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Material Engineering Up to the Task in Engineering with High Performance Materials

Author / Editor: Dipl.-Ing. Gerd Trommer* / Dominik Stephan

How special materials help to enhance quality and reduce costs in plant engineering for the chemical industry — Plant engineers have a hard time complying to the diverse and demanding challenges that state-of-the-art chemical plant construction poses, but specials materials like newly developed fine-grain steels and alloys are up to task. From steel via alloys to titanium: There is a perfect match for every challenge.

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The shift reactor for generating hydrogen from hydrocarbons for a large chemical group weighs 220 t.
The shift reactor for generating hydrogen from hydrocarbons for a large chemical group weighs 220 t.
(Source: Kremsmüller)

Safety is of utmost importance in chemical engineering, encompassing many aspects from functional safety via reaching the assured service life, keeping the operating costs in-check, and last not least, that safety-relevant components reliably withstand all destructive effects. Yet, the destructive effects of chemical or mechanical stress prove to much for some components. New materials developed on-purpose can offer the solution.

But they only yield their maximum benefits when their properties and future loads are taken into account. In this complex area of manufacturing, Krems­mueller Industrieanlagenbau from Steinhaus, Upper Austria, is doing pioneering work together with steel manufacturer Voestalpine and water power operator Tiwag-Tiroler Wasserkraft.

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Acids and alkalis, often in combination with extreme temperatures and mechanical stress, can cause surface corrosion, pitting corrosion, crevice corrosion and stress corrosion even of “stainless steels”. Chlorides, halogens, bromide and iodide add to the dangerous influences of the aggressive media. However, newly developed special steels and materials can withstand these attacks.

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Quality Assesment
Pores: Underestimated Evidences for Weld Quality

Apart from crack-like defects, the focus of evaluation of the welding quality is now also on the number, size and position of the pores in the welded material. The database for taking the pores into account is set up by external, independent inspectors using the highly efficient TOFD (Time of Flight Diffraction) method. It describes defects in the material being welded in great detail in terms of length, depth and height. This allows exact quality evaluation and documentation. With the traditional processes, reliable conclusions about the quality of the weld seam would hardly be possible. These findings are already being incorporated in new standards.

With a longstanding experience in the processing of special alloys Kremsmueller has the competence to handle the challenges that come with aggressive and hot media. Among the successful applications are reactors, columns and heat exchangers made of duplex steels, nickel based alloys and titanium. Their portfolio also includes thick-walled apparatuses plated with special materials to counter the high pressure stress and aggressive media.

Apparatuses are manufactured in-house from semi-finished sections weigh up to 400 tonnes. And the challenges and tasks the engineers have to meet are as demanding and diverse as their customers’ applications.

In chemical companies, the pressure or shift reactor generates hydrogen from hydrocarbons. Kremsmueller manufactured such an apparatus, consisting of three components, with a total weight of 125 tons, and took on the responsibility of the integration of the pipe bundle (57 tons), and the steam drum (38 tons).

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