Combined EDX/AES Analysis of Failed Inconel 600 Steam Line Bellows
Within the first few months of operation of an 8 km (5 mile) long 455 mm (18 in.) diam high-pressure steam line between a coal-fired electricity-generating plant and a paper mill, several of the Inconel 600 bellows failed. The steam line operated at 6030 kPa (875 psi) and 420 deg C (790 deg F). Metallographic sections, energy-dispersive x-ray spectra, chemical analyses, tensile tests, and Auger microscope analyses showed the failed bellows met the specifications for the material. However, investigation also showed entire oxide thickness was contaminated with relatively large amounts of sodium, calcium, potassium, aluminum, and sulfur, alkali, alkali earth, and other contaminants that completely permeated even the thin oxides on the fracture surfaces. Additional investigation of the purity of the steam itself as reported by the power plant showed that corrosion and cracks were ultimately caused by the steam. While under normal operation, the steam's purity posed no problem to the material, during boiler cleaning operations, the generating plant had allowed contamination to get into the steam line.