Forensic failure analysis

Maintaining safety and efficiency in petrochemical refinery plants is crucial. Despite best efforts, failures can happen and result in significant financial losses and safety risks. This is where forensic engineering and failure analysis techniques come in. They provide a systematic and effective approach to identifying the root cause of these failures. In this article, we’ll discuss how these forensic failure analysis techniques can be used to determine why incidents occur, helping plant operators make informed decisions and prevent future occurrences.


Understanding Forensic Engineering

forensic engineeringForensic engineering is a specialised field that combines engineering principles with investigative techniques to analyse and reconstruct failures. Unlike traditional engineering, which focuses on design and construction, forensic engineering and forensic failure analysis centres on post-failure analysis. By employing this approach, experts can identify the key factors that contributed to the incident and gain valuable insights into improving plant operations.

Failure Analysis Techniques

Failure analysis techniques are the backbone of forensic engineering investigations. These methods aid in comprehending the sequence of events that led to the failure. Let’s delve into some common techniques used in the process:

  • Visual Examination

The initial step involves a visual inspection of the failed components and surrounding areas. This hands-on examination provides valuable clues and helps identify potential sources of failure.

  • Non-Destructive Testing (NDT)

NDT methods, such as ultrasonic testing, radiography, and magnetic particle inspection, allow engineers to assess internal defects without causing additional damage to the component.

  • Material Analysis

Understanding the material properties of the failed components is essential. Sophisticated material analysis techniques, like scanning electron microscopy, help pinpoint material flaws or degradation.

  • Finite Element Analysis (FEA)

FEA is a powerful simulation tool that aids in modelling and analysing stress, strain, and deformation on critical components, offering insights into failure mechanisms.

  • Metallurgical Examination

By examining the microstructure of failed materials, engineers can determine if the component experienced fatigue, corrosion, or other stress-related issues.

The Failure Analysis Process

The failure analysis process is systematic, ensuring that no stone is left unturned in the quest for the root cause. Here are the key steps involved:

  • Collecting Data

The first phase involves gathering all relevant data, including design specifications, maintenance records, and operational logs. This information provides a foundation for the investigation.

  • Scene Investigation

Engineers visit the site of the failure to conduct a thorough investigation, capture photographs, take measurements, and preserve critical evidence.

  • Evidence Preservation

Preserving the evidence is crucial to preventing contamination and maintaining the integrity of the investigation.

  • Analysis and Testing

The collected data undergoes comprehensive analysis using the various techniques mentioned earlier. This step aids in reconstructing the sequence of events leading to the failure.

  • Root Cause Identification

After a thorough analysis, forensic engineers can pinpoint the root cause of the failure. This vital information helps plant operators take appropriate corrective actions.

Forensic Engineering in Petrochemical Refinery Plants

Petrochemical refinery plants house complex systems with multiple interdependencies. When failures occur, the repercussions can be costly and pose severe threats to both personnel and the environment. Here’s how forensic engineering plays a pivotal role in these scenarios:

  • Incident Resolution

By employing failure analysis techniques, forensic engineering experts can resolve incidents efficiently, minimising downtime and potential production losses.

  • Preventive Measures

Understanding the root cause of failures empowers plant operators to implement preventive measures, reducing the risk of similar incidents in the future.

  • Enhancing Safety

With the knowledge gained from forensic engineering, safety protocols can be enhanced, ensuring a safer working environment for all personnel.


Forensic failure analysis, engineering, and failure analysis techniques are indispensable tools in the petrochemical refinery industry. By using these methodologies, plant operators can determine the root cause of failures and prevent their recurrence. Investing in forensic engineering not only saves costs but also protects the well-being of the workforce and the environment. Embracing this proactive approach is crucial to maintaining safe and efficient petrochemical refinery operations.

SAROM GLOBAL: Your Partner for Forensic Failure Analysis in Petrochemical Refinery Plants

SAROM GLOBAL is your trusted partner when it comes to forensic failure analysis in the petrochemical refinery industry. With our specialised expertise and state-of-the-art techniques, we help uncover the root cause of failures, providing invaluable insights to improve plant operations and prevent future incidents. Our team of skilled engineers conducts thorough investigations, utilising advanced methodologies like visual examination, non-destructive testing, and material analysis. 

By partnering with SAROM GLOBAL, you can expect efficient incident resolution, enhanced safety protocols, and cost-saving preventive measures. Trust SAROM GLOBAL to safeguard your refinery’s productivity and ensure a secure working environment. Contact us today for expert forensic analysis solutions.