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A ring-type joint in a reactor pipeline for a hydrocracker unit had failed. Cracks were observed on the flange and the associated ring gasket during an inspection following a periodic shutdown of the unit. The components were manufactured from stabilized grades of austenitic stainless steel; the flange from type 321, and the ring gasket from 347. Examination revealed that the failure occurred by transgranular stress-corrosion cracking, initiated by the presence of polythionic acid. Detailed metallurgical investigation was subsequently conducted to identify what may have caused the formation of polythionic acid in the process gas.

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