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Case Studies in Engineering Failure Analysis 9 (2017) 2734

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Case Studies in Engineering Failure Analysis


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/csefa

Case study

Failure analysis of dissimilar weld in heat exchanger MARK



Carlos R. Corleto , Gaurav R. Argade
KnightHawk Materials Lab, KnightHawk Engineering, Inc., 400 Hobbs Road, Suite 101, League City, TX, 77573, USA

AR TI CLE I NF O AB S T R A CT

Keywords: The failure analysis of a dissimilar weld in a heat exchanger has been conducted. Within hours of
Dissimilar weld being placed in service, the circumferential weld joining the carbon steel shell to the duplex
Duplex stainless steel stainless steel tubesheet experienced partial cracking as H2S was being introduced into the ex-
Carbon steel changer. The cracking of the weld was determined to be associated with sulde-stress corrosion
Sulde stress corrosion cracking
cracking facilitated by high weld hardness levels and local dilution of chemistry in the weld.

1. Introduction

Dissimilar welds occur in applications when dierent materials are combined to improve product performance. A typical example
is the use of ferritic and austenitic stainless steels in power plant applications, which can be traced back to the 1940s [1]. Other
examples which started later, are the use of ferritic and duplex stainless steels in applications that take advantage of the improved
mechanical and corrosion properties of duplex stainless steels [2,3]. However, due to their complexity, dissimilar welds can be
susceptible to unanticipated failures. The present case study documents the failure of a duplex and carbon steel weld.
The heat exchanger experienced partial cracking of the circumferential V-groove weld joining the carbon steel shell (SA-106 pipe)
and 2205 duplex stainless steel tubesheet (SA-182-F51/F60). The ller metal used for the weld is AWS A5.9 ER2209. The failure
occurred within a few hours of being placed into service. The crack was identied as H2S was being introduced into the heat
exchanger. The procedure used subjected the vessel to an ambient temperature H2S line running at nearly atmospheric pressure
without any heat load. Pressure was being equalized through the H2S system. Prior to this operation, the heat exchanger was
successfully pressure tested using N2. The exchanger was rated for a maximum allowable working pressure of 550 psi at 330 F.
The duplex stainless steel tubesheet was selected to mitigate pitting corrosion of the 316L stainless steel tubes and tubesheet of the
previous exchanger. Duplex has a higher pitting resistance than 316L [3]. The use of the carbon steel shell was primarily for cost
savings. A section of the weld containing the crack was extracted from the heat exchanger to conduct this failure analysis.

2. Visual damage assessment

The as received sample extracted from the heat exchanger for this analysis, exposed crack fracture surfaces after sectioning, and
illustration of crack location are shown in Fig. 1. The through thickness crack extended approximately 5 in. circumferentially near the
top side of the exchanger. The crack initiated and propagated mostly along the weld metal side of the fusion line with the carbon steel
except near the OD, where it propagated into the weld metal away from the fusion line. The discoloration seen in Fig. 1(b) appears to
be consequential oxidation after the failure, especially on the carbon steel side of the fracture surface. Note that at this location, the
weld was approximately 0.1 thinner than the rest of the weld. No evidence of initial weld defects such as incomplete fusion and lack
of penetration were observed.


Corresponding author.
E-mail address: ccorleto@knighthawk.com (C.R. Corleto).

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.csefa.2017.05.003
Received 16 December 2016; Received in revised form 20 April 2017; Accepted 19 May 2017
Available online 24 May 2017
2213-2902/ 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/BY-NC-ND/4.0/).
C.R. Corleto, G.R. Argade Case Studies in Engineering Failure Analysis 9 (2017) 2734

Fig. 1. Circumferential crack in the dissimilar metal weld: (a) as received sample extracted for failure analysis (8-in. long, 1.75-in. wide, and 0.5-in. thick); (b)
exposed crack fracture surfaces after sectioning; (c) illustration of crack location.

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C.R. Corleto, G.R. Argade Case Studies in Engineering Failure Analysis 9 (2017) 2734

Fig. 2. Hardness prole locations: (a) across dissimilar weld and along crack from ID to OD; (b) along fusion line in un-cracked weld from ID to OD.

Fig. 3. Hardness prole along weld and carbon steel base metal horizontal hardness locations in Fig. 2 (a).

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C.R. Corleto, G.R. Argade Case Studies in Engineering Failure Analysis 9 (2017) 2734

Table 1
Microhardness proles along the crack and fusion line.

Location Microhardness (HV)

Along the crack moving from ID to OD at 0.5 mm intervals Along the fusion line moving from ID to OD at 0.1 mm intervals

Filler Material 2209 Carbon Steel Filler Material 2209 Carbon Steel

1 277 220 282 215


2 287 236 285 232
3 276 216 336 212
4 270 215 320 213
5 274 210 270 191
6 272 203 265 196
7 274 196 290 209
8 269 216 266 213
9 260 249 340 207
10 299 270 301 224

3. Metallography and hardness

Microhardness proles across the dissimilar weld and carbon base metal were conducted. Fig. 2 shows the locations where
hardness measurements were taken across the weld with and without the crack. The heat aected zone as well as the weld passes can
also be observed. The hardness prole along the weld and carbon steel side can be seen in Fig. 3. The weld had a hardness of
275 HV (26.3 HRC) compared to carbon steel with a hardness of 175 HV (4.5 HRC). Table 1 show the microhardness

Fig. 4. Microstructure of dissimilar weld: (a) austenite and ferrite duplex stainless steel; (b) dendritic weld microstructure; (c) banded ferrite-pearlite carbon steel; (d)
martensite on HAZ of carbon steel.

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C.R. Corleto, G.R. Argade Case Studies in Engineering Failure Analysis 9 (2017) 2734

Fig. 5. Fracture surface near OD along dendritic microstructure: (a) across weld metal; (b) crack near fusion line.

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C.R. Corleto, G.R. Argade Case Studies in Engineering Failure Analysis 9 (2017) 2734

Fig. 6. Fracture surface near ID showing intergranular fracture: (a) at 1000 X; (b) 1800X.

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C.R. Corleto, G.R. Argade Case Studies in Engineering Failure Analysis 9 (2017) 2734

Fig 7. EDS Analysis of intergranular fracture surface.

measurements along the crack line and fusion line (un-cracked). Note the hardness on the weld side of the crack/fusion line can be as
high as 340 HV and 249 HV on the carbon steel side. The microstructure of the base metals and ller weld can be seen in Fig. 4. The
duplex stainless steel shows the typical austenite-ferrite phases. The weld is dendritic, and the carbon steel has a banded ferrite-
pearlite microstructure except for the HAZ where it is martensitic.

4. SEM-EDS fractography

The fracture surface of the dissimilar weld was observed under a scanning electron microscope (SEM) coupled with an energy
dispersive spectroscopy system (EDS) to identify the failure mechanisms. As shown in Fig. 5, SEM observations near the OD revealed
the crack propagated in a brittle mode through the dendritic weld microstructure. A cleavage-like appearance can be clearly seen in
Fig. 5 (a). On the other hand, as shown in Fig. 6, the fracture surface near the ID edge depicted intergranular features where the crack
propagates along grain boundaries. This intergranular nature of fracture surface appears to have extended up to 1 mm from the ID
moving towards the OD direction and occurred on the carbon steel side of the fusion line. EDS analysis results of the intergranular
region near the ID, given in Fig. 7, reveals a relatively diluted alloyed chemistry (lower Cr and Ni content) compared to the 2209
ller. Note that no sulfur was detected.

5. Discussion

The heat exchanger weld failure is primarily associated with sulde-assisted stress corrosion cracking, facilitated by high weld
hardness levels. SEM fractography of a region near the ID revealed an intergranular fracture, typical of sulde-assisted stress cor-
rosion cracking at the microscopic level. The failure occurred in 3 to 4 h when the unit was being introduced to H2S vapor. Under
sulde-assisted stress corrosion cracking conditions, especially in the presence of water and at ambient temperatures [4], hydrogen
embrittlement leads to failures. These failures can occur very rapidly and at relatively low stresses. This failure suggests water was
likely present in the system. The crack initiated at the ID under sulde-assisted stress corrosion attack and propagated towards the OD
direction. The crack also propagated circumferentially since it is driven by longitudinal stresses as well. It appears that the crack
initiated near the fusion line on the carbon steel side but then it mostly propagated into the weld metal along the fusion line until the
very end, where it cracked away from the fusion line. The intergranular fracture appearance of this weld is similar to that observed on
the failure of an Alloy A52 to A508 dissimilar weld subjected to stress corrosion cracking conditions [5].
Hardness levels in the weld region are on average 296 HV on the ller side and 211 HV on the carbon steel side. The hardness
levels on the carbon steel side are higher than those recommended for carbon steel welds (200 HBW) in sulfur environments
according to NACE Standard Practice SP0472-2010 [6]. Hardness levels in the 2209 ller (Table 1), a duplex stainless steel material,
also exceed the weld microhardness requirement that no one hardness reading shall be over 320 HV per NACE Standard Material
Requirement MR0103-2007 [7] for this type of material. Finally, if one considers that the relatively diluted alloy chemistry on the
fracture surface resembles a 400 series martensitic stainless steel (Fig. 7), this region exceeds the microhardness requirement of
22 HRC (248 HV) for a martensitic stainless steel weld overlay in Section 2.4.3 of NACE MR0103-2007 [6] (see microhardness
values on duplex stainless steel weld metal side in Table 1).
While the EDS analysis of the fracture surface, especially where intergranular failure was detected, did not reveal any sulfur which
sometimes can be found in sulde-assisted stress corrosion cracking failures, it is possible that its presence is being overshadowed by
the Mo content of the 2209 ller metal. EDS is limited in its ability to dierentiate between Mo and S at low concentrations, since
both have very similar EDS peaks.
Other likely factors that facilitated the cracking of the weld are: (1) steep hardness change between the two adjoining materials

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C.R. Corleto, G.R. Argade Case Studies in Engineering Failure Analysis 9 (2017) 2734

and (2) tensile residual stresses generated during welding. Dierences in the thermal expansion coecient between the carbon steel
shell and duplex stainless steel tubesheet and ller metal, did not play a role in the failure since it occurred when the exchanger was
at ambient temperature (no head load). Finally, since the heat exchanger was successfully pressure tested with N2 prior the failure
event, any mechanical design factors or fabrication defects can be ruled out as root causes or contributing factors to the failure.

6. Conclusion

Based on the failure analysis conducted, the heat exchanger weld failure was associated with sulde-assisted stress corrosion
cracking facilitated by high weld hardness levels and local dilution of chemistry in the weld. Since these hardness levels, local
dilution of chemistry plus weld residual stresses are dicult to control in dissimilar welds like this one, probably the best protection
against this type of failure is to ensure the H2S process environment does not contain any water or water vapor.

References

[1] Klueh RL, King JF. Austenitic stainless steel-ferritic steel weld joint failures. Weld Res 1982(September):302 s11 s.
[2] Barnhouse EJ, Lippold JC. Microstructure/property relationships in dissimilar weld between duplex stainless steels and carbon steels. Weld Res Suppl
1998:477s4872s.
[3] Schulz Z, Whitcraft P, Wachowiak D. Availability and economics of using duplex stainless steels. Corrosion 2014. NACE International, March 913, 2014, San
Antonio, Texas, USA.
[4] Davis JR, editor. Corrosion of Weldments. Materials Park, OH: ASM, International; 2006. p. 7.
[5] Chung W, Huang J, Tsay L, Chen C. Microstructure and stress corrosion cracking behavior of the weld metal in alloy-52-A508 dissimilar weld. Mater Trans
2011;52(1):129.
[6] NACE Standard Practice SP 0472-2010. Methods and Controls to Prevent In-Service Environmental Cracking of Carbon Steel Weldments in Corrosive Petroleum
Rening Environments. Houston, TX: NACE International; 2010.
[7] NACE Standard Materials Requirements MR0103-2007. Materials Resistant to Sulde Stress Cracking in Corrosive Petroleum Rening Environments. Houston,
TX: NACE International; 2007.

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