Stress-Corrosion Cracking of Carbon Steel Hoppers by Ammonium Nitrate Solution
After 10 to 20 months of service, the carbon steel hoppers on three trucks used to transport bulk ammonium nitrate prills developed extensive cracking in the upper walls. The prills were discharged from the steel hoppers using air superchargers that generated an unloading pressure of approximately 11 kPa (7 psi). Each hopper truck held from 9,100 to 11,800 kg (10 to 13 tons) of prills when fully loaded and handled approximately 90,700 kg (100 tons) per month. The walls of the hoppers were made of 2.7 mm (0.105 in.) thick flat-rolled carbon steel sheet of structural quality, conforming to ASTM A 245 (obsolete specification replaced by A 570 and A 611). Investigation (visual inspection and 100x micrographs polished and etched with nital) supported the conclusion that failure of the hoppers was the result of intergranular SCC of the sheet-steel walls because of contact with a highly concentrated ammonium nitrate solution. Recommendations included the cost-effective solution of applying a three-coat epoxy-type coating with a total dry thickness of 0.3 mm (0.013 in.) to the interior surfaces of the hoppers.