This investigation involved two AISI 304L acid storage tanks and one AISI 304L spent solvent tank from a sewage treatment facility. After installation, these tanks were hydrostatically tested using sewage effluent. No leaks were found and after a year or two, the tanks were drained and filled with nitric acid in preparation for service. Three weeks later the two acid tanks were found to be leaking from the bottom. Samples from the spent solvent tank revealed that pitting was located in a depressed area near a suction hole, beneath a black residue. It was concluded that the acid tanks failed by chloride-induced pitting initiated by microbial activity. Further, the spent solvent tank failed by a similar, but anaerobic mechanism. The use of the effluent for the hydrostatic test and the failure to remove it and clean and dry the tanks was the primary cause of failure. Localized carbide segregation in the original plate served as preferential corrosion sites. Had the tanks been hydrostatically tested in a proper manner, the pitting may not have occurred.
Philip J. Kenny, Bacterial-Induced Corrosion of AISI Type 304 Stainless Steel Tanks, ASM Failure Analysis Case Histories: Chemical Processing Equipment, ASM International, 2019, https://doi.org/10.31399/asm.fach.chem.c9001655
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