What We Do
Failures and Malperformance
Fans, pumps, compressors, valves, pipework, pipelines, hydraulic and pneumatic systems, heat exchangers, ventilation and air conditioning, cranes, welding, metal fabrication, fracture mechanics and fatigue.
In many cases our engineering skills are applied where something has gone wrong. We may be trouble-shooting or providing evidence where there is a dispute between parties.
We have investigated a wide variety of failures of fans, pumps, compressors, valves, pipework in water, steam, hydraulic and pneumatic systems.
As an example, when a mud pump failed we travelled to the manufacturer’s works to witness the dismantling and comment on the cause of failure.
Other examples include failures of diesel engines and in one instance a spark ignition gas engine which failed catastrophically after suffering pre-ignition and detonation both of which were intended to be picked up by a remote engine monitoring system but were not.
Welding is a major cause of engineering failures. In some cases there are defects in the fabrications. However, other factors such as the operating history or the environment of the welded component can be crucial in determining the underlying cause of the failure. An example was a weld on a bellows unit on a major compressed air line to a blast furnace.
Often it is necessary to carry out detailed metallurgical investigations to ascertain the cause of failure. This may be by fatigue, fracture by overload, corrosion or a combination of factors. We use the laboratory services of a metallurgical expert to complement our own materials knowledge and skills.
Sometimes the equipment is working but not reaching the levels specified by the purchaser. This has been the case in two recent disputes over the retrofitting of flue gas de-sulphurisation equipment onto coal-fired power stations.
Heat exchangers which were not meeting the required thermal performance have also been investigated.
Heating and ventilation systems do not always perform as expected. Investigation may reveal a design problem which in turn may arise from incorrect or inaccurate specification by the client. Alternatively, there may be errors in the installation of the equipment.
Faulty electrical work can lead to fires in addition to performance failures.
We have investigated several failures of large cranes. These investigations involve structural analysis of the loadings on the crane, including wind loads, as well as metallurgical investigation of the fractures or failures. The operating history is often crucial and training of operators may be an issue.
Buildings and other structures may fail catastrophically. Many of our investigations, however, are at an earlier stage when cracking or deformation has been noticed.