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A bent Ni-Cu Monel 400 alloy tube, which operated as part of a pipeline in a petrochemical distillery, failed by through-thickness cracking. The pipeline was used to carry a stream of gaseous hydrocarbons containing hydrochloric acid (HCl) into a reaction tower. The tower provided a caustic solution (NaOH) to remove HCl from the stream, before the latter was directed to a burner. Metallographic examination showed that the cracks were intergranular and were frequently branched. Although nominal chemical composition of the component was found within the specified range, energy dispersive x-ray analysis (EDXA) indicated significant segregation of sulfur and chlorine along the grain boundaries. Failure was attributed to hypochlorous-acid (HClO)-induced stress-corrosion cracking (SCC). The HClO was formed by the reaction of HCl with atmospheric O2 that entered the tube during shutdowns and startups. Residual stresses, originating from in situ bend forming of the tube during assembly of the line, provided a driving force for crack growth, and the segregation of sulfur on grain boundaries made the material more susceptible to cracking.

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