Stress-Corrosion Cracking of Type 316 Stainless Steel Piping
A 680,000 kg (750 ton) per day ammonia unit was shut down following a fire near the outlet of the waste heat exchanger. The fire had resulted from leakage of ammonia from the type 316 stainless steel outlet piping. The outlet piping immediately downstream from the waste heat exchanger consisted of a flange made from a casting, and a reducing cone, a short length of pipe, and a 90 deg elbow, all made of 13 mm thick plate. A liner wrapped with insulation was welded to the smaller end of the reducing cone. All of the piping up to the flange was wrapped with insulation. Investigation (visual inspection, 10x unetched images, liquid-penetrant inspection, and chemical analysis of the insulation) supported the conclusion that the failure occurred in the area of the flange-to-cone weld by SCC as the result of aqueous chlorides leached from the insulation around the liner by condensate. Recommendations included eliminating the chlorides from the system, maintaining the temperature of the outlet stream above the dewpoint at all times, or that replacing the type 316 stainless steel with an alloy such as Incoloy 800 that is more resistant to chloride attack.