Low-Cycle Thermal Fatigue Failure of a Type 304 Stainless Steel Tee Fitting
Several failures occurred in 64-mm schedule 80 type 304 stainless steel (ASME SA-312, grade TP304) piping in a steam-plant heat-exchanger system near tee fittings at which cool water returning from the heat exchanger was combined with hot water from a bypass. Various portions of the piping were subjected to temperatures ranging from 29 to 288 deg C. Each of the failures were revealed to consist of transgranular cracking in and/or close to the circumferential butt weld joining the tee fitting to the downstream pipe leg, where the hot bypass water mixed with the cool return water. The transgranular cracks suggested that thermal fatigue was a more likely cause of failure than SCC. It was concluded by temperature measurements that circumferential temperature gradients, in combination with inadequate flexibility in the piping system as a whole, had caused the failures. The tee fitting was redesigned to alleviate the thermal stress pattern.