Top Seven Shell and Tube Heat Exchanger Failure Mechanisms (#3 – Corrosion)

#3 – Corrosion…

If your responsibilities include heat exchangers, you probably know that corrosion is a common failure mechanism. Most everyone in the refining and petrochemical worlds sees corrosion on a daily basis and, more often than not, it is the reason for needing to replace or repair heat exchangers and other processing equipment. Certain designs even include “corrosion allowances” in the calculations in anticipation of corrosion.

One type of corrosion familiar to most is the formation of iron oxides in steel components, more commonly known as “rust”. If you can visualize how rust damages steel components, you can understand how other forms of corrosion can wreak havoc on your equipment. Certain acids and bases can quickly corrode even highly corrosion-resistant alloys if improperly specified or built. It can appear in a combination of stress, chemicals and sensitive materials (like stress corrosion cracking).

It’s crucial to select the right alloys for your equipment, based on the environment and chemicals in contact with the unit. A capable Design/Engineer/Fabricator can help you by creating and qualifying the right weld procedures for your corrosion-resistant alloy and ensuring that your equipment is built to the highest standards. And, when it comes to equipment failures, that same entity can assist with the best repair methods to get the most out of the remaining life of the equipment.

Corrosion can’t always be avoided, but it can be minimized by understanding your processes and environment and through consultation with the right company to design/build your new equipment and repair and maintain your existing equipment.