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A detailed investigative failure analysis was conducted on an autoclave which blew apart in a furnace for no apparent reason. Bolt failure resulted in separation of the autoclave lid and subsequent destruction of the furnace. Analysis using metallography, fractography, mechanical testing and exemplar tests were performed on the bolt material. Mechanical engineering analysis and leak-before-break criteria were extensively analyzed. Results led to only one possible conclusion: that an explosion occurred within the autoclave. Suggestions for autoclave design are presented as a result of the analysis.

A kiln, 7.6 m (25 ft) long with a 1 m (3 ft) internal diameter and a 6.3 mm (0.25 in.) wall thickness, is used to regenerate spent charcoal returned by water utilities. This charcoal contains up to 0.57% S and 2.04% Cl. The kiln is made of Inconel 601 (N06601) welded using Inconel 617 (N06617) as a filler alloy. Wet charcoal is fed in at one end of the kiln and travels while being tumbled within the inclined rotating vessel. Temperatures range from 480 deg C (900 deg F) (Zone 1) to 900 deg C (1650 deg F) (Zones 2 and 3). Steam is introduced at the discharge end at 95 g/s (750 lb/h), 34 to 69 kPa (5 to 10 psi), and 125 deg C (260 deg F). The kiln developed perforations within eight months of operation. Investigation (visual inspection, metallurgical analysis, energy-dispersive spectroscopy, and 44X micrographs) supported the conclusion that the sulfur and chlorine in the charcoal attacked the Inconel 601, forming various sulfides and chlorides. Recommendations included on-site testing, and installation of test coupons of various alloys before fabricating another kiln. The suggested alloys were RA85H, 800HT, HR-120, Haynes 556, and HR-160.

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