Stress-Corrosion Cracking of Type 316 Stainless Steel Tubing
A steam-condensate line (type 316 stainless steel tubing) began leaking after five to six years in service. The line carried steam condensate at 120 deg C (250 deg F) with a two hour heat-up/cool-down cycle. No chemical treatment had been given to either the condensate or the boiler water. To check for chlorides, the inside of the tubing was rinsed with distilled water, and the rinse water was collected in a clean beaker. A few drops of silver nitrate solution were added to the rinse water, which clouded slightly because of the formation of insoluble silver chloride. This and additional investigation (visual inspection, and 250x micrograph etched with aqua regia) supported the conclusion that the tubing failed by chloride SCC. Chlorides in the steam condensate also caused corrosion of the inner surface of the tubing. Stress was produced when the tubing was bent during installation. Recommendations included providing water treatment to remove chlorides from the system. Continuous flow should be maintained throughout the entire tubing system to prevent concentration of chlorides. No chloride-containing water should be permitted to remain in the system during shutdown periods, and bending of tubing during installation should be avoided to reduce residual stress.