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A spiral heat exchanger made from 316L stainless steel developed a leak after eight years of service as a condenser on a distillation tower. Examination identified the leak as being located on the cooling water side in the heat affected zone (HAZ) of a weld joining two plates. Cooling water deposits were observed in a V-shaped corner formed by the weld. A metallurgical examination identified the presence of transgranular cracks in the HAZ on the cooling water side. Analysis of the cooling water revealed the presence of chlorides. Based on the metallurgical analysis and other findings, it was determined that the cracks and associated leak were the result of chloride stress-corrosion cracking.

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Thomas D. Traubert, Tim A. Jur, Metallurgical Analysis to Evaluate Cracking in a 316L Grade Stainless Steel Spiral Heat Exchanger, Handbook of Case Histories in Failure Analysis, Vol 3, Edited By Larry Berardinis, ASM International, 2019, p 152–157,

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