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A falling film black liquor evaporator consisted of flat twin plate heat exchangers and was used to increase black liquor solids content prior to its burning in the recovery boiler. Several plate heat exchangers were fabricated of AISI type 316L stainless steel by electric resistance welding. Cracks initiated at the inside surface of the welded areas and penetrated through the wall thickness. In several locations, the weld fractured and the plates separated with significant spring back, indicative of high residual stresses attributed to fabrication and weld procedures. The cracks had extended radially from the electric resistant weld into the base metal. Metallographic examination revealed the cracks were transgranular and branching, characteristic of SCC in austenitic stainless steels. The fracture surfaces had a brittle cleavage-like appearance, typical of SCC in austenitic stainless steels. Chlorides in the service environment were a contributory factor. The primary factor causing SCC localized at the electric resistant welds was substantial residual stresses as a result of fabrication procedures. It was recommended that the heat exchanger plates be subjected to stress-relief heat treatment following fabrication and welding.

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