Pitting Corrosion of Steel Tubes in an Air Preheater
Severe pitting corrosion of a carbon steel tube was observed in the air preheater of a power plant, which runs on rice straw firing. Approximately 1450 tubes were removed from Stage 3 of the preheater (air inlet and flue gas outlet) due to corrosion and local bursting. Samples from Stage 2 (where corrosion was low) and Stage 3 (severe corrosion) were taken and subjected to visual inspection, SEM, x-ray diffraction, microhardness measurement, and chemical and microstructural analysis. It was determined that extended non-operation of the plant resulted in the settlement of corrosive species on the tubes in Stage 3. The complete failure of the tube occurred due to diffusion of these elements into the base metal and precipitation of potassium and chlorine compounds along the grain boundaries, with subsequent dislodging of grains. The nonmetallic inclusions acted as nucleating sites for local pitting bursting. Nonuniform heat transfer in Stage 3 operation accelerated the selective corrosion of front-end tubes. The relatively high heat transfer in this stage resulted in condensation of some corrosive gases and consequent corrosion. Continuous operation of the plant with some precautions during assembly of the tubes reduced the corrosion problem.