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PPChem 101 - Boil er and H RSG Tube Failures



Corrosion Fatigue
R. Barry Dooley and Albert Bursik


Fatigue damage occurs in general when a boiler tube is Figure 1 shows a typical multiple array of corrosion fatigue
subject to repeat cyclic or fluctuating loading although the cracks initiated from the inside surface along the neutral
stress produced is below the material yield strength. The axis of an economizer tube. The initiation sites of these
types of fatigue damage include, e.g., corrosion, thermal, cracks are associated with surface defects like pits or
mechanical, vibration, and creep fatigue. It is important to other discontinuities. The wide cracks have irregular pro-
determine which form of fatigue is active, because meas- files and are filled with iron oxides.
ures to avoid repeat failures differ as the case arises. In this
lesson, the focus is exclusively on corrosion fatigue.

Corrosion fatigue occurs by the combined synergistic

actions of cyclic loading and a corrosive environment. It is
a discontinuous process with crack initiation and growth
during transient periods. The excessive stresses may be
caused during boiler operation by the restraint at tube
attachments and by load changes (in particular during cold
starts or forced cools) or during shutdown or restart of
circulation boilers by thermal stratification of water along
the tube length. Poor water chemistry and its excursions
influence both initiation and propagation of corrosion
fatigue. The key issue here is the breakdown of the protec-
tive magnetite layer. The most decisive chemistry parame-
ter is the pH (low pH excursions).
Figure 1:
Multiple array of corrosion fatigue cracks.

IDENTIFICATION Infig ure 2, corrosion fatigue failure of a low pressure econ-

omizer tube of an HRSG is depicted.
Pinhole thick-edged leaks are by far the most predominant
form of corrosion fatigue failures. In much fewer cases,
Corrosion fatigue cracks may have different appearances:
corrosion fatigue emanates as a long thick-edged crack.
Note that not all BTF with a thick-edged fracture surface  pinhole leak
result from corrosion fatigue. Thick-edged fractures also  thick-edged crack
occur when thermal fatigue, mechanical fatigue, low tem-
perature creep cracking, circumferential cracking, and  thick-edged blow-out or rupture
hydrogen damage are active. The most important physical
The pinhole leak caused by corrosion fatigue may be con-
feature of a corrosion fatigue failure is multiple parallel
fused with a mechanical fatigue crack. In contrast to corro-
cracks initiated on the inside of the tube. Upon metallurgi-
sion fatigue, the mechanical fatigue cracks initiate on the
cal examination the cracks are transgranular as they prop-
outside surface and are associated with welds or weld dis-
agate through the tube wall.
continuities (e.g., the toe of a weld).

586 PowerPlant Chemistry 2009, 11(10)