Stress-Corrosion Cracking of a Stainless Steel Integral-Finned Tube
A tubular heat exchanger in a refinery reformer unit leaked after one month of service. The exchanger contained 167 type 304 stainless steel U-bent integral-finned tubes. Cracks in the tube wall were revealed during examination. Hardness of the tube was found to be 30 HRC at the inside surface and up to 40 HRC at the base of the fin midway between the roots which indicated that the fins were cold formed and not subsequently annealed thus susceptible to SCC because of a high residual stress level. It was revealed by metallographic examination that the fracture was predominantly by transgranular branched cracking and had originated from the inside surface. It was concluded that the tubes failed in SCC caused by chlorides in the presence of high residual stresses. The finned tubes were ordered in the annealed condition as a corrective measure.