RCFA For Recurring Impeller Failures In A 4.7 Mtpa LNG Train Propane Compressor
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A Root Cause Failure Analysis (RCFA) for repeated impeller blade failures in a five stage centrifugal propane compressor is described. The initial failure occurred in June 2007 with a large crack found in one blade on the third impeller and two large pieces released from adjacent blades on the fourth impeller. An RCFA was performed to determine the cause of the failures. The failure mechanism was identified to be high cycle fatigue. Several potential causes related to the design, manufacture, and operation of the compressor were examined. The RCFA concluded that the design and manufacture were sound and there were no conclusive issues with respect to operation. A specific root cause was not identified. In June 2009, a second case of blade cracking occurred with a piece once again released from a single blade on the fourth impeller. Due to the commonality with the previous instance this was identified as a repeat failure. Specifically, both cases had occurred in the same compressor whereas, two compressors operating in identical service in adjacent Liquefied natural Gas (LNG) trains had not encountered the problem. A second RCFA was accordingly launched with the ultimate objective of preventing further repeated failures. Both RCFA teams were established comprising of engineers from the End User (RasGas), the OEM (Elliott Group) and an independent consultancy (Southwest Research Institute). The scope of the current investigation included a detailed metallurgical assessment, impeller modal frequency assessment, steady and unsteady computational fluid dynamics (CFD) assessment, finite element analyses (FEA), fluid structure interaction (FSI) assessment, operating history assessment and a comparison change analysis. By the process of elimination, the most probable causes were found to be associated with: Vane wake excitation of either the impeller blade leading edge modal frequency from severe mistuning and/or unusual response of the 1-diameter cover/blades modal frequency: Mist carry over from third side load upstream scrubber; End of curve operation in the compressor rear section.
White, Nicholas M.; Laney, Scot J.; Zorzi, Cory (2011). RCFA For Recurring Impeller Failures In A 4.7 Mtpa LNG Train Propane Compressor. Texas A&M University. Turbomachinery Laboratories. Available electronically from