Coke drums undergo cyclic operations typically in the temperature range from room temperature to about 500 °C (930 °F). During quenching, the coke drum is inevitably subjected to a rapid drop in temperature because cooling water is injected directly into the coke drum through the bottom inlet nozzle. The temperature profile on the shell surface is uneven during quenching, and can vary in each cycle of the quenching operation. Such a complicated thermal profile induces large strains in the shell portion of the coke drum, and eventually causes damage like bulging and/or cracking. The authors have investigated the bulging behavior of the coke drum by the thermal elastic-plastic finite element (FE)-analysis, considering the existence of the overmatch welds and uneven temperature field during quenching (Ohata et al., 2011, “Investigation of Bulging Behavior of Coke Drum—Feasible Study on Causes of Bulging,” ASME PVP2011-57276, Baltimore). In this paper, a practical FE-analysis is developed to estimate the complex strain that leads to bulging under uneven temperature fields during quenching. The actual temperature and strain data during operation are collected by thermocouples and high temperature strain gauges. A thermal analysis model, including an evaluation of boiling heat transfer on the shell's inner surface, is established to simulate the measured shell behavior of the coke drum. By utilizing this FE-analysis model, several parameters thought of as causal factors in bulging can be examined under the uneven temperature profile that is likely to occur during actual operation. This analytical approach can also provide effective technique for improvements in shell durability.

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