Fracture of a Carbon Steel Pipe in a Cooling Tower
A 455 mm diam x 8 mm thick wall carbon steel (ASTM A 53) discharge line for a circulating-water system at a cooling tower fractured in service; a manifold section cracked where a Y-shaped connection had been welded. Investigation (visual inspection and photographs) supported the conclusion that the pipe failed by fatigue. Cracks originated at crevices and pits in the weld area that acted as stress raisers, producing high localized stresses because of the sharp-radius corner design. Abnormally high structural stresses and alternating stresses resulting from the pump vibrations contributed to the failure. Recommendations included changing the joint design to incorporate a large-radius corner and improving fitting of the components to permit full weld penetration. Backing strips were suggested to increase weld quality, and the pipe wall thickness was increased from 8 to 9.5 mm.