Chemical Processing Equipment
A storage tank had been in service at a petrochemical plant for 13 years when inspectors discovered cracks adjacent to weld joints and in the base plate near the foundation. The tank was made from AISI 304 stainless steel and held styrene monomer, a derivative of benzene. The cracks were subsequently welded over with 308 stainless steel filler wire and the base plate was replaced with new material. Soon after, the tank began leaking along the weld bead, triggering a full-scale investigation; spectroscopy, optical and scanning electron microscopy, fractography, SEM-EDS analysis, and microhardness, tensile, and impact testing. The results revealed transgranular cracks in the HAZ and base plate, likely initiated by stresses developed during welding and the presence of chloride from seawater used in the plant. It was also found that the repair weld was improperly done, nor did it include a postweld heat treatment to remove weld sensitization and minimize residual stresses.