Leaking Carbon Steel Weldments in a Sulfur Recovery Unit
Two leaks were discovered at a sulfur recovery unit in a refinery. The leaks were at pipe-to-elbow welds in a 152 mm (6 in.) (NPS 6) diam line, operating in lean amine service at 50 deg C (120 deg F) and 2.9 MPa (425 psig). Thickness measurements indicated negligible loss of metal, and the leaks were clamped. A year later, 15 additional leaks were discovered, again at pipe-to-elbow welds in lean amine lines. Further nondestructive testing located other cracks, giving a total of 35. These lines had been in service for approximately eight years. Investigation (visual inspection, hardness testing, and micrographic cross-sections) supported the conclusion that the failure was caused by lean amine SCC. It was considered unlikely that these pipe welds had received such a postweld heat treatment, although it is industry practice to postweld stress relieve piping and pressure vessels in lean amine service if the temperature is expected to be above 95 deg C (200 deg F). Recommendations included inspecting all welds using shear wave ultrasonic testing and postweld heat treating all welds in lean amine service.