Stress-Corrosion Cracking Failure of a Sensitized Valve Stem
A valve stem made of 17-4 PH (AISI type 630) stainless steel, which was used for operating a gate valve in a steam power plant, failed after approximately four months of service, during which it had been exposed to high-purity water at approximately 175 deg C (350 deg F) and 11 MPa (1600 psi). The valve stem was reported to have been solution heat treated at 1040 +/-14 deg C (1900 +/-25 deg F) for 30 min and either air quenched or oil quenched to room temperature. The stem was then reportedly aged at 550 to 595 deg C (1025 to 1100 deg F) for four hours. Investigation (visual inspection, 0.7x/50x images, hardness testing, reheat treatment, and metallographic examination) supported the conclusion that failure was by progressive SCC that originated at a stress concentration. Also, the solution heat treatment had been either omitted or performed at too high of a temperature, and the aging treatment had been at too low of a temperature. Recommendations included the following heat treatments: after forging, solution heat treat at 1040 deg C (1900 deg F) for one hour, then oil quench; to avoid susceptibility to SCC, age at 595 deg C (1100 deg F) for four hours, then air cool.