April 2011

Maintenance and Reliability

Investigation: Failure of a surface condenser titanium tube

Advanced analytic methods determine contributing factors in heat exchanger corrosion problem

Al-Meshari, A., Saudi Basic Industriese Corp.; Al-Enazi, S., Diab, M., SABIC Technology Centre

This case history focuses on the investigation of localized thinning of titanium (Ti) tubes in a surface condenser in an ammonia unit. Several characterization techniques were applied, including stereomicroscopy, optical microscopy and other methods. Detailed analyses showed that the tube thinning is attributed to iron-induced crevice corrosion. Possible root causes for failure involved the presence of high concentrations of iron (Fe) particles and chloride (Cl) ions in the steam condensate, which can accelerate the corrosion process. Another factor was tube flow-induced vibration that may have occurred at high processing flowrates, leading to a “localized” Fe deposition on the tub

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