A type 321 stainless steel downcomer expansion joint that handled process gases was found to be leaking approximately 2 to 3 weeks after installation. The expansion joint was the second such coupling placed in the plant after failure of the original bellows. The failed joint was disassembled and examined to determine the cause of failure. Energy-dispersive x-ray analysis revealed significant peaks for chlorine and phosphorus, indicating failure by chloride stress-corrosion cracking (SCC). Cracks in the liner and bellows exhibited a branched pattern also typical of SCC. Cracks through the inner liner initiated on the outer surface of the liner and propagated inward, whereas cracks in the bellows originated on the inner surface and propagated outward. Stress-corrosion cracking of the assembly was caused by chloride contaminants trapped inside the bellows following hydrostatic testing. Checking the test fluid for chloride and removing all fluids after hydrostatic testing were recommended to prevent further failure.
Ralph D. Bowman, Stress-Corrosion Cracking in a Downcomer Expansion Joint, Handbook of Case Histories in Failure Analysis, Vol 2, Edited By Khlefa A. Esaklul, ASM International, 1993, p 222–224, https://doi.org/10.31399/asm.fach.v02.c9001342
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