The Cost of Neglecting Heat Exchanger Tube Inspection

The Cost of Neglecting Heat Exchanger Tube Inspection

Did you know that neglecting heat exchanger tube inspection can cost your company thousands of dollars in repairs, replacements, and downtime? Here are 5 reasons why regular inspections are crucial for preventing costly issues

1. Early detection saves money

Catching potential issues early on allows for repairs to be made before they become major problems, saving you from costly shutdowns and replacements.

To put things into perspective, according to a conservative estimate, an American refinery with an 80,000 barrel per day fluid catalytic cracking unit can incur losses ranging from $340,000 to $1.7 million per day, depending on the profit margin of $5 to $25 per barrel, due to the expenses associated with missed production.

2. Energy efficiency is key

Regular inspections can identify areas of build-up or corrosion that cause inefficiencies in heat transfer, leading to increased energy waste and higher costs.

Broadly speaking, fouling leads to a decline in heat transfer efficiency. This decline in performance necessitates the use of additional heating duty and utilities to fulfil the same heating or cooling requirements. Corrosion further decreases the heat exchanger's effectiveness in transferring heat, causing the outlet temperature to rise and consequently affecting the downstream process flow and compromising the final product's quality.

3. Safety is paramount

Heat exchangers operate at high temperatures and pressures, making them potentially dangerous if not properly maintained. Neglecting inspections can lead to safety hazards and costly accidents.

In 2013, a petrochemical plant in the United States experienced an explosion that resulted in the deaths of two workers and injuries to 114 others. Following the incident, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) conducted investigations to identify the cause of the heat exchanger's failure. OSHA found that the plant had violated six process safety management standards, one of which was wilful, and imposed a fine of $99,000 on the company.

4. Environmental responsibility

Neglecting inspections can lead to leaks or spills that may have negative impacts on the environment, resulting in costly clean-up efforts and damage to your company's reputation.

According to a refinery manager and two repair crew supervisors, the leakage of around 25,000 bl of oil onto a country’s western coastline in South America was caused by defective heat exchangers. The heat exchanger systems, which use seawater to cool crude processing units, became contaminated with oil when operators attempted to ramp up fuel production.

5. Compliance is non-negotiable

Neglecting inspections can result in non-compliance with industry regulations, leading to legal and financial consequences.

In April 2021, a heat exchanger leak occurred at an Australian refinery, causing BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene) to be discharged into both cooling water and seawater at levels three times higher than the authorized limit. BTEX is detrimental to aquatic life and fish. The Environment Protection Act was notified of the violation and imposed a penalty of $8,261 on the refinery.


These incidents underscore the need for regular inspection and maintenance of heat exchangers to prevent catastrophic accidents and avoid costly fines and repairs. Regular inspections can detect issues before they escalate and become safety hazards. One effective method for conducting these inspections is through the use of APRIS, an advanced non-destructive testing technology that provides rapid and accurate tube inspections of heat exchangers. By adopting proactive measures such as regular inspections, we can prevent tragedies like this and protect both human life and the environment.

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