Cracking in Plug Welds That Joined a Stainless Steel Liner to a Carbon Steel Shell
The welds joining the liner and shell of a fluid catalytic cracking unit failed. The shell was made of ASTM A515 carbon steel welded with E7018 filler metal. The liner was made of type 405 stainless steel and was plug welded to the shell using ER309 and ER310 stainless steel filler metal. Fine cracks starting inside the weld zone and spreading outward through the weld and toward the surface were observed during examination. Decarburization and graphitization of the carbon steel at the interface was noted. The high carbon level was found to allow martensite to form eventually. The structure was found to be austenitic in the area where the grain-boundary precipitates appeared heaviest. The composition of the precipitates was analyzed using an electron microprobe to reveal presence of sulfur. Microstructural changes in the weld alloy at the interface were interpreted to be caused by dilution of the alloy and the presence of sulfur caused hot shortness. The necessary internal stress to produce extensive cracking was produced by the differential thermal expansion of the carbon and stainless steels. Periodic careful gouging of the affected areas followed by repair welding was recommended.