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J Fail. Anal. and Preven.

(2014) 14:303–306
DOI 10.1007/s11668-014-9813-7

CASE HISTORY—PEER-REVIEWED

Premature Failure of Ductile Iron Pump Impeller in Cooling


Tower System
Pankaj Sharma

Submitted: 13 February 2014 / Published online: 27 March 2014


Ó ASM International 2014

Abstract The root cause of corrosion of a pump impeller in failures, it is important to select proper materials that are
a cooling water system is investigated. The impeller material appropriate for operating parameters, system concerns, and
was made of ductile cast iron. The pump failure was extended pump life. To avoid future failures, root cause
encountered after eight months of operation. A detailed visual analysis is performed to uncover problems leading up to
examination, microstructure examination, and water analysis equipment failure [5–9]. In the present investigation, the
were carried out to ascertain the probable cause of failure. pump impeller in a PVC manufacturing plant failed after
Finally, the obtained results infer that the solid-particle con- 8 months in service. Finding root cause of this premature
taining fluid flow was responsible for erosion–corrosion in the failure was urgently required to avoid further financial and
impeller failure. production loss. The failed impeller body was a ductile cast
iron ASTM A536 grade 65-45-12 material. This impeller was
Keywords Erosion–corrosion  Pump impeller  used to pump cooling water at a peripheral speed rate of 150
Cast iron  Ductile iron  Failure fps.

Introduction Examination Details

Centrifugal pumps are used in various industrial applications To investigate the cause of material degradation, sections
such as coolant recirculation, condensate transport, drainage, were selected to verify the micro- and macro-structure of the
and boiler feed applications. The most important components impeller, the chemical composition, and the hardness value.
of centrifugal pumps are the impeller, casing, pump shaft, and The sections were taken judiciously from various locations
bearing. The basic working principle of the centrifugal pump throughout the impeller body, including the areas of thinning
is that the impeller rotates, which in turn creates pressure at the at the pumping chamber and the impeller blades. The mac-
inlet of the impeller, and this pressure helps in sucking fluid roscopic examination of the sections from the failed impeller
surrounding it. The fluid is pushed radially along the impeller areas was performed visually at low magnification with the
to the casing, and thereafter, the casing collects the fluid and it aid of a stereo microscope to determine if patterns could be
is pumped out through a discharge nozzle [1, 2]. A significant recognized indicating the metal loss mechanism. The deposit
percentage of pump failures in process industries is due to was removed from the corroded surface using a glass bead
high flow velocities and sand particles trapped in the system, blasting method to examine the surface underneath it. A
along with a corrosive environment causing combined ero- chemical analysis was carried out on the impeller material to
sion–corrosion failure [3, 4]. To avoid premature pump verify that the material chemistry meets the appropriate
specification. An examination of the chemical composition of
corrosion products on the failed impeller surface was per-
P. Sharma (&)
formed using an energy dispersive X-ray (EDX) system
Research & Development, Buckman, 1256 N McLean Blvd,
Memphis, TN 38108, USA attached with a scanning electron microscope (SEM). Small
e-mail: pankaj26may@gmail.com; psharma@buckman.com specimens were cut and prepared for metallographic

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304 J Fail. Anal. and Preven. (2014) 14:303–306

Fig. 2 Close-up of failure

Fig. 1 Photographs of as-received pump impeller showing (a) front


side, and (b) back side

examination by mounting, grinding, polishing, and etching


(2% Nital) in accordance with standard metallographic pro-
cedures per ASTM E3-95. The microstructure of the material
was revealed using an optical microscope. Scanning electron
microscopy was utilized to determine the surface morphology
of failed areas. Hardness measurements were carried out using
a hardness tester in Brinell hardness scale under 20-Kgf load.
The water analysis was performed to obtain information about
the constituents in the corrosive environment.

Results and Discussions

Visual Examination
Fig. 3 Macrograph of the failed impeller showing (a) deposits, and
(b) pits after removing the deposits
The damaged impeller was visually examined. All the
observations made in this investigation suggest that the
cause of damage to the impeller was mainly attributed to examinations were performed using stereo microscope to
the erosion–corrosion of the impeller. The photographs obtain a closer view of the corroded features. The corroded
(Figs. 1a, b, 2) show that the material locally was worn area shows an orange-color compound, possibly rust,
away entirely from the impellor blade surface. Macro which might have formed after the impeller was exposed to

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304 J Fail. Anal. and Preven. (2014) 14:303–306

Fig. 2 Close-up of failure

Fig. 1 Photographs of as-received pump impeller showing (a) front


side, and (b) back side

examination by mounting, grinding, polishing, and etching


(2% Nital) in accordance with standard metallographic pro-
cedures per ASTM E3-95. The microstructure of the material
was revealed using an optical microscope. Scanning electron
microscopy was utilized to determine the surface morphology
of failed areas. Hardness measurements were carried out using
a hardness tester in Brinell hardness scale under 20-Kgf load.
The water analysis was performed to obtain information about
the constituents in the corrosive environment.

Results and Discussions

Visual Examination
Fig. 3 Macrograph of the failed impeller showing (a) deposits, and
(b) pits after removing the deposits
The damaged impeller was visually examined. All the
observations made in this investigation suggest that the
cause of damage to the impeller was mainly attributed to examinations were performed using stereo microscope to
the erosion–corrosion of the impeller. The photographs obtain a closer view of the corroded features. The corroded
(Figs. 1a, b, 2) show that the material locally was worn area shows an orange-color compound, possibly rust,
away entirely from the impellor blade surface. Macro which might have formed after the impeller was exposed to

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J Fail. Anal. and Preven. (2014) 14:303–306 305

air and after being separated from the system (Fig. 3a). Chemical Analysis
Inspection of the pitted area using stereo microscope shows
that the pits are horseshoe shaped. It can also be seen that A chemical analysis of the impeller was performed which
the entire impeller surface, including pumping chamber provided the results shown in Table 1. It was understood
and impeller blade, contains thinning and perforations. The from the chemical composition that the material was duc-
corroded areas showed a pattern of localized attack and tile cast iron. The results confirm that the composition of
deep grooves with directional features. The macroscopic
examination revealed an erosion pattern after sandblasting
the deposit from the interior surface as seen in Fig. 3b.

Microstructural Examination

The scanning electron microscopy revealed erosion pits in the


failed impeller (Fig. 4). It shows that the pits are crater like,
which is typical of pits that are formed by impingement.
Corrosion which follows impingement roughens those pit
surfaces. These findings are typical of an erosion–corrosion
mechanism. The specimens for metallographic examination
from cross sections of the impellers were prepared to inves-
tigate the corrosion mechanism. As seen in Fig. 5, the
microstructure shows the cross section of the eroded impeller.
The impeller blade was completely worn away (Fig. 5a). The
cross section of the pumping chamber shows teardrop-shaped
pits with undercutting in the downstream direction (Fig. 5b).
Figure 5c shows the microstructure of the base material after
polishing and etching; it consists of spheroidal graphite in a
predominantly ferrite matrix with a small amount of pearlite,
which is typical of a ductile cast iron.

Hardness Results

The hardness tests were carried out on the cross section of the
sample at different distances from the failure. The Brinell
hardness value of the impeller material ranged from 164 to
172 BHN. The hardness tests indicate mechanical properties
are consistent with the properties of the impeller [8].

Fig. 5 Microstructure of pump impeller showing (a) eroded blade


Fig. 4 SEM image showing erosion pit at magnification 9180 section, (b) erosion pit at pumping chamber, and (c) base metal

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Table 1 Chemical composition of the impeller material obtained from EDS analysis
Composition, wt.%
Element C Si Mn P Fe

wt.% 3.85 2.27 0.14 0.04 93.70

Table 2 Water analysis Conclusions


Anions
Total alkalinity (mg/L as CaCO3) 194 The examination procedure described was performed to
Chloride (mg/L as Cl ) 52.1 determine the mechanism of an impeller failure. The
Silica (mg/L as SiO2) 6.9 metallographic examination did not reveal material defor-
Sulfate (mg/L as SO42 ) 12.4
mation and casting defects to be responsible for corrosion.
Nitrite (mg/L as NO2 ) 4.0
The visual examination indicated that the region near the
Cations
impeller blades encounters more metal loss compared to
the region at the pumping chamber. The local perforation
Calcium (mg/L as Ca2?) 28.2
and teardrop undercut occurred by the turbulent eddy
Magnesium (mg/L as Mg2?) 1.3
mechanism over the impeller. The impingement of solid
Calcium hardness (mg/L as CaCO3) 70.5
particles, entrained in a flowing liquid, damaged the pro-
Magnesium hardness (mg/L as CaCO3) 5.2
tective film leading to erosion–corrosion and metal loss.
Total hardness (mg/L as CaCO3) 75.7
The metal loss of the impeller is due to material removal
Iron, total (mg/L as Fe) 1270
from the impeller as result of erosive wear. Impingement
Copper (mg/L as Cu) 20.7
erosion is the most severe form of erosion–corrosion,
Sodium (mg/L as Na?) 182
?
although impingement damage may occur without active
Potassium (mg/L as K ) 10.1
corrosion. Impingement principally occurs when relative
Strontium (mg/L as Sr2?) 6.9
motion between a metal surface and liquid environment
Manganese (mg/L as Mn) 41.0
causes vapor bubbles to appear. When the bubbles col-
Zinc (mg/L as Zn2?) 2.7 lapse, they impose ‘‘hammer-like’’ blows simultaneously
Miscellaneous with the initiation of a tearing action that appears to pull
pH 5.7 away a portion of the surface [10].
Conductivity (micromhos) 601
Total suspended solids (mg/L) 6820
Comments: mg/L = ppm References

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