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A cooler of an ammonia synthesis plant was destroyed after three years of service due to the rupture of a distribution manifold. Synthesis gas under high pressure and at about 300 deg C, consisting of 10% NH3 and unconverted gas of 25% N2 and 75% H2 content, was water-cooled externally to room temperature in this unit. The fracture had the typical flat-gray fibrous structure of a material destroyed by hydrogen. Specimens for the metallographic investigation showed that the structure appeared to have been loosened by intergranular separations. DVM notched impact specimens from the affected area yielded low specific impact energy values. These are the significant characteristics of hydrogen attack. The attack penetrated to a depth of 13 to 16 mm. It was recommended that the manifolds be made of hydrogen-resistant steel instead of the unalloyed steel used.

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Friedrich Karl Naumann, Ferdinand Spies, Investigation of Distribution Manifolds from the Cooling Unit of an Ammonia Synthesis Plant, ASM Failure Analysis Case Histories: Chemical Processing Equipment, ASM International, 2019,

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