Failure Analysis

CTL provides support services for what we refer to as “failure analysis”.  Most commonly, this entails a piece of pipe, a housing, piece of equipment, or the like that is not functioning as intended.  This can be total failure (i.e., leaking) or inferior performance (e.g., visual deterioration).  Our analytical. metallographic, and chemical techniques are used to identify the factors that lead to the deterioration.  This can include material incompatibility, environmental influences, and design or manufacture related problems.  These findings are combined with our clients’ process-specific knowledge to determine appropriate mitigation or remediation techniques.

We tailor our services to your needs.  Sometimes, it is necessary that the analysis be very thorough, with all aspects to be evaluated as reasonably possible.  Other times, a limited scope analysis is all the support that is needed.  Below is an outline of common types of investigations.

  1. Email Summary: Informal investigation with findings provided via email.  Minimal discussion in report and minimal consulting time budgeted.
  2. Summary of Findings: Short report that includes findings and some discussion.  Some consulting time is included. 
  3. Executive Summary: Thorough report including documentation of laboratory findings and a discussion of the results and failure mechanism, conclusions, and recommendations when possible.

Although each project is unique, a somewhat standardized method is applied to the investigation. Below provides a summation of some of the most common steps and concepts applied during an investigation.

  1. Initial review of problem at hand with the client to understand the description of the failure, application, and severity of the impact on operations. This helps guide the recommended analysis type. Goals of the investigation are defined. From this step, probable analysis tools and methods are defined, but are subject to change based on necessity.
  2. Exploratory laboratory investigation is commenced that may include visual and microscope examination for general characterization, metallurgical assessment, and analytical chemical techniques to identify possible environmental corrodents.
  3. The findings of the laboratory investigation are reviewed in the context of the provided background information. Key connections are drawn between current operations to laboratory results, which can be used for mitigation and remediation.  Results are summarized in the selected report type and discussed with the client as appropriate.
  • Boiler tube evaluations from refineries, paper mills, residential homes, etc. [Examples of mechanisms & techniques: short term and long term overheating, stress assisted corrosion, deposit weight density evaluation, creep, and fly ash or salt cake corrosion.]
  • Heat exchanger tubes from chemical processing [Examples of mechanisms: MIC, errosion, fatigue]
  • Fire supression systems [Examples: Leaking pendent sprinklers, thread engagement analysis, large HDPE burried lines]
  • Potable and waste water piping

Besides the more common components, we’ve analyzed chilled beverage dispensers, solar panels, residential piping systems, ball valves, shafts, bolts, and everything in between.

For additional information about case studies please click here.