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Ndt Methods Widely Used For Boiler Tube Inspection

By Author: Jack Genova
Total Articles: 24

One of the main reasons of forced outages in fossil fired boilers is boiler tube failure. It is important to find out the real cause of the problem so that forced downtime and unpredictable operation can be avoided in future. If there is a tube failure, it could be due to some problem arising far from the tube itself. And without a thorough inspection, there are good chances of causing further downtime as well as revenue loss in the future.

For an exact determination of where the failure has occurred, one has to carry out a full inspection of the system using the non-destructive testing or NDT. The NDT method and boiler tube cleaning together help in proper running of boilers. One can use NDT for inspection of different types of boilers and also across a wide array of industries like bulk storage, chemical, petroleum, power and offshore.

One popular method, called the RFET or Remote Field Electromagnetic Technique is used for the inspection of generating banks in drum to drum boilers. In this method, a probe is put on the outside or inside of the boiler tube, which is then moved up and down for detecting flaws. With this technique, one can find out the external or internal flaws, though it is not possible to tell the difference between the two. A mud drum or steam drum is used to carry out inspection.

With larger boiler systems that have furnace or water wall tubes, one can inspect the presence of OD or IO flaws on the hot side of the tube. In the case of oil and gas burning units, there is no need for any kind of preparation, though a high pressure water blast is usually needed for oil units. One has to use swing stages or hard scaffolding for gaining access.

Another technique, called the LFET or Low Frequency Electromagnetic Testing is used for these types of tubes, and though it uses similar technology, it is designed to work for flatter surfaces. For surfaces that have bending or some other issues that hinder scanning can be tested using ultrasonic methods for a complete analysis.

One can also scan super heater and re-heaters with LFET and also with economizers. For a thorough analysis or as part of secondary inspection, Internal Rotary Inspection Systems, or IRIS for short, can be used in which ultrasonic methods are used for a detailed scanning of areas to detect small and deeply located flaws.

There are many things that can lead to boiler tube failures. The root causes for each of the failures are also different as well, which could be determined with the NDT analysis.

Some of the usual reasons include:

• Caustic Attack
• Hydrogen Damage
• Oxygen Pitting
• Acid Attack
• Waterside Corrosion Fatigue
• Stress Corrosion Cracking
• Superheater Fireside Ash Corrosion
• Waterwall Fireside Corrosion
• High Temperature Oxidisation
• Fireside Corrosion Fatigue

In conclusion, it is important to determine the root cause for the prevention of future failures, and in the process, save hassle, lost revenue, and time through lower operating capacity.


Thompson Industrial Services handles every aspect of industrial cleaning and maintenance and offers a wide array of services including boiler tube inspection by skilled personnel.

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