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Analysis of failure in boiler industry--a case study.


For any Boiler industry to generate power, apart from the main equipments, some auxiliary equipments are also needed to support them for the generation of power. The equipments for the processes like fuel supply, air supply, ash removal, water supply are pulverizing mills conveyors, induction fans, forced draught fans, water circulation systems, etc. The pulverizing mill is used for converting the raw lignite into fine powder. This process is termed as pulverization. Pulverization is done in order to improve the utilization of the fuel efficiently. This helps in reducing the unburnt fuel in the boilers. Such pulverizers may lead to some failures. This leads to the reduction in power generation. Each boiler consists of pulverizers for fuel pulverization. If any one of them fails, the fuel supply from that mill will be stopped and it reduces the generation of power. In this article, some of the failures that occur in the pulverizers were identified, the consequences of failures were discussed and proper remedial actions or suggestions were given which will definitely reduce the failures in the pulverizing mills.

Construction Details of Pulverizing Mills

The mill consists of a hollow shaft on which discs with suspended hammers are provided. Spacers are provided to maintain the distance between the discs. The hammer holders are fixed upon the holder's pins that pass through holes in the discs. The hammers in turn are fixed to hammer holder pins. The hammers are made of high wear resisting material such as 13% of manganese steel. The mill housing is of welded structure. The inner surface of the housing is faced with inner plates to protect the walls against adhesive effect of lignite and hammer is about 30mm which increases with wear on the hammers and wear plates. The side walls of housing are provided access for replacing the worn out hammer and holders. The mill rotor is mounted on the double row self adjusting roller bearings. A water jacket assembly is fitted in the bearing housing. Cooling water flows from the free end to motor end through a metal tube and comes out through the hollow space of the rotor, there by cooling the rotor which is subjected to the heat of gas and mixture during the fact. Each mill is provided with emergency button nearby for stopping the mill in case of emergency.

Identification of failures in the industry

During the operation of pulverizing mills, different types of mill break downs, outages occur due to many reasons. Some are inevitable, for example, Failure due to wear and tear and some are accidental, for example failure due to foreign material entry.

Pulverizing mill break downs has a great significance in the operation of a boiler unit as it leads to a considerable drop in steam generation and power generation. Some common failures in pulverizing mills of the industry are also discussed.

Identified Failures

(1) Hammer throw off.

(2) Bearing Failure.

(3) Rotor shaft failure.

(4) Wear plate failure.

(5) Shield plate failure.

(6) Over loading of mills.

(7) Knocking of bearings.

Hammer Throw Off

This refers to a failure which occurs due to dislodging of hammers from its position. It is a chain/cascade process and dislodging of one hammer leads to hitting the other hammer and there by the damage is much with in a short time span.

Hammer throws off

Normally, hammer throw off occurs due to entry of foreign material with lignite. When the foreign material hit the hammer it is dislodged from its position and leads to a cascade process of hammer damage. Some times worn out hammers, holders also happen to be the reason for hammer throw off.

Consequences of Hammer Throw:

If the mill is not stopped immediately, hammer throw off can cause much damage to many parts of the mill namely, hammer, bearings, rotor, shafts, insulation plates and leads to imbalance of rotor.

Bearing Failure:

There are two bearings at both the ends of the rotor(one is free and the other is coupling end). Any damage to the bearings will lead to stoppage of mill and needs minor replacement.

Rotor Shaft Failure

This is a major failure in mills. Normally rotor shaft failure occurs due to shearing of the shaft. The failure generally originate from the key hole area of the shaft and propagate to other parts of the shaft and finally the whole shaft is sheared off. Though the rate of occurrence is much less, the failure leads to stoppage of mill for up to 2 days.

Wear Plate Failure

Wear plate is fastened to the base plate or mother plate. Due to failure of fasteners, which fix the wear plate with mother plate, rub with hammers and lead to over loading of mill or hammer throw off.

Shield Plate Failures:

Due to continuous exposure of high temperatures welding joint failure occurs in the plate and that leads to overloading of mills. The temperature in the mill shaft is to be strictly adhered to avoid plate failures.

Overloading of Mills:

This is another type of performance failure which leads to stoppage of mill. Various factors are responsible for overloading of mills. They are worn out hammers, more air ingress and choke in pulverized fuel burner.

Knocking on Bearings"

This is an indication of imbalance of rotor or failure of bearings. The mill has to be stopped and inside of mill are to be inspected to find out the reason for knocking.

Water line failure

Though the possibility of failure is remote, the consequences of the failure are very serious leading to mill shaft(rotor shaft) failure.

Methodology Adopted

The methodology used in this article is Failure Mode and Effect Analysis(FMEA). It is used to identify the potential failure modes for a product or process, to assess the risk associated with those failure modes, to rank the issues in terms of importance and to identify and carry out corrective actions to address the most serious concerns.

Types of FMEA

(1) Functional FMEA: This type of FMEA assumes a failure and then identifies how that failure could occur. The functional approach is typically used when individual items cannot be identified or a complex system exists.

(2) Hardware FMEA: The hardware approach investigates smaller portion of the system, such as sub assemblies and individual components. The hardware approach generally involves a bottom up analysis in which the effects of possible failure modes of a subsystem, assembly, component, part, etc. on the entire system are identified.

Terminologies In FMEA

Resolution: Decide on an appropriate system level at which FMEA is performed.

Focus: The FMEA may be identified to determine the effects of failure modes on individual areas such as safety, mission & success or repair cost.

Potential Mode: These are the ways the system or component might fail.

Potential Effect: The consequence of failure mode may be on the operation, function or status of an item. Failure effects are usually classified according to how the entire system is compacted.

Failure Causes: The physical or chemical process, design defects, Part misapplication, quality defects or other processes that are the basic reason for failure or which initiate the physical processes by which deterioration proceeds to failure.

Severity: The consequences of a failure as a result of particular failure mode, the severity can be ranked from 1 to 10 based on its effects. A table shown below rank the severity based on the effect.

Occurrence: The probability that a problem may occur again & again is occurrence. The table given below deplicts ranking for the occurrence.

Detection: The probability that an operator or maintenance crew cab discover the failure by diagnostic action. The ranking table for detection is given below.

Analysis Procedure Followed in FMEA

(1) Assemble the Team.

(2) Establish the ground rules.

(3) Gather and review relevant information.

(4) Identify the items or processes to be analyzed.

(5) Identify the functions, failures, effects, causes and controls for each item or process to be analyzed.

(6) Evaluate the risk associated with the issues identified by the analysis.

(7) Prioritize and assign corrective actions.

(8) Perform corrective actions and re-evaluate risk.

(9) Distribute, review and update the analysis as appropriate.

Methods of FMEA

Most analyses of this type also include some method to assess the risk associated with the issues identified during the analysis and to prioritize corrective actions. Two common methods include Risk Priority Numbers (RPNs) & Criticality Analysis. The most frequently used method is the Risk Priority numbers. The steps are given below.

(1) To use the Risk Priority number (RPN) method.

(2) Rate the severity of each effect of failure.

(3) Rate the likelihood of occurrence for each cause of failure.

(4) Rate the likelihood of prior detection for each cause of failure.

(5) Calculate the RPN by obtaining the product of the three ratings.

RPN = Severity x Occurrence x Detection

The RPN can then be used to compare issues within the analysis and to prioritize problems for corrective action. The risk assessment method is commonly associated with Failure Mode and Effect Analysis(FMEA). The Failure modes, Effects and Analysis procedure is a tool that has been adapted in many different ways for many different purposes. It can contribute to improved designs for products and processes, resulting in higher reliability, better quality, increased safety, enhanced customer satisfaction and reduced costs. The tool can also be used to establish and optimize maintenance plans for repairable systems and contribute to control plans and other quality assurance procedures.


Data Collection

After collecting the datas for 6 months from July to December and the total equipment outages (in hrs) are tabulated below.

Results and Discussions


The following suggestions were made after analyzing the failures in the boiler industry.

(1) Magnetic separators must be installed at intake side of the mill to avoid the entry of foreign particles into the mills. This reduces the problem of hammer throw off.

(2) The conveyor belt speed must be reduced from 9.3m/sec to an optimum speed of 4.2m/sec in order to separate foreign materials from lignite. Because slower speed increases the contact of lignite with magnetic separator.

(3) Width of the belt over the conveyor should be increased from 900mm to 15600mm as increased width of the belt ensures greater contact of lignite with magnetic separator.

(4) Inspection of bearings must be done at regular intervals to avoid bearing knocking at free and coupling end of the mill. Also proper lubrication must be done to avoid damages due to friction.

(5) The cooling water line must be coated with paint to avoid the corrosion of the pipe lines. Also the replacement of cooling pipe lines at regular intervals of time must be carried out.

(6) The shaft material must be surface hardened to increase the fatigue strength. This must be done to avoid the fatigue failure.

(7) The shaft key material must be replaced with C55 Mn75 whose tensile strength is 700-850 N/[m.sup.2], where as the existing one is made of C50 and its tensile strength is 650 N/[mm.sup.2].

(8) Preventive maintenance schedule is to be modified and its frequency must be increased.

(9) The hollow shaft must be replaced with splined shaft to avoid shaft puncture.

Cost Analysis:

Gain In Generation Due To The Suggestions.

Mill outages during the six months period:

Hammer throw = 621.20 hours

Bearing Failure = 163.30 hours

Shaft cut = 42.70 hours

Total = 827.20 hours

The stoppage of the mill for an hour would account to a loss of 5 MW in power generation.

Therefore, for 827.20 hours,

Power generation = 827.20 x 5 MW

= 4136 MW

For one month = 689.33 MW

So, generation loss up to 689.33 MW per month can be avoided by following the suggestions mentioned above.

Amount gained in one month = 689.33 x [10.sup.3] x 1.82

= Rs 12, 54,580.60

Amount gained in one year = Rs 1, 50,54,967.20


[1] Ben-Daya and Raouf, 1996, A revised failure mode and effects analysis model, International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, Vol.13 pp.43-47.

[2] Bowles, 2004 An assessment of PRN prioritization in a failure modes effects and criticality analysis, Journal of the IEST, Vol.47, pp.51-56.

[3] Bowles and Pel, 1995, Fuzzy logic prioritization of failures in a system failure mode, effects and criticality analysis, Reliability Engineering and System Safety, Vol.50, pp.203-213.

[4] Braglia et al., 2003, Fuzzy criticality assessment model for failure modes and effects analysis, International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, Vol. 20, pp. 503-524.

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[6] Chang et al., 1999, Failure mode and effects analysis using fuzzy method and grey theory, Kybernetes, Vol. 28, pp.1072-1080.

[7] Chang et al., 2001, Failure mode and effects analysis using grey theory, Integrated Manufacturing Systems,Vol.12, pp. 211-216.

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[9] Dubois and Prade, 1980, Didier DuBois, Henri Prade, Fuzzy Sets and Systems: Theory and Applications, Academic Press, Inc., Orlando, FL, 1997.

[10] Dale H. Basterfield, et al., 1999, Total Quality Management, Pearson Education Asia.

[11] Eugene L. Grant & Richard S. Leavenworth, 1996, Statistical Quality Control, McGraw-Hill.

[12] Garcia et al., 2005, A fuzzy data envelopment analysis approach for FMEA, Progress in Nuclear Energy, Vol.46, pp.359-373.

[13] Gilchrist, 1993, Modelling failure modes and effects analysis, International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, Vol.10, pp.16-23.

[14] James R. Evans & William M. Lidsay, 2002 The Management & Control of Quality, South-Western, 5th Edition.

(1) C. Sowmya Danalakshmi and (2) G. Mohankumar

(1) Lecturer, Karpagam College of Engineering, Coimbatore-32 Corresponding Author Mail-id:

(2) Principal, Park college of Engg. & Tech. Coimbatore.

Table 1: Severity Ranking.

             EFFECT                 RANKING

Hazardous with & without warming      10,9
Very high                              8
High                                   7
Moderate                               6
Low                                   5,4
Minor                                  3
Very minor                             2
None                                   1

Table 2: Occurrence Ranking.

             EFFECT                 RANKING

Very high: Persistent Failures        10,9
High: Frequent failures               8,7
Moderate: Occasional Failures        6,5,4
Low: Relatively few failures          3,2
Remote: Failure is unlikely            1

Table 3: Detection Ranking.

             EFFECT                 RANKING

Almost impossible                      10
Very remote                            9
Remote                                 8
Very low                               7
Low                                    6
Moderate                               5
Moderately high                        4
High                                   3
Very High                              2
Very High                              1

Table 4: Equipment outages (July--December).

S.No.   Name of the Outage            Total Time(in hrs)

  1     Preventive Maintenance              80.25
  2     FE bearing knocking                127.20
  3     Hammer throw                       621.20
  4     Inspection                          15.47
  5     CE bearing knocking                 36.1
  6     E/R                                114.40
  7     U/T shaft diaphragm change          15.50
  8     D/T shaft diaphragm change          27.20
  9     Vibration                            2.55
 10     Miscellaneous                      121.55

Table 5: Failure Mode & Effect Analysis for all failures.

 Component     Potential      Potential
  details/      failure      effects of     Severity      Potential
 functions        mode         failure                     causes

Hammer         Hammer       Damage of       5          Dislocation of
               throw,       structures                 fasteners,
               hammer       Poor                       &foreign
               worn out     pulverization              materials
                                                       entry, mother
                                                       plate & hammer
                                                       Mother plate

Shaft          Shaft        Breaking in     1          Fatigue failure
                            shaft, damage   0
                            to bearing

Mother plate   Mother       Reduction in    5          Worn out
               plate        pulverization              fasteners &
               defect                                  mother plate

Shield plate   Shield       Air ingress,    4          Welding failure
               plate        overload to                & tear of plate
               defect       mills, poor

Main door      Main door    Air ingress,    2          Locking
               defect       overload to                mechanism &
                            mills, poor                hinge failure

Housing        Housing      Damage of       7          Improper
               damage       bearings                   balancing,
                                                       coupling &
                                                       fastener damage

Bearing        Knocking     Vibration &     5          Friction due to
               at both      abnormal                   improper
               ends         noise                      lubrication
               Knocking     Vibration &     5
               at           abnormal
               coupling     noise
               Knocking     Vibration &     5
               at free      abnormal
               end          noise
               Temp in      Damage of       2          Imbalance of
               bearings     bearings                   rotor & bearing

Cooling        Cooling      Shaft failure   7          Corrosion of
condensate     condensate                              pipes
system         line

  details/     Occurrence   Detection     RPN    Recommended Actions

Hammer         10           2            100     Increase magnetic
                                                 separators, check
                                                 holders & mother
                                                 plate thoroughly,

Shaft          1            8            80      Reduction of disc
                                                 diameter, higher
                                                 fatigue material,
                                                 high strength key

Mother plate   2            7            70      Redesign fasteners

Shield plate   1            8            32      After Mill and
                                                 before mill
                                                 maintained in limits

Main door      1            8            16      Constant checking
                                                 locking and hinges

Housing        1            5            35      PM frequency can be
                                                 increased with
                                                 special weightage,
                                                 checking of sound of
                                                 bed bolts

Bearing        2            7            70      Check Housing
                                                 clearance, rotor
                                                 balancing & hammer
               1            7            35      missing

               2            7            70

               2            5            20

Cooling        1            5            35      Periodic replacement
condensate                                       of piping, painting
system                                           with corrosive
                                                 resistant paints
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Author:Danalakshmi, C. Sowmya; Mohankumar, G.
Publication:International Journal of Applied Engineering Research
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2009
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