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A detailed failure analysis was conducted on an ammonia refrigerant condenser tube component that failed catastrophically during its initial hours of operation. Evidence collected clearly demonstrated that the weld between a pipe and a dished end contained a sharp unfused region at its root (lack of penetration). Component failure had started from this weld defect. The hydrogen absorbed during welding facilitated crack initiation from this weld defect during storage of the component after welding. Poor weld toughness at the low operating temperature facilitated crack growth during startup, culminating in catastrophic failure as soon as the crack exceeded critical length.

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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