Failure of Stainless Steel Piping in Stagnant Seawater
An austenitic stainless steel (type 316/316L stainless steel, schedule 40, 64 mm (2.5 in.) diam and larger) piping network used in the fire-sprinkler system in a large saltwater passenger and car ferry failed by rapid leaking. Operating conditions involved stagnant seawater at ambient temperatures. The pipe was in service for four weeks when three leaks appeared. Investigation (visual inspection and photographic images) supported the conclusion that the failure was caused by attack and corrosion damage of Cl ions in conditions that were ideal for three modes of highly accelerated pitting of austenitic stainless steel: the bottom surface, weld or HAZ pits, and crevices. Recommendations included proper material selection for piping, flanges, and weld rods with greater corrosion resistance. Proper filtering to prevent entrained abrasives and timely breakdown inspections were also advised.