Carbon steel is the main construction material in HYDROFLUORIC ACID (HF) alkylation units. Carbon Steel has good corrosion resistance to anhydrous HF (AHF) below 160 degrees fahrenheit (71 C). The corrosion resistance is due to the formation of an inorganic iron fluoride scale on the carbon steel surface that protects the steel from futher corrosion. The presence of an adherent and continuous scale is essential in keeping the corrosion rate at a minimum.
Residual elements (RE) in carbon steel, not specifically included in the specified steel, appear to influence the corrosion rate under certain conditions, especially in services involving hydrofluoric acid (HF). The relative proportions of RE, specifically %C, %Ni, %Cu, and %Cr in carbon steel base and weld metals used in refineries, especially in alkylation processes with HF as the catalyst, significantly impact corrosion behavior. Studies described in the literature show corrosion damage with high RE (Cu + Ni + Cr >0.20) components as compared to low RE (Cu + Ni + Cr <0.20) components.
In this study, electrochemical corrosion testing was performed on a 3-inch pipe elbow section with high REs that had developed a through-wall leak in service. Test results were compared to those obtained on a similar pipe elbow section with lower REs. The samples were exposed to 50% HF at room temperature and at 65°C. Linear polarization resistance (LPR) corrosion rates were measured at both temperatures. Potentiodynamic (PD) polarization scans were performed on samples of low and high RE steel exposed to 50% HF at room temperature.
Test results indicated that LPR corrosion rates were higher for the high RE carbon steel samples than for low RE carbon steel samples at both temperatures. PD scans showed that the critical current densities were higher for high RE steel than for low RE steel.