry leading refiners.

Strong correlations between specific aspects of bulge profiles and the presence of surface damage were found resulting in an assessment tool that can rank and prioritize coke drum distortions on the likelihood of damage, and can serve as a useful guide for planning future coke drum maintenance.

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