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PETROCHEMICALS

FCC can be used


to produce olefins and
aromatics on-purpose

HydrocarbonProcessing.com | NOVEMBER 2014

MAINTENANCE
Process equipment may be
vulnerable to brittle fractures

REFINING DEVELOPMENTS
Ultra-fine solids need
aggressive treatment to protect
heat-transfer networks

SPECIAL REPORT:

Plant Safety and


Environment

Maintenance
and Reliability

Originally appeared in:


November 2014, pgs 68-76.
Used with permission.

B. MACEJKO, The Equity Engineering Group, Inc.,


Shaker Heights, Ohio

Is your plant vulnerable to a brittle fracture?


Much of the process equipment operating today was designed to construction codes that did not require a formal
evaluation for low-temperature considerations. Metal temperature highly influences the fracture toughness of construction materials of plant equipment. At low temperatures, some
materials tend to behave in a brittle manner, making it much
more susceptible to fracture. The author discusses methods to
identify potential brittle-fracture conditions in process equipment before failures occur.

BACKGROUND
The majority of pressure equipment used in the refining and
petrochemical industry is constructed of carbon or low-alloy
steel. Metal temperature highly influences the fracture toughness of these materials. At low temperatures, construction materials can behave in a brittle manner (i.e., like glass), making
them more susceptible to fracture. At high temperatures, the
materials tend to behave in a ductile fashion. Pressure vessels
and piping may experience low temperatures from the ambient
environment or from operating and upset conditions.
The potential for auto-refrigeration from depressurization of liquefied compressed gases can be particularly concerning due to the extremely low equipment metal temperatures (55F and below). An engineering evaluation is
typically required to assess whether low-temperature operating or upset conditions could result in a brittle-fracture failure of pressure equipment.
Brittle fracture. This is the sudden and rapid propagation of a crack-like flaw under stress (residual or applied)
where the material exhibits little or no evidence of ductility
or plastic deformation.1 Although rare, the consequences of
a brittle fracture are typically catastrophic. Brittle-fracture
failures experienced within industry have resulted in costly
unplanned repairs, extensive production downtime and loss
of life (FIG. 1).
There can be a large variation in the way owner-users assess the risk for brittle fracture. Owner-users that have previously experienced such a failure may have detailed and
comprehensive programs in place to evaluate susceptibility
to future issues. Alternatively, owner-users fortunate enough
to have avoided such a failures tend to be less cognizant of
potential risks. Just because a failure has not occurred yet, it
does not mean it will not happen tomorrow.

WHY EVALUATE BRITTLE FRACTURE


Much of the plant equipment operating today was designed
to codes of construction that did not require a formal evaluation for low-temperature considerations. However, catastrophic
failures and subsequent root-cause investigations have revealed
deficiencies in code requirements. Present process equipment
design and post-construction codes and standards have taken
action to address the industry need to assess for brittle fracture.
OSHA 1910.119 process safety management requirements
do not allow owner-users to ignore deficiencies in the original
code of construction:2
1910.119(d)(3)(ii)The employer shall document
that equipment complies with recognized and generally
accepted good engineering practices.2
1910.119(d)(3)(iii)For existing equipment designed
and constructed in accordance with codes, standards or
practices that are no longer in general use, the employer
shall determine and document that the equipment is
designed, maintained, inspected, tested, and operating in
a safe manner.2
Owner-users should consider a brittle fracture evaluation
for any pressure-retaining equipment item where:
Original design did not consider susceptibility
to brittle fracture
A change in process operating conditions increases the
possibility that low-metal temperatures has occurred
A PHA or HAZOP identifies process or ambient
temperatures lower than anticipated in the original
design, i.e., depressurization/auto-refrigeration potential
The owner-user desires to rerate using a lower
design margin
The owner-user desires to optimize the timing
of startups or shutdowns

FIG. 1. Ductile vs. brittle fracture failures.a

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Maintenance and Reliability


The owner-user intends to complete a hydrostatic
pressure test at a temperature lower than the original
test temperature.

KEY COMPONENTS
There are three key components that drive a brittle-fracture failure:
Stress (residual and/or applied)
Material toughness
Crack-like defect/flaws.
A combination of metallurgical structure, residual stress
and inherent defects that act as stress intensifiers (lack of fusion, lack of penetration, porosity, and slag inclusions make
welds and weld-heat-affected zones critical locations for potential brittle fracture.
Stress. Stress provides the energy necessary to drive a defect
to fracture. Typical stress sources include pressure, weight and
thermal loads, in addition to residual stress from the welding
processes. A post-weld-heat treatment (PWHT) operation will
significantly reduce weld-residual stress.

Upper shelf:
A+B

B/C

Ductile

Material toughness. Metal temperature greatly influences


material toughness in carbon steel (CS) and low-alloy steels.
At low temperatures, the construction materials can behave
in a brittle manner, and they have a high susceptibility to fracture. Conversely, the materials act in a ductile fashion at high
temperatures. The fracture-appearance-transition temperature
(FATT) is defined as the temperature corresponding to 50%
shear. In FIG. 2, the FATT may be approximated as point D in
the plot of Charpy impact energy as a function of temperature.
Additionally, the material chemistry, grain size and heat treatment all affect toughness. The brittle-to-ductile-transition
temperature will decrease (i.e., improve) with:
Decrease in material carbon content
Increase in manganese to carbon ratio
Decrease in sulfur content
Decrease in material grain size
Normalization heat treatment of material through
rapid cooling.
Partly due to chemistry control issues, older (or dirty) steels
often have a moderate brittle-to-ductile-transition slope relative to clean steels (FIG. 3). Most of the common steels used to
construct pressure equipment in the 1970s, 1960s and earlier
(such as A70, SA-212, SA-201, SA-283, SA-285 and SA-51570) have exhibited relatively high FATT (i.e., low toughness).
A number of environmental issues exist that can degrade material toughness or result in embrittlement. The adverse effects
of any such potential damage mechanisms should be considered in a brittle-fracture evaluation.

Charpy impact energy

Crack-like defect. Brittle fracture typically initiates at a cracklike defect. These defects can result from environmental damage
(such as exposure to wet hydrogen sulfide or caustic), mechanical
damage (such as gouges or dents), or from original fabrication
(such as laminations, lack of fusion, lack of penetration, slag inclusions, and porosity). Performing a detailed inspection including
both surface examination techniques (dye penetrant or magnetic
particle examinations) and volumetric examination techniques
(angled-beam ultrasonic methods) can be used to detect and categorize any crack-like defects present in pressure equipment.

Transition zone

B
Lower shelf:
A-B

Brittle

D
Temperature

FIG. 2. Plot of Charpy impact energy FATT.

Upper shelf
Upper shelf

Charpy impact energy

New steel

Old steel

Lower shelf

Lower shelf
Temperature

FIG. 3. Brittle-to-ductile transition for old steels.

ASSESSING SUSCEPTIBILITY TO BRITTLE


FRACTURE IN PRESSURE VESSELS
Industry codes and standards assess susceptibility to brittle
fracture by comparing a critical exposure temperature (CET)
to a minimum allowable temperature (MAT). The CET represents the driving force for fracture and consists of the lowest-potential metal temperature from all operating, upset or
atmospheric conditions. The MAT represents the material
resistance to fracture, either calculated through engineering
evaluation techniques or assigned based on destructive testing
(i.e., Charpy impact testing). Both the CET and the MAT can
consist of a single temperature and coincident pressure or an
envelope of temperature and pressure combinations.
ASME Section VIII Division 1. Most pressure vessels at petrochemical facilities were designed to ASME Section VIII Division
1 (ASME S8D1).3 The 1987 Addenda to the 1986 Edition introduced drastic changes to Part UCS-66 due to brittle fracture
concerns with CS and low-alloy steels. Prior to this, ASME S8D1

HYDROCARBONPROCESSING NOVEMBER 2014

Maintenance and Reliability


permitted operation of CS equipment to a temperature of 20F
without testing. Considering that no new refinery has been built
in the US since the 1970s, the majority of pressure equipment
operating today did not receive a formal assessment for susceptibility to brittle fracture. Currently, ASME S8D1 provides a series
of impact-test exemption curves to assign a baseline MAT based
on the material of construction and weld-joint governing thickness. ASME S8D1 also permits application of a temperature reduction if the stress levels are below the design allowable stress.
API 579-1/ASME FFS-1 Fitness-For-Service. The API 579-

1/ASME FFS-1 (API-579) Fitness-For-Service (FFS) standard


provides procedures and criteria to evaluate equipment in postconstruction service.4 The Part 3 Level 1 and Level 2 methods
used to screen for the propensity for brittle fracture are consistent
with the ASME S8D1 design philosophy. The Level 3 method
(which references Part 9 of API-579) includes a detailed fracture
mechanics evaluation. Characteristics of the three levels include:
Level 1:
Typically completed by an inspector or a plant engineer
Table or chart exemption curve lookup based on material
of construction and joint governing thickness.
Level 2:
Typically completed by a plant engineer
Screening method extension of the Level 1 approach
with more detailed and prescriptive calculations
Three analysis method options are provided and
described here. However, typically, Method A is the
only practical and reasonable option:
o Method A. Calculation of a safe envelope based on
an evaluation of actual stress compared to design
allowable stress (i.e., trade lower stress levels for
lower permissible temperatures).
o Method B. Determine the MAT based on the metal
temperature at time of hydrotest. This method is not
practical or feasible for many instances. Substantial risks
exist for fracture during the hydrotest.
o Method C. Grandfathering approach based on a prooftest argument. This method assumes that if it can be
shown that the combination of worst-case applied stress,
temperature and flaw size has already occurred and did
not result in a failure, then other less-severe conditions
will not result in a failure. This method requires detailed
historical operating, inspection and repair information
that is not available in many instances.
Level 3:
Completed by an engineering specialist with extensive
experience in FFS.
Most reliable and accurate method for establishing
a MAT because it involves a detailed fracture
mechanics evaluation
Required when the equipment operates in a service
where brittle fracture is a legitimate concern or if a
crack-like flaw is known to exist
If the equipment has undergone PWHT at original construction and all subsequent repairs or alterations have not adversely
compromised the effectiveness of the PWHT, then the FFS analysis calculation procedures allow credit for the positive benefit
from the stress-relief operation on the calculated MAT. PWHT

is often critical for low temperature (below 55F) acceptability.

CURRENT CODES AND STANDARDS


DEFICIENCIES
A number of deficiencies and inconsistencies exist with the
ASME S8D1 and API-579 Level 2 FFS methods. All of these items
enforce the requirement to complete a Level 3 Part 9 fracture mechanics evaluation if brittle fracture is a legitimate concern.
Applied stress threshold and impact testing of weldments. Both ASME S8D1 and the Part 3 Level 2 procedure in

API-579 assign a MAT of 155F to a component if the calculated stress ratio falls below a certain threshold (that depends
upon the original code of construction factor for safety). However, Part UCS-67(c)(3) of ASME S8D1 requires mandatory
impact testing of welds to qualify metal temperature below
55F. This weldment impact test requirement applies regardless of the stress ratio. It could be argued that the API-579 Level
2 procedure should also require the weldment impact test.
Additionally, API-579 implies that, for a component thickness less than 2 in. and a general primary membrane tensile
stress less than 8 ksi, brittle fracture will not occur. Although
this may be true for equipment that has had PWHT performed,
failures of non-PWHT weld joints due to weld-residual stress
alone have occurred. Therefore, the 8-ksi primary stress threshold may not be appropriate in all instances.
PWHT temperature credit. For P-1 Group 1 and P-1 Group

2 materials, both ASME S8D1 and API-579 (Level 1 or 2) allow a temperature reduction of 30F from the component MAT
if PWHT was completed and the component thickness does
not exceed 1.5 in. The origin and engineering justification for
the 30F reduction are unknown. As noted in WRC 528, estimates of the weld-residual stress were directly considered in the
ASME Section VIII Division 2 (ASME S8D2) exemption curves
development.5, 6 Thus ASME S8D2 provides different exemption curves for PWHT and non-PWHT materials. The ASME
S8D2 approach appears more technically appropriate when
compared to the general 30F reduction.
NBIC alternative weld methods. The National Board Inspection Code (NBIC) provides a series of alternative welding
methods without PWHT.7 These include various combinations
of preheat temperatures, weld-interpass temperatures and temper-bead procedures. Although these welding methods may help
to slightly temper the material, they do not significantly reduce
weld-residual stress when compared to a proper PWHT stressrelief operation. Therefore, without further study, it is difficult
to justify credit for a full PWHT in a brittle-fracture evaluation if
one of these alternative welding methods were used.

CASE STUDY 1
This example illustrates the use of the Level 2 FFS methodology for brittle-fracture screening of typical pots and pans
pressure vessels that meet these limitations:
Do not operate in cyclic service
Not susceptible to any shock-chilling event
Not susceptible to any environmental cracking
Do not operate in a service that may result in loss

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Maintenance and Reliability


of material toughness
Have no known crack-like flaws
Where excessive low-temperature operation

Results. A Level 2 FFS evaluation established the maximum

permissible pressure of 174 psig at the client-specified CET of


10F. Additionally, the evaluation provided an envelope of permissible pressure-temperature combinations that the
owner-user could compare against all operating and
Metal temperature influences the fracture
upset scenarios (FIG. 4). This enabled the owner-user
to
develop operational procedures to ensure satisfactoughness of construction materials for plant
tory protection from a potential brittle-fracture event.

equipment. At low temperatures, construction


materials can behave in a brittle manner, thus
making them more susceptible to fracture.
(below 55F) is not feasible.
In this case history, a service review identified that the
knockout (KO) drum has the potential under ambient conditions to reach a minimum metal temperature of 10F. Because
the Level 1 analysis for the vessel indicated a baseline MAT of
53F, a Level 2 FFS evaluation was completed. TABLE 1 summarizes the construction criteria for this KO drum.
TABLE 1. Material construction background for a KO drum
ASME S8D1

Year of construction

1965

Material

SA-212-B

Design pressure

300 psig

Joint efficiency

100%

PWHT

No

Inside diameter

60 in.

Thickness

0.75 in.

ASME S8D1

Year of construction

1967

Material

SA-515-70

Design pressure

452 psig

Joint efficiency

100%

PWHT

Yes

Inside diameter

114 in.

Thickness

1.5625 in.

Stress analysis

Stress intensity factor


solution, KI

Material toughness,
KMAT

Kr =

KI
KMAT
Brittle fracture

Assessment
point

Failure assessment
diagram envelope

Unacceptable
region

Mixed mode brittle


fracture and plastic
collapse

Acceptable
region
Plastic collapse
Load ratio

TABLE 2. Material construction background of the


deethanizer column
Code of construction

Flaw dimensions

Toughness ratio

Code of construction

CASE STUDY 2
This example illustrates the use of the Level 3
FFS methodology for brittle-fracture evaluation of
a deethanizer column that operates in a service with
auto-refrigeration potential. TABLE 2 summarizes
the operating conditions for the deethanizer column.

Lr =

ref
ys

Reference stress
solution, ref

Flaw dimensions

Material yield stress,


ys

Stress analysis

FIG. 4. API-579 Part 9 FAD diagram.

Analysis. Level 2 FFS calculations were performed in accordance with Part 3, Method A of API-579 using proprietary software. The Level 1 MAT for each component was obtained using the component governing thickness and respective material
curve. In the Level 2 calculations, credit was taken for any additional plate thickness, above the minimum required thickness,
through the use of a stress ratio. The evaluation then assigned a
temperature reduction based on the calculated stress ratio. The
final MAT was determined as the Level 1 MAT minus the temperature reduction.

Analysis. A rigorous, fracture mechanics-based assessment in


accordance with the Level 3 procedures and criteria in Part 9
of API-579 was performed to establish the allowable pressuretemperature curve using proprietary software. The analysis
performed assumed a detectible reference flaw size that could
be compared to the results of detailed inspection for cracking.
A comprehensive, 3D finite-element (FE) model was used to
characterize operating stresses (FIG. 6).
The failure assessment diagram (FAD) fracture mechanics methodology presented in Part 9 of API-579 (FIG. 4) was
used to calculate the allowable pressure-temperature curve. A
postulated semi-elliptical surface-breaking flaw with a depth
of 14 of the nominal shell thickness and a length of six times
the depth (i.e., 6:1 aspect ratio) was analyzed in various orien-

HYDROCARBONPROCESSING NOVEMBER 2014

Acceptable region
Pressure-temperature curve
User operating curve

500
475
450
425
400
375
350
325
300
275
250
225
200
175
150
125
100
75
50
25
0

Level 3 (Part 9) MAT curve (t/4 flaw)


Ethane boiling point curve
Level 3 - shell away from nozzles
Level 3 - shell @ M1/M2

-160
-150
-140
-130
-120
-110
-100
-90
-80
-70
-60
-50
-40
-30
-20
-10
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100

300
280
260
240
220
200
180
160
140
120
100
80
60
40
20
0
-160 -140

Internal pressure, psig

Pressure, psi

Maintenance and Reliability

Temperature, F

-120 -100

-80

-60

-40 -20
Temperature, F

20

40

60

80

100

FIG. 5. Level 2 MAT curve results for Case Study 1.

FIG. 7. Level 3 MAT curve results for Case Study 2.

Level 3 (Part 9) MAT curve w/o PWHT


Ethane boiling point curve
Part 3 Level 2 - shell
Part 9 Level 3 - shell (t/4 flaw)
Part 9 Level 3 - shell (t/8 flaw)
Part 9 Level 3 - shell (t/16 flaw)
Part 9 Level 3 - shell (t/4 flaw) Annex E

-160
-150
-140
-130
-120
-110
-100
-90
-80
-70
-60
-50
-40
-30
-20
-10
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100

Internal pressure, psig

550
525
500
475
450
425
400
375
350
325
300
275
250
225
200
175
150
125
100
75
50
25
0

Temperature, F

FIG. 6. FEA stress results plot at local discontinuity.

FIG. 8. Level 2 and Level 3 MAT curve results for Case Study 3.

tations at critical locations. The presence of such large flaws,


while unlikely, should be reliably detected by modern inspection techniques (including surface and ultrasonic inspection
techniques). The calculated operating and weld-residual stress,
along with the material strength and material fracture toughness, were used to determine a toughness ratio and a load ratio.
These two quantities represent the coordinates of a point that
was plotted on a 2D FAD to determine acceptability.
Results. A Level 3 FFS evaluation established the envelope of

permissible pressure vs. temperature curves, as shown in FIG. 7.


This enabled the owner-user to develop operational procedures
to ensure satisfactory protection from a potential brittle-fracture event. The bottom curve in this figure shows the boiling
point curve for the process fluid, ethane.

CASE STUDY 3
This example illustrates the difference in results from a Level
2 FFS vs. a Level 3 FFS for brittle-fracture evaluation of a pressure vessel that did not receive a PWHT, but operates in a service
with an auto-refrigeration potential. TABLE 3 summarizes details
for a pressure vessel subject to auto-refrigeration with no PWHT.
Analysis. The assessment included a Part 3 Level 2 FFS brit-

TABLE 3. Details for a pressure vessel subject to autorefrigeration with no PWHT


Code of construction

ASME S8D1

Year of construction

1971

Material

SA-515-70

Design pressure

495 psig

Joint efficiency

85%

PWHT

No

Inside diameter

66 in.

Thickness

1.1875 in.

tle-fracture screening evaluation in addition to a detailed Part


9 Level 3 FFS fracture mechanics evaluation using proprietary
software. The methodologies for the Level 2 and Level 3 evaluations were consistent with those detailed in Case Studies 1
and 2, respectively.
Results. The results from the Level 2 FFS evaluation and the

Level 3 FFS evaluation (for the recommended postulated flaw


depth of 14 of nominal thickness) both indicate that the vessel
does not satisfy the requirements for protection against brittle

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Maintenance and Reliability


Background. To expedite the cool-down process and limit

downtime for an HDS reactor, owner-users often inject cold


nitrogen into the reactor upstream piping system. To determine the rate limits for the cool-down process, a formal FFS
evaluation was conducted.

Analysis. The study of the cooling process used a rigorous Part

9 Level 3 fracture mechanics assessment to establish the allowable pressure-temperature curve. The analysis was performed
for a reference flaw size that could be readily detected in detailed inspections for cracking. A comprehensive, 3D FE model
determined the stresses due to internal pressure and thermal
transient effects during the cooling process, as shown in FIG. 9.

Results. The results of the Level 3 FFS evaluation (FIG. 10)


were used to optimize the cool-down procedure and enable the
owner-user to minimize downtime without adversely affecting
the mechanical integrity of the equipment.

Pressure, psi

FIG. 9. Thermal and stress plots at reactor quench nozzle.


1,800
1,600
1,400
1,200
1,000
800
600
400
200
0
260 240 220 200 180

150 F/hr - quench nozzle


100 F/hr - quench nozzle
75 F/hr - quench nozzle
Prior limit
Recommended limit

160

140 120 100


Temperature, F

80

60

40

20

-20

FIG. 10. Level 3 MAT curve results for Case Study 4.

fracture, as shown in FIG. 8. However, the evaluation shows that


the Level 2 results are more favorable than the Level 3 results
for pressures below 350 psig. Even if the Level 3 analysis uses a
flaw depth of 18 of nominal thickness, the Level 2 results remain
more favorable than the Level 3 results below 230 psig. This apparent contradiction occurs because weld residual stress greatly
influences the permissible MAT, and it completely drives the
MAT at lower applied stresses (i.e., low pressure). These results
highlight the importance of completing a detailed Level 3 evaluation when brittle fracture is a legitimate concern.
However, if the system was re-evaluated to the Level 3 FFS
using a postulated flaw depth of 116 of nominal thickness, as opposed to the 14 or 18 of nominal thickness, then the calculated
MAT curve is above the process boiling point curve, thus indicating the acceptability of the 116 thickness flaw depth. Therefore, with a much more extensive and comprehensive inspection plan, qualification for protection against brittle fracture
may be justifiable so long as the inspection techniques are sensitive and thorough enough to ensure that no defects greater
than 116 of the nominal shell thickness exist.

CASE STUDY 4
This example illustrates the use of a Level 3 FFS brittle-fracture evaluation to optimize the cool-down rate of a hydrodesulfurization (HDS) reactor.

OVERVIEW
There have been a number of catastrophic brittle-fracture
failures in the petrochemical industry. Deficiencies in historical codes of construction and discrepancies in present codes
and standards have been identified. Pressure equipment must
be properly assessed to qualify for low-temperature service. In
many instances, a Level 2 FFS evaluation may not be sufficient
or appropriate. If a legitimate concern exists for brittle fracture
due to the potential for cracking, or if metal temperatures below
55F are achievable, a detailed Level 3 Part 9 FFS fracture mechanics evaluation should be completed. The Part 9 Level 3 evaluation, coupled with PWHT and a detailed inspection plan, can
be used successfully to qualify low-temperature acceptability.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT
Source for Fig. 1 is: Callister, W. D. and D. G. Rethwisch, Fundamentals of Materials
Science and Engineering: An Integrated Approach, 4th Ed., and Callister, W. D.,
Fundamentals of Materials Science and Engineering, 5th Ed., pg. 257, Fig 9.3.

LITERATURE CITED
API Recommended Practice 571, Damage Mechanisms Affecting Fixed Equipment in
the Refining Industry, Second Ed., April 2011.
2
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Part Number 1910, Subpart
H, Standard Number 1910.119, Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous
Chemicals.
3
ASME B&PV Code Section VIII, Division 1, Rules for construction of pressure vessels,
ASME, July 2013.
4
API 579-1/ASME FFS-1, Fitness-For-Service, June 5, 2007 (API 579 Second Ed.).
5
WRC Bulletin 528, Development of Material Fracture Toughness Rules for the
ASME B&PV Code, Section VIII Division 2.
6
ASME B&PV Code Section VIII, Division 2, Alternative Rules for Construction of
Pressure Vessels, ASME, July 2013.
7
National Board Inspection Code , Part 3 Repairs and Alterations, 2013.
1

BRIAN MACEJKO is the head of the pressure vessel


group within the mechanical engineering business unit
of The Equity Engineering Group, Inc. (E2G). He is also
a member of the ASME/API Joint Committee on FitnessFor-Service. He has experience as both an owner-user and,
as a consultant providing engineering support to oil and gas
and petrochemical facilities. The primary focus of his
experience has been in the design, maintenance/repair, failure analysis, and
fitness-for-service activities for fixed equipment.

Eprinted and posted with permission to Equity Engineering Group, Inc. (E2G) from Hydrocarbon Processing
November 2014 Gulf Publishing Company