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Corrosion Failure of a Tee Fitting.

From: R.J. Franco, Failures of Hea t Excha ngers, Failure Analysis and Prevention, Vol 11, ASM Handbook, ASM Inte rna tiona l, 1986, p 628642 A bstract: W e t natural gas wa s drie d by be ing passed through a ca rbon ste e l ve sse l tha t containe d a m olecular-sie ve drying a ge nt. The drying a ge nt be ca m e sa tura te d a fter seve ra l hours in se rvice and wa s re gene rate d by a gas that wa s he a te d to 290 to 345 de g C in a sa lt-ba th he a t e x change r. The te e joint in the piping be twe en the he a t e x cha nge r a nd the sie ve be d faile d after 12 m onths. A hole in the te e fitting a nd a corrosion product on the inner surface of the pitting wa s re ve ale d by visual e x am ination. Iron sulfide wa s re ve a led by che m ica l a nalysis of the scale which indica te d hydrogen sulfide a ttack on the ca rbon ste e l. The pre se nce of ox ygen was indica te d by the ca rbon a nd sulfur found in the sca le on the piping and in the sie ves indica te d tha t oxyge n com bine d with m oisture produce d conditions for attack of hydroge n sulfide on ca rbon ste e l. Turbulence with som e e ffe ct from the coa rse gra in size was inte rprete d to ha ve contributed. The piping m a terial wa s cha nge d from carbon stee l to AISI type 316 sta inless ste el a s it is rea dily we lda ble and re sistant to corrosion by hydroge n sulfide. Keywords: Pipe fittings, Ma te ria ls substitution; Sulfuriza tion Material: Low-ca rbon ste el (Nonre sulfurize d carbon stee l) Failure type: Stress-corrosion cra ck ing

Wet natural gas was dried by being passed through a carbon steel vessel that contained a molecular-sieve drying agent. The gas, which contained 15% H2S, was passed through the vessel at a pressure of 4.5 MPa (650 psi) and at a temperature of 40 to 45 C (100 to 110 F). After several hours, the drying agent became saturated and was taken off the line and regenerated by gas that was heated to 290 to 345 C (550 to 650 F) in a salt-bath heat exchanger. Figure 1(a) shows the arrangement of the 75-mm (3-in.) diam schedule 40 piping for the dehydrator system. After 12 months of service, the tee joint failed and a fire resulted.



Fig. 1 Low-carbon steel tee fitting in a line leading to a natural-gas dryer that failed from hydrogen sulfide corrosion. (a) Arrangement of piping showing point of leakage in the tee fitting. (b) Inner surface of the tee fitting showing c orrosion deposit and area of c omplete penetration 2/4

5/22/2011 surface of the tee (b) Inner showing c orrosion deposit and area of c omplete penetration

through the tube wall. (c) Positions of layers of corrosion produc t on inner surface of piping (see Table 1 for c ompositions of layers) Investigation. Inspection of the piping between the heat exchanger in the salt bath and the molecular-sieve bed

revealed a hole in the tee fitting (Fig. 1a and b) and a corrosion product (scale) on the inner surface of the pitting. This scale occurred in four layers (Fig. 1c). Chemical analysis of the scale revealed it to be iron sulfide of various compositions in four distinct layers. Table 1 lists the probable composition and thickness of each layer. The layered structure of the scale indicated hydrogen sulfide attack on the carbon steel. The sulfur content was lowest in the layer in contact with the inner surface of the carbon steel pipe.
Table 1 Compositions and thicknesses of layers of corrosion product found on inner surface of low-carbon steel gas-dryer piping Carbon, Sulfur, Stoichiometric Layer (see Fig.c) 1 1 and 2 (composite) 2 2 and 3 (composite) 6 3 4 % (a) 10 % (b) 36.9 41.7 45.0 ratio FeS1.08 FeS1.15 FeS1.46 Probable composition FeS1.1 FeS1.1 + FeS1.2 FeS1.2 (c) FeS1.2 + FeS2 FeS1.2 + FeS2 (c) FeS2 (c) 2.0

Approximate thickness mm 0.5 2.0 0.08


in. 0.02 0.08

For several months before the failure, the temperature of the gas heated by the salt-bath heat exchanger was below 290 C (550 F) and was about 230 C (450 F) at the molecular sieves. Corrosion of carbon steel by hydrogen sulfide occurs only at temperatures above 260 C (500 F). At 315 C (600 F), 15% H2S would cause rapid attack on carbon steel. However, the carbon and sulfur found in the scale on the piping and in the molecular sieves indicated that oxygen was present in the system. At pressures of 2070 kPa (300 psi) or more, the presence of small amounts of oxygen promotes hydrogen sulfide corrosion of carbon steel, even at room temperature. Thus, oxygen combined with moisture produces conditions for attack of hydrogen sulfide on carbon steel at temperatures below 260 C (500 F). Failure in the wall of the tee fitting was probably the result of turbulence, with some effect from the coarse grain size usually found in pipe fittings. Grain size usually affects corrosion rate.
Conclusions. The piping failed by corrosion in the tee fitting because of the presence of hydrogen sulfide,

moisture, and oxygen in the natural gas that was dried in the system. Turbulence in the tee fitting and coarse grain size both contributed to the corrosion.
Corrective Measures. The piping material was changed from carbon steel to AISI type 316 stainless steel,

which is readily weldable and resistant to corrosion by hydrogen sulfide at temperatures to 400 C (750 F). Chloride concentration in the plant was very low; however, postweld stress relief was used to minimize residual stresses and to avoid the possibility of SCC. A less expensive alternative would have been to use a 5% Cr steel or a 9% Cr steel, neither of which is susceptible to SCC in the presence of chlorides. These steels are susceptible to corrosion by hydrogen sulfide, although much less so than carbon steel. Acknowledgment 3/4



R.J. Franco wishes to acknowledge G.M. Buchheim, Exxon Research & Engineering Company, for his assistance in preparing several of the examples in the source article. Related Information W. R. Warke, Stress-Corrosion Cracking, Failure Analysis and Prevention, Vol 11, ASM Handbook, ASM International, 2002, p 823860 Copyright 2004 ASM International. All Rights Reserved.