Failure of ethylene furnace outlet transfer line due to overheating

A. Ul-Hamid*, H. M. Tawancy, A. I. Mohammed, S. S. Al-Jaroudi, N. M. Abbas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


An outlet transfer line tube of an ethylene-cracking furnace failed after five years of service. The tube, made from Incoloy alloy 800H, developed cracks that penetrated the entire thickness. Optical and scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, and microhardness tests were used to evaluate the failed tube. It was found that the tube was considerably embrittled by high-temperature carburization, leading to intergranular fracture at the inner surface. Carburization appeared to have been caused by high-temperature exposure to the carbon-rich atmosphere associated with the coke adhered to the inner surface. Additionally, the decrease in heat transfer due to the coke deposits caused the wall temperature to increase during service. However, at the outer surface, the tube fractured by a fatigue process that could result from the use of a counterweight to prevent sagging of the tube as a result of the coke deposition. Based on the results obtained, a short-term solution was to modify various process parameters to reduce the extent of coke deposition and/or increase the frequency of, decoking and to discontinue the use of a counterweight. However, the long-term solution is to replace alloy 800H.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-61
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Failure Analysis and Prevention
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to acknowledge the support of the Research Institute of King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals.


  • Carburization
  • Fatigue
  • SEM
  • Transfer line

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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