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Conference Paper · December 2011


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Bambang Widyanto
Bandung Institute of Technology


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Bambang Widyanto1,2
Indonesian Corrosion Association (INDOCOR), and
Materials Engineering Department, Institute of Technology
Bandung- Indonesia


A H2SO4 new plant was designed and constructed to handle sulfuric acid
media in a textile process industry. At the beginning, some leaks occur at the
transmission pipe and disturb a production which cause a product loss. The
material used in this installation is SS 316L, and it was used at 97,6-98,1%
sulfuric acid solution and at the temperature between 84-88oC.
To analize this problem, some observation and analysis methods were used,
as material characterization, fracture surface analysis and computational fluid
dynamics simulation.
The result presents that this stainless steel could have a good corrosion
resistance to sulfuric acid solution in low temperature less than 55oC, and not in
higher temperature.
The mixture of gas and fluid phase in this case and the velocity of the fluid
flow inside the SS316L pipe promote a more severe corrosion impact to certain
location of pipe wall and form a corrosion erosion damage pattern. CFD
simulation indicates that in those damaged location, the value of wall shear stress
was high.
These results show that the relevant failure cause of this installation is
corrosion erosion and clearly presented by the damage form at the pipe wall.
In fact, some references present that SS 316L is not adequate in this
operation condition, and it needs a highest grade of the alloys which have a
highest corrosion resistance in this media.

Keywords: Corrosion erosion, SS 316L, Wall Shear Stress, high concentration

sulfuric acid, high temperature

1 Presented in the 18th International Corrosion Congress, Perth, 2011 November


A H2SO4 plant that is a part of a textile industry, use 316L stainless steel material for their
piping system that is directly fed by 98.5% H2SO4 with operation temperature 85o c. Since the
plant is operated, a leak in the pipe that are used frequently occur, even in the first month, the
leakage occurs almost 10 times , and the first suspicion, directed at the poor quality of the material
used which is coming out of SS 316L specifications. This problem disrupt the operation of the
fabric. Therefore conducted an analysis to determine the cause of leaking pipes and solutions to
avoid the occurrence of similar damage in the future.


Some of the methods used to conduct this analysis are : Examination of the damage visually,
checking the composition and quality of the materials used through the chemical composition and
metallographic analysis, simulation of flow in pipes using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD),
and analysis of corrosion resistance material on the working fluid through literature studies.


3.1. Visual observation results

Equipment damaged is shown by figure 1 below, where the damage occurred in three parts of the
equipment, namely: the elbow, the T-joint and on the part of straight pipe as shown in the picture.

1 2

Figure 1. Location of damage

2 Presented in the 18th International Corrosion Congress, Perth, 2011 November

Damages that occur in locations 1, 2 and 3 above, are shown in the pictures below.


Figure 2. Details of damage to the elbow (1)

Figure 3. Damage to the surface in a T joint (2)

Figure 4. Damage to the surface in a straight pipe (3)

Observation of the detailed cross section of the elbow shows a fin-shaped damage as well as in
other areas, which has orientation in the direction of fluid flow, where the destruction of this area
produces some leaks as shown in Figure 5.

3 Presented in the 18th International Corrosion Congress, Perth, 2011 November


Results of chemical composition and metallographic examination of the steel SS 316 L, shown in table 1 and
figure 7 below.

Figure 5. Detail view of the AA cross section on elbow leaks

3.2. Results of chemical composition and metallographic examination

Tabel1. The chemical composition of 316L SS standard and tube sample

Standard for
Elements Sample 1 Sample 2 Sample 3
SS316 L
C 0.03 max 0,025 0,018 0,016
Si 1.00 max 0,553 0,427 0,309
S 0.03 max 0,007 0,011 0,007
P 0.045 max 0,038 0,036 0,033
Mn 2.00 max 0,932 1,620 1,816
Ni 10.00-14.00 10,036 11,010 10,707
Cr 16.00-18.00 16,618 17,084 16,890
Mo 2.00-3.00 2,076 2,143 2,016
V 0,059 0,053 0,067
Cu 0,788 0,317 0,375
W 0,113 0,030 0,110
Ti Impurities 0,001 0,001 0,002
Sn 0,018 0,011 0,010
Al 0,003 0,001 0,001
Nb 0,015 0,017 0,041
Fe Balance

4 Presented in the 18th International Corrosion Congress, Perth, 2011 November

(a) Sample 1 (b) sample 2

(a) Sample 3

Figure 6. Microstructures of sample 1, 2 and 3, present an austenitic phase

3.3. CFD simulation results

CFD simulation produces a picture of the flow pattern inside the pipe , velocity and phase along
the pipe. In the pictures below, the flow condition on the critical areas gives destruction effect as
shown in picture forms on the surface of the damaged areas.

Velocity Volume Fraction of H2SO4 Liquid

5 Presented in the 18th International Corrosion Congress, Perth, 2011 November

Volume Fraction of H2SO4 gas

Figure 7. CFD Simulation results inside the pipe

Gambar 8. Flow pattern and damage forms of the critical area

6 Presented in the 18th International Corrosion Congress, Perth, 2011 November


From the observation that has been done, it can be ascertained that the material used is 316L SS
through the examination of chemical composition and microstructure. There is no doubt that the
material is in a good quality of SS 316L.

Fluid flow inside the pipe varies, since it is estimated that there are two phases flow of H2SO4 in
the form of liquid and gaseous . Simulations are performed using CFD software shows areas where
the dominant flow of the liquid phase and the region where also the flow of the gas phase is more
dominant as the left side of the upright pipe, the bottom of the elbow and also the bottom of the T
joint as shown in Figure 7.

The surface of the damaged pipe is an area that is in contact with the H2SO4 flow.especially in
liquid form which has a high speed. So that can be expected that these conditions cause the friction
that we call wall shear stress which resulted in damage in the form of erosion. But considering that
the fluid works is H2SO4 with a high concentration, then the destruction which affects not only
caused by mechanical factors due to erosion, but also associated with aggressiveness of H2SO4
solution with high concentration, so the phenomenon is happening is the destruction of erosion

The most severe damage occurred at the elbow as shown in Figure 6, which resulted in the
formation of an eavesdropper. This is logical, given the elbow, always lead the occurrence of
turbulence with a high speed.

When the condition of the flow around the damaged area viewed in more detail, then the wall
shear stress phenomenon may explain the effect of speed on the destruction that occurred. Figure 8
shows that there is a drastic change in velocity on the condition of the fluid near the pipe wall,
where the fluid in the pipe wall are in contact has a very low speed which is marked with dark blue
color that instantly turned into a very fast (mark marked with bright green color) when the fluid is
slightly away from the pipe wall. In that region, the low-speed fluid marked with a thin blue color.
Locations 1 and 3 in Figure 1 is the part that suffered the worst damage.

Some of the literature review, reinforces the conclusion that the corrosion is very important, and
explain that the material 316L SS is not the right material for use in environments with a
concentration of 98.5% H2SO4 and the working temperature between 84-88oc.

Figure 9 shows that for the operating conditions used ( H2SO4 concentration and temperature 84-
88oc), the material that can be used are alloy 20, alloy 850 and 904L. While the 316L SS can only
be used at lower temperatures and concentrations.

Subsequent literature shows that alloy 20, alloy C, and Sandvik Lewmet SF can be used with the
corrosion rate below 25 mpy, while SS316L will suffer corrosion with a very high speed.

Subsequent references are also not recommend the SS 316L at a relatively high temperatures
(picture 11), and subsequent literature also states that the SS 316L can not be used at the
temperatures above 55oC and relatively high speed (picture 12).

7 Presented in the 18th International Corrosion Congress, Perth, 2011 November

Figure 10. Material selection chart for sulphuric acid (1)

Figure 9. Material selection chart for sulphuric acid (1)

The operation

Fig. 10. Approximate corrosion rate curves for various alloys in 98% H2SO4 (2)

8 Presented in the 18th International Corrosion Congress, Perth, 2011 November

The operation

Figure 11. Metal and alloy with corosion rate <20mpy in sulphuric acid (3)

The operation

Figure 12. Strong acid system piping

9 Presented in the 18th International Corrosion Congress, Perth, 2011 November


It can be concluded the following:

- SS 316 L that is used in a sulfuric acid plant with a concentration of 98.5% H2SO4 and 84-88oC
temperature, occurs damage form which follows the pattern of erosion corrosion.
- Damage from the pipe wall occurs mainly when in contact with the high-speed flow of H2SO4
solution and that is on the formation conditions of high wall shear stress
- 316L SS can only be used at lower temperatures and / or at low concentrations of H2SO4.

6. Acknowledgement

Many thanks to my collegue Dr. Aditianto Ramelan, and my assitants that give a help to do
this work succesfully and give a maximum benefit to our industry.

7. References

1. NiDI Technical series no 10 057, Nickel Development Institute, 2009

2. Edmeston Material Engineering, SX Sulphuric Acid Steel document, 2009

3. NorFalco, Sulfuric Acid Handbook page 16, 2007

4. Strong acid system piping document (internet documents)

8. Author details

WIDYANTO Bambang, is a lecturer in Institut of Technology

Bandung – Indonesia since 1982, after obtained the Doctorate
Degree from Universite de Technologie do Compiegne France at
1990, he conduct a corrosion lecture. Actually he is President of
Indonesian Corrosion Association since 1995 and member of ICC
for 2008-2014 period.

10 Presented in the 18th International Corrosion Congress, Perth, 2011 November

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