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A system of carbon steel headers, handling superheated water of 188 deg C (370 deg F) at 2 MPa (300 psi) for automobile-tire curing presses, developed a number of leaks within about four months after two to three years of leak-free service. All the leaks were in shielded metal arc butt welds joining 200 mm (8 in.) diam 90 deg elbows and pipe to 200 mm (8 in.) diam welding-neck flanges. A flange-elbow-flange assembly and a flange-pipe assembly that had leaked were removed for examination. Investigation (visual inspection, hardness testing, chemical analysis, magnetic-particle testing, radiographic inspection, and 2% nital etched 1.7x views) showed varying IDs on the assemblies and supported the conclusions that the failures of the butt welds were the result of fatigue cracks caused by cyclic thermal stresses that initiated at stress-concentrating notches at the toes of the interior fillet welds on the surfaces of the flanges. Recommendations included using ultrasonic testing to identify the appropriate joints and then replacing them. Special attention to accuracy of fit-up in the replacement joints was also recommended to achieve smooth, notch-free contours on the interior surfaces.

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