Fired Heater: Components, Types, Construction, Sections, Maintenance

Fired Heaters, as the name specifies are obviously heaters or furnaces. They are pieces of equipment used in processing facilities (refineries, power plant, petrochemical complexes, etc) to heat fluids up to the desired temperature. These fall in the static or stationary group of mechanical equipment and designed based on API 661 code. Today we will study the details about Fired Heaters, Their components, types, Construction features, and maintenance requirements? Let’s dive into the article!

Components of a Fired Heater

A fired heater consists of:

  • Casing
  • Tubes
  • Return bends
  • Tube supports
  • Burners
  • ID & FD fans

Types of Fired Heaters with Different Coil Arrangements

  • Type A-Box heater with arbor coil
  • Type D-Box heater with vertical tube coil
  • Type E-Cylindrical heater with vertical coil
  • Type F-Box heater with horizontal tube coil

Disadvantages in  Vertical types of radiant tubes are difficult to replace due to less gap between the wall &  tube.

Horizontal type radiant tubes are weldable outside the heater firebox due to more space available in return header bends/ plugs.

Fired Heater
Fig. 1: Sample Fired Heater images

Constructional Features of Fired Heaters

Fired Heater Casing:

The metal plate used to enclose the fired heater. Normally CS plates 6mm thick is used as casing material. Casing design temp Outside 82 C, Radiant floor – 91 C. Max. temperature, CS can withstand is 440 degrees C, however, oxidation starts at 270 deg.c

Failure of internal refractory lining causes overheating of underlying steel casing. This will be revealed by local hot spots.

To prevent further damage to the casing plate

  • Apply air
  • Apply steam
  • In extreme case put water
  • Put additional refractory lined casing plate over the hot spot area.

Radiant section of a fired heater:

The portion of the heater in which the heat is transferred to the tubes primarily by radiation is known as the radiant section.

Convection section:

The portion of heater in which the heat transferred to tubes primarily by convection.

Bridge wall:

The section which separates the radiant & convection section. The temperature  of  flue  gas  leaving  radiation section  is called  bridge  wall


A flat or sloped portion of the heater radiant section opposite the floor.

Radiant Coils:

The radiant coils are located in the radiant section of the furnace where the heat picks from flame &high temperature flue gas & hot refractory.

The radiant tubes may be either vertical or horizontal depending on the construction of the furnace

Fired Heater
Fig. 1: Sample Fired Heater images

Main components/Sections of a Fired Heater

Convection section:

Bank of coils which receive the heat from hot flue gases mainly by convection.

  • Finned/studded tubes are often used in convection coils due to lower flue gas temperatures. Finned tubes ( 1.3  mm thick  strip 200turn/meter)  are  difficult  to  clean when  compared  to studded (12.7 mm dia)
  • The rate of heat absorption tends to be high at the entrance to the convection section in heaters, where the convection section is right above the radiant section. Tubes in this section are called shock/shield tubes. Normally first two rows absorb half of their heat in this section.
  • Consists of a  large tube support plate located in the convection section and supports the number of  End supports & intermediate supports are usually low alloy steels.
  • Replacing /Repair of Convection tube support sheet is difficult & calls for the removal of all convection coils or it is necessary to lower the entire module.
  • Tube support sheets are 25 cr-20 Ni or 50 cr -50 ni MOC.

Plug header:

A bend, provided with one or more openings for the purpose of inspection, initial measurement of coke before cleaning.

  • Ensure proper depressurization before opening the plug.
  • Ensure Arrow  mark  is maintained on the plug  to  ensure  plug  nut  is  guiding
  • After repair /replacement of the plug hydro test of the coil pass is recommended.

Fired Heater internal Tube supports:

  • Tube supports  are  metal devices  which  supports  the  weight  of  the
  • The tube guide is used to direct the movement of tubes in one particular direction.
  • These are metallic members able to withstand high temperatures used to prevent sagging/bowing/buckling/ swaying of tubes
  • Tube supports are more prone to high-temperature oxidation and fuel ash corrosion.
  • Horizontal roof tubes of box type heaters are supported by means of hangers
  • Tube supports must be aligned perfectly in one straight line.
  • The use of fillers of any kind is prohibited.
  • Ensure perfect contact between supports and tubes.
  • Coils shall rest uniformly all over the supports.
  • Failure of tube supports may take place due to mechanical overloading caused by bowing of tubes, loss of strength of supports and tube vibration.
  • The tube support/hangers/guides shall be examined for cracks, oxidation, missing sections, and missing/broken or oxidized bolts.
Figure showing typical tube supports
Fig. 2: Figure showing typical tube supports

Common problems associated with Fired Heater tubes

These are some common problems associated with fired heater tubes:

  • Tubes are designed for approx 1 year life-1,00,000 hrs.
  • Tube distortion – Hot spots, Sagging, Bowing, Touching of tubes.
  • Tube surface – Pitting, Scale, Evidence of overheating.
  • Observe &  monitor the skin temperature, compare the residual life of the tube.
Heater Tubes in an operating Fired Heater
Fig. 3: Heater Tubes in an operating Fired Heater

Fired Heater Tube cleaning

  • Generally, tubes are cleaned manually making scaffolding inside the heater.
  • Ensure All burner tips covered while cleaning.
  • Ensure Fire bricks covered to avoid ingress of foreign particles between the bricks to provide expansion of refractory during operation.
  • Ensure no damage to refractory while making scaffolding.

Hydro testing of the fired heater coils

  • The hydro test is  performed when the new  coil  is installed/repair  in the coil  is
  • Coils shall be hydrostatically tested, thoroughly drained after the test is completed and to be drained  by blowing compressed air to  avoid  hammering &
  • During hydro test due to return bends  &  elevation differences adequate care to be taken to vent air.


  • Cylindrical steel, an insulated shell that carries flue gases to the atmosphere  & provides necessary draft. The stacks shall be externally inspected for hot spots and external corrosion. Check, if any unusual vibration of the stack exists.

Burners of a fired heater

  • Burner: Introduces fuel & air into the heater at the desired velocities, turbulence, and concentration to establish and maintain proper ignition and combustion.
  • Pilot: A smaller burner that provides ignition energy to light the main burner.
  • Plenum or wind box: A chamber surrounding the burners that used to distribute air to the burners or reduce the combustion noise.

Annual Maintenance

  • Tubes visual inspection prior to cleaning
  • Inspection after cleaning
  • Dimensional check-up (OD of a tube), thickness.
  • Visual inspection of header  plug leaks
  • Inspection – tubes supports, hangers, etc.
  • Inspection burner assemblies
  • Inspection of refractory
  • Inspection of explosion doors
  • Dampers external, internal, operating linkages, etc.

Decoking by Pigging

  • A new method of decoking the tubes is to steam, and then use water pressure to push Styrofoam pigs with studs and grit on the exterior through the tubes and around u-bends (even u-bends with clean-out plugs). The pigs scrape out the coke without scratching the tube walls.
  • Improper size of the pig  may leave scratches on the tube walls, hence a selection  of the correct  size  of the pig is
  • Pigging is faster than steam-air decoking, and refiners generally have longer campaigns on the heater compared to steam air decoking.
  • Pigging will not provide temperature shocks  & hence pigging has been found effective.

PIGGING – Double Pumping Unit

Set up:

  • The connection is made to pair of passes (coils) with flow/return piping. There are four separate piping links with the furnace & pumping unit.
  • Launchers/receiver units complete with full port ball valves to be connected to Coils horizontally.
  • Ensure safe access to pig launchers / receivers.
  • Launchers/receivers are provided with hammerlock couplings to connects flexible piping.
A typical figure showing Pigging method
Fig. 4: A typical figure showing Pigging method

Cleaning of Pigging:

These are some procedure for the cleaning of Pigging:

  • Water fill-up.
  • Water circulation for removing hydrocarbons and loose debris.
  • Special density foam pig launch
  • Decoke pig selection to clean
  • Increase pig size incrementally.
  • Polishing by using oversize abrasive coated foam pig.

Some more resources for you!

Piping Design and Layout
Piping Stress Analysis
Piping Interface
Piping Material
Piping Design Software


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Anup Kumar Dey

I am a Mechanical Engineer turned into a Piping Engineer. Currently, I work in a reputed MNC as a Senior Piping Stress Engineer. I am very much passionate about blogging and always tried to do unique things. This website is my first venture into the world of blogging with the aim of connecting with other piping engineers around the world.

3 thoughts on “Fired Heater: Components, Types, Construction, Sections, Maintenance

  1. Thank you, this is a great introductory post!

    I just wanted to add that the heaters shown in the photo graphs are typically designed in accordance with API 560 Standards. There is a new fired heater simulation software called Heater560, which is specifically for API 560 Heaters and is now available for process engineers interested in Fired Heater Design

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