Corrosion-Fatigue Fracture of an H21 Tool Steel Safety-Valve Spring in Moist Air
The safety valve on a steam turbogenerator was set to open when the steam pressure reaches 2400 kPa (348 psi). The pressure had not exceeded 1790 kPa (260 psi) when the safety-valve spring shattered into 12 pieces. The steam temperature in the line varied from about 330 to 400 deg C (625 to 750 deg F). Because the spring was enclosed and mounted above the valve, its temperature was probably slightly lower. The 195 mm (7 in.) OD x 305 mm (12 in.) long spring was made from a 35 mm (1 in.) diam rod of H21 hot-work tool steel. It had been in service for about four years and had been subjected to mildly fluctuating stresses. Analysis (visual inspection, 0.3x photographs, 0.7x light fractographs, and metallographic examination) supported the conclusions that the spring failed by corrosion fatigue that resulted from application of a fluctuating load in the presence of a moisture-laden atmosphere. Recommendations included replacing all safety valves in the system with new open-top valves that had shot-peened and galvanized steel springs. Alternatively, the valve springs could be made from a corrosion-resistant metal-for example, a 300 series austenitic stainless steel or a nickel-base alloy, such as Hastelloy B or C.