Mechanical Engineering Plant Problems Solved – Root Cause Analysis

These problems developed during commissioning and during the author’s 17 years’ service in a South Indian Ammonia, Urea, and NPK complex fertilizers plant. The author and his team resolved these problems forever mostly online or involving shortest shutdowns.

That plant’s success ushered many still higher capacities plants in India wary of high-speed centrifugal compressors-based fertilizers technology.

He, a mechanical engineering graduate joined that plant after serving the Steel Authority of India (SAIL) for 13 years as Instrument Engineer.

During his first five yearlong South Indian Fertilizer Plant services, he successfully solved many instruments commissioning problems.

In addition, he offered solutions to many mechanical and electrical problems repeatedly discussed in the problems solving meetings.

During the next 4 years’ tenure as Instrument Electrical and Workshop Engineer, he continued solving more problems.

How he got into handling all given up crippling electrical problems appears in the Electrical Problems Introduction.

During the 8 years tenure as Maintenance Manager, he solved this booklet discussed mechanical problems. Just two months as General Manager, he joined a Saudi Arabian Fertilizer Plant.

During his 5 years Saudi tenure he solved few problems that enabled the debuting co to establish its image as a reputable NH3 supplier initially and as high-quality urea and complex fertilizer supplier after the plant added those facilities.  

After the return from Saudi, he took 3½ years of training assignment with Reliance Petroleum Ltd Jamnagar, and several lecture assignments, a one-year assignment with Reliance Navi Mumbai, and a six-month assignment with Chambal Fertilizers Ltd.

Root Cause Analysis (RCA)

The author attributes his problems solving success to the following:

  1. Every one’s cooperation
  2. Root Cause Analysis supported by input from the problems-sufferers, instruction manual studies, comparing design and actual operating data, gathering knowhow from relevant literature, tech journals articles and advertisements especially on new products
  3. In short ‘avoiding the popular industry joke, “When all else fail read the instruction books”
  4. Consider input from anyone. – no matter his/her qualification and hierarchical rank – thankfully and credit his / her contribution
  5. The author learnt mere experience does not suffice, as mostly many have one-year experience repeated so many years by not solving problems by root cause analysis and living with it; it makes most persons complacent, leads to take the problems as a way of life and live with them, and prevents finding root cause analysis solutions. Experience combined with adequate job knowledge-based root cause analysis only can solve problems; not years and years of experience alone.

Good Luck to all plant problems solving troubleshooters. The free plant personnel from the drudgery of annoying repeat low-tech tasks, midnight, off days, and during vacation calls and the associated ill effects e.g. the inconvenience and family wrath from missed family times and functions.

Mechanical Engineering Plant Problems

This root cause analysis (RCA) is from real-time scenarios that happened in industries during the tenure of two or three decades ago. These articles will help you to improve your troubleshooting skills and knowledge.

Mechanical Engineering Plant Problems Solved

The below is the list of mechanical solved problems.

S.No.Mechanical Problems and SolutionsArticle
1Steam turbine HP case three monthly Discharge Head (DH) leaks 10-days plant outages cut to 1½ days using negligible resources than the pastClick Here
2The above 3-year persisting K-601 Discharge Head 3-monthly leaks eliminatedClick Here
3Steam turbine (K-601) IP case six monthly 2 days shutdowns eliminatedClick Here
4Process Air Compressor (K-602) too frequent & too lengthy overhaulsClick Here
5Refrigeration Compressor Not-tripping Trip Throttle threatened potential compressor wrecks eliminatedClick Here
6Malfunctioning inlet check valves caused 5-yearlong chaos at each compressor stop/trip eliminatedClick Here
7K-603 near ½-RPM frequency high magnitude shaft vibrations eliminatedClick Here
8Steam turbine surge caused near-miss K-601 wreck eliminatedClick Here
98,000-RPM, 7000 KW K-602 T injured rotor threatened yearlong total plant outage. Innovative in-house repairs put the plant on stream in 1½ days; recurrence eliminatedClick Here
108000 – RPM K-602 cracked shaft spacers; the plant Root Cause Analyzed, made the spacers and heat-treated to lesser hardness and fitted on the spare and running rotor Click Here
11K‑601 T turning gear chamber excessive oil belch posed indefinite SD threat eliminated on stream and recurrence eliminatedClick Here
12NH3 plant K-601 T Tilting Pad too high temperatures sudden entire plant indefinite shutdown threat eliminatedClick Here
13An Indian Plants all turbines’ low Vacuum & Plant K-601 T only solved and recurrence eliminatedClick Here
14often-found pitted shaft and coupling bore tapers repair caused excessive and length shutdownsClick Here
15Poorly engineered plant Air Compressor often failing drives made 100% reliable very economically Click Here
16Boosting <40% available Plant Air Compressors availabilities to 100% enables fulfilling “keep the plant young corporate goal”.Click Here
17NH3 Storage tanks financially crippling 12 T/d wasteful venting &  pollution authorities plant closure threat eliminatedClick Here
18Potassium Carbonate Pump 3-monthly Seal Leaks threaten entire plant shut down indefinitelyClick Here
19Plant BFW Pump Low throughput DDUDP resolvedClick Here
20CW circulating Pump Low throughput resolved & proposed Rs 20 million pump add avertedClick Here
21Failed Phosphate Dozing restoredClick Here
22Acid Dozing Pump weekly failures eliminatedClick Here
23Eleven Cooling Tower Fan frequently failing drives made never failingClick Here
24CT fan FRP fan blades saves and savesClick Here
25Condensate Pump Frequent Wrecks eliminatedClick Here
26Generally too poor AFB lives and production loss from impossible to remove AFBs and Coupling halvesClick Here
27Root Cause Analysis eliminated too poor antifriction bearings lives boosts production Click Here
28Too frequent 1800 kW 8000-750 RPM Gearbox (GB) failures eliminatedClick Here
29Turbine to gearbox too frequent alignment drifts eliminatedClick Here
30Large motor’s too frequent Journal Bearing (JB) failures eliminatedClick Here
31Fired Boiler ID fan too frequent AFB failures eliminatedClick Here
32Fan Bearing Changes made easy at 10% former timesClick Here
33Sudden fatal pipe burst root cause removed; wrecked panel instrumentation restored within a week and recurrence eliminatedClick Here
34Sledge open/close valves replaced with one hand operable valvesClick Here
35Flange Joint Errors shutdowns root cause analyzed and eliminatedClick Here
36K-601 T 100-40 bar steam letdown station 3-year long flange leaks eliminated Click Here
37Seawater pipeline spools leaks threatened NH3 plant indefinite SD eliminatedClick Here
38K-601 T 12” 2500 # Trip Throttle Valve stubborn cover openedClick Here
39Repeat Safety Valve Pops caused too many Urea Plant shutdowns eliminatedClick Here
40Rupture Discs bursts caused too many Urea Plant shutdowns eliminatedClick Here
41Urea Plant PTFE lined 6” 300# butt weld end Plug Valves leaks stopped foreverClick Here
42Primary Reformer – Each Turnaround done massive and expensive Tubes Repairs eliminatedClick Here
43Too often done riskily repaired roof Hot spots eliminated foreverClick Here
44Primary Reformer RFG main hot spots eliminated online and indefinite outage eliminatedClick Here
4510-years persisting syn loop BFH shell flange leaks, and nuisance ammonia plant trips eliminatedClick Here
46Despite senior colleagues’ diffidence & a seemingly no solution last-minute hitch, 220-bar syngas cooler successfully re-tubedClick Here
47Constraints ridden ‘impossible’ demister cleaning innovatively done and urea plant indefinite outage eliminated. Click Here
48Constraints ridden another ‘impossible’ heat exchanger leaks innovatively stopped and urea plant indefinite outage eliminated.Click Here
49Root cause analysis stops crews morale robbing many Bucket Elevators many wrecksClick Here
50Bucket elevators’ 5-year long too short chains lives eliminatedClick Here
51Plant Bucket Elevators chains too short chain lives eliminatedClick Here
52Too noisy & too maintenance-intensive granulator drive silenced and made maintenance-freeClick Here
53Home-made Rotary Drier Shell to Split Gear drive eliminates too frequent drive failures Click Here
54Home developed motor vibrators lot better than provided vibrators boost safety and production Click Here
55Innovative in-house motor-operated valve repair enables guarantee test completion and final settlement. Click Here
56Root Cause Analysis enhances a new exchanger’s 50% heat transfer to 100% and enables a urea plant commissioning completionClick Here
57Ruined De-Min vessel internals innovative within few hours’ restorations eliminates an Ammonia plant indefinite shutdownClick Here
58A near impossible constraint overcoming enables repairing a 220-bar urea reactor top cover Click Here
5910-yearlong every TA restored CO2 Stripper collapsed internals eliminated  Click Here
60Every turnaround (TA) done CO2 Absorber corroded wall thickness weld building eliminatedClick Here

Also Read: Electrical Root Cause Analysis

Author: S. Raghava Chari

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