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A return bend (made from ASTM A213, grade T11, ferritic steel) from a triolefin-unit heater ruptured after two years in service. The unit operated at 2410 kPa, with a hydrocarbon feed stream (85% propylene) entering at 260 to 290 deg C and leaving at 425 to 480 deg C. The fracture was found to terminate at the welds that joined the bend to the pipeline. A high concentration of both small and large inclusions was exhibited by the metallographic examination of the steel near the fracture. Branched cracks similar to those produced by stress corrosion of steel were observed in a section through the fireside edge of the fracture surface. Scale was observed over most of the crack path which acted as a stress raiser. The effect of the oxide was magnified during thermal cycles because of differential thermal expansion, with the steel having a greater expansion coefficient than the scale. It was recommended that material that is intended for critical applications where failure cannot be tolerated should be non-destructively examined.

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