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Investigation:Failureofasurfacecondensertitaniumtube|HydrocarbonProcessing|April2011

COPYINGANDDISTRIBUTINGAREPROHIBITEDWITHOUTPERMISSIONOFTHEPUBLISHER

Investigation:Failureofasurfacecondenser
titaniumtube
04.01.2011|AlMeshari,A.,SaudiBasicIndustrieseCorp.,Jubail,SaudiArabiaAlEnazi,S.,SABIC
TechnologyCentre,JubailIndustrialCity,SaudiArabiaDiab,M.,SABICTechnologyCentre,JubailIndustrialCity,
SaudiArabia
Advancedanalyticmethodsdeterminecontributingfactorsinheatexchangercorrosionproblem
Keywords:
Thiscasehistoryfocusesontheinvestigationoflocalizedthinningoftitanium(Ti)tubesinasurfacecondenserin
anammoniaunit.Severalcharacterizationtechniqueswereapplied,includingstereomicroscopy,opticalmicroscopy
andothermethods.Detailedanalysesshowedthatthetubethinningisattributedtoironinducedcrevicecorrosion.
Possiblerootcausesforfailureinvolvedthepresenceofhighconcentrationsofiron(Fe)particlesandchloride(Cl)
ionsinthesteamcondensate,whichcanacceleratethecorrosionprocess.Anotherfactorwastubeflowinduced
vibrationthatmayhaveoccurredathighprocessingflowrates,leadingtoalocalizedFedepositiononthetube
surface.Thiscasehistoryoutlinesthesourcesforthefailuresaswellastherecommendationtopreventfutureevents.
Background.
LocalizedthinningwasobservedonTitubesofasurfacecondenserforanammoniaunit.Thecondenserisa
horizontalexchangerusingstraighttubeswithtwopasses.Thetubethinningwasdetectedbyeddycurrenttesting
performedon34%oftheexchangertubes.Externalwalllosswaslocatedinthemiddleofthetoptworowsoftubes,
i.e.,betweenbaffles5and7(Fig.1).Thesurfacecondenserhadbeeninserviceforabout16.5years.

Fig.1.Schematicofthesurfacecondensershowingthe
steamcondensateandseawaterflowdirection,aswellas
thelocationoftheseveretubethinning.

Inthecondenser,steamcondensateflowsintotheshellside,whereasseawaterisintroducedinthetubeside.The
materialsoftubes,tubesheets,andshellareB338Gr.2welded(Ti),SB265Gr.2TicladonSA51670carbonsteel,and
A51670carbonsteel,respectively.Thetubesare7mlong,0.7mmthickandhave19mmouterdiameter.Table1
liststhesteamcondenserdesignandoperatingconditions.
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Investigation:Failureofasurfacecondensertitaniumtube|HydrocarbonProcessing|April2011

Visualexamination.Onetubesample,approximately75cmlong,wassubmittedforanalysis(seeFig.2a).The
samplewasdeformedbythetubepullingprocess.Rounded,buttonlike,darkspotswereobservedatthe12oclock
positiononthetube(Fig.2b2c).Thespotswereperfectlyroundedandequallyspaced,havingadiameterofabout8
mm.Thedistancebetweenthecentersofadjacentspotsisapproximately13mm.Fig.3isacloseupphotoofthe
spots.Stereomicroscopicexaminationofthespotsurfacesrevealedsignificantthinningthatproducedsmooth
groovescoveredwithblackishlayers.

Fig.2.Rounded,buttonlike,darkspotsobservedatthe
12oclockpositiononthetubeexternalsurface.

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Fig.3.Closeupviewsofoneofthedark
spotsobservedonthetube.
Chemicalanalysis.ThechemicalcompositionofthetubematerialwasdeterminedusingXrayfluorescence
(XRF)spectrometryandC/Sanalyzer(Table2).ThematerialconformstothechemicalrequirementforB338Gr.2
(Ti).1

Surfaceanalysis.ThesamplewasexaminedunderScanningElectronMicroscope/EnergyDispersiveXray
(SEM/EDX).Themetallossattheroundedspotsproducedasmooth,groovedsurface(Fig.4).EDXoftheblackish
layerformedatthespotshowedthatitiscomposedmainlyofTiandironoxides(Fig.5).SomeNa,Si,ClandPwere
alsodetectedinthelayer.bAthickerlayer,containinghigherconcentrationsofironoxides,wasnoticedinthespot
(Fig.6).Interestingly,noTiwasfoundinthatlayer.

Fig.4.SEMimageofthespotsurface
showingthenatureofcorrosion.

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Investigation:Failureofasurfacecondensertitaniumtube|HydrocarbonProcessing|April2011

Fig.5.SEM/EDXoftheoxidelayerformed
atthespots.

Fig.6.Thickoxidelayerobservedat
thespot.

Metallographicexamination.Crosssectionsfromthetubesamplewerepreparedformetallographic
examination.TwocrosssectionsofthethinnedareasareshowninFig.7.Severethinningoccurredinsomeareas
(Fig.7a),whereasmilderthinningwasobservedinothers(Fig.7b).Theminimumthicknessmeasuredwas
approximately0.12mm.Thetubematerialmicrostructurepossessesequiaxedgrains,typicalofannealedTitype2
(Fig.8).EDXoftheoxidelayerformedatreactionfrontconfirmedthepresenceofhighFeconcentrations(Figs.9
and10).

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Investigation:Failureofasurfacecondensertitaniumtube|HydrocarbonProcessing|April2011

Fig.7.Crosssectionsofthetubewall
showingdifferentdegreesoflocalized
thinning.

Fig.8.Tubematerialmicrostructurehas
equiaxedgrains,typicalofannealedTi,
asetched.

Fig.9.SEM/EDXanalysisofthelayers
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formedattheaffectedareas.
Discussion.
Ingeneral,Tialloysexhibitexcellentcorrosionresistanceinmanyenvironments.Theyhavealwaysbeenoneofthe
bestchoicesforsuchapplicationsassurfacecondensertubes.Titaniumowesitscorrosionresistancetothe
formationofaprotective,passivetitaniumoxide(TiO)scale.Nevertheless,Tiisnotcompletelyimmunetocorrosion.
Indeed,Timayreadilycorrodeincertainconditions.Forinstance,thethinningobservedonthesubjectsurface
condensertubeappearstohavebeencausedbyaspecialtypeofcrevicecorrosion,oftenreferredtoasironinduced
crevicecorrosion.Asitsnameimplies,ironinducedcrevicecorrosionoccurswhenFeparticlesdepositonorare
smearedintotheTisurfaceformingcrevices,thusleadingtodisruptionoftheprotectiveTiOscale.2,3Asa
consequence,agalvaniccellisestablishedbetweenTi(cathodic)andFe(anodic),whereFeparticlescorrode
preferentially.TheanodicdissolutionoftheFegeneratesFeionsthatcombinewithClionsinthecondensatetoform
ironchloridethatinturnreactswithwatertoproducehydrochloricacid(HCl)andmetalhydroxide(MOH):4
MCl+H2OrHCl+MOH
Obviously,theformationofHClresultsinasignificantreductioninthesolutionpHatthecreviceandthatprevents
thereformationofthepassiveTiOfilm.Inevitably,thereactionwillproceeduntilthetubeisperforated.Theattack
causedbyFeinducedcrevicecorrosionmanifestsitselfbyaverycharacteristiccircularpitmorphology.Ironinduced
crevicecorrosionisknowntobecatalyzedbytemperatureriseand/orhighClconcentrationinthecondensate.
Therefore,theincreaseinthesurfacecondensershellsideinlettemperaturewouldhaveaggravatedtheattack.Iron
carriedoverinthesteammayhaveoriginatedfromcorrosionand/orerosionofsteelpipesandothercomponents
(e.g.,impingementplate).Further,thesurfacecondensertubesatthesteamcondensateinletwereprobablysubjectto
somevibrationinducedbytheabovedesignflowratesinbothtubesandshellsides.ItissuggestedthattheFe
particlescarriedoverinthesteamhit,depositedandaccumulatedonthetubesurface.Thetubevibrationledto
redistributionoftheFeparticlesonthetubesurface,suchthatFeaccumulationoccurredatequallyspacedareas,
inducingthelocalizedthinning.
However,itcannotberuledoutthattheFeparticlescouldhavebeensmearedoverthetubesurfaceduringfabrication
andinstallationprocesses.LocalizedcorrosionofTitubinghasbeenattributedtoscratchesinwhichtracesofFe
weredetected.4Itisinterestingtonotethatthesurfacecondenserhadbeeninserviceforabout16.5yearswithoutany
failures(orthinning),implyingthattheFeparticlesweremostlikelycarriedoverinthesteamcondensate,thanrather
beingsmearedontothetubesurfaceduringfabrication.Thismaybesupportedastheexternaltubewalllosswas
locatedinthemiddleofthetoptworowsoftubes.

Fig.10.SEM/EDXanalysisofthelayers
formedonthecondenserthinnedtube.

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Conclusions.
ThesteamcondensertubethinningisattributedtoFeinducedcrevicecorrosion.Presenceofhighconcentrationsof
FeparticlesandClionsinthecondensateacceleratestheFeinducedcrevicecorrosion.Tubeflowinducedvibration
mayhaveoccurredduetotheabovedesignflowrates.
Recommendations.
Thestudygeneratedseveralrecommendationsforthefacility:
Surfacecondenseroperatingconditionsshouldbekeptwithinthedesignconditions.
ConcentrationsofFeandClinthecondensatemustbemonitoredandcontrolled.
SourceofFeparticlesshouldbeidentifiedandeliminatedtoavoidformationofcrevices.HP
LITERATURECITED
1 ASTMB33809,StandardSpecificationsforSeamlessandWeldedTitaniumandTitaniumAlloyTubesfor

CondensersandHeatExchangers.
2ASMHandbook,Vol.13,Corrosion,ASMInternational,1993.
3http://www.azom.com/,May16,2010.
4Donachie,Jr.,M.J.,Titanium:ATechnicalGuide,ASMInternational,2000.

Nomenclature
AlAluminum
CCarbon
CaCalcium
ClChloride
CuCopper
CrChromium
FeIron
KPotassium
MnMagnesium
NiNickel
NNitrogen
OOxygen
PPhosphorus
SiSilicon
NaSodium
TiTitanium
Theauthors

AbdulazizAlMeshariisafailureanalystatSABICTechnologyCentreJubail,SaudiArabia.Hehas
aPhDdegreeinmaterialscienceandmetallurgyfromtheUniversityofCambridge(UK)andMS
degreeincorrosionscienceandengineeringfromUMIST(UK).HehasbeenaNACEandASM
membersince2000.

MohammadDiabisafailureanalystatSABICTechnologyCentreJubail,SaudiArabia.HehasaBS
degreeinmechanicalengineeringfromKingFahdUniversityofPetroleum&Minerals(KSA).

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Investigation:Failureofasurfacecondensertitaniumtube|HydrocarbonProcessing|April2011

SaadAlEnaziisafailureanalystatSABICTechnologyCentreJubail,SaudiArabia.HehasaMS
degreeinmanufacturingmanagementandBSdegreeinmechanicalengineeringfromtheUniversityof
Toledo.

S.K.Mandal
06.01.2012
Sir,
Wearefacingironcarryoverfromaircooledcondenserofour2x150MWpowerplantduetowhichweare
maintaininghighpHandblowdownismore.DMwaterisreachedmorethan3%.Pleaasadviceforsolution.
Regards,
(S.K.Mandal)

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