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Metallography, SEM, STEM, X-Ray Diffraction, Electrochemistry, Lasers – does any of this really beat a spark test, a ball peen hammer, and thirty years of solving the same problem over and over again?  Sometimes, maybe not.  However, without properly characterizing the failure attributes, corrosion debris, or environment involved in the failure, the root cause of the failure may be coming from an unexpected source, and may remain to cause the replacement components to fail.

State of the art materials evaluation techniques support reliability engineering efforts to maintain and improve overall plant performance.  Materials failure analysis is a specialized, but important, part of the systems approach to plant reliability.  Frequently, materials failure analysis is the first step on the path of determining the root cause failure mechanisms.


If the material itself is the root cause of the failure, metallographic and mechanical properties evaluation techniques can point toward necessary changes in the specifications or quality assurance programs to change or restrict the use of unsatisfactory materials.

Advanced investigative techniques such as Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) combined with Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS) provide powerful microanalytical capabilities to define failure mechanisms, perform elemental chemical analyses, and examine and identify corrosion products.


Corrosion Testing Laboratories (CTL) specializes in the practical application of advanced analytical techniques in studying failures and recommending corrective actions.  We specialize in determining how components fail and work with you to find the root cause of the failures and the most efficient corrective action. We will then work with you to determine if it is better to take corrective action to deal with the immediate concerns or pursue a root cause analysis, which determines the decisions and/or conditions that resulted in an inappropriate design or material to be used in the first place.


CTL performs failure analysis for a wide variety of industries. We have clients from the Energy, Construction, Pharmaceutical, Environmental and Food Processing industries among others. We have a large number of failure analysis clients and routinely do work for large and small companies alike. We tailor our investigations to the needs of our clients. Because of this, we have a number of different investigation levels and a variety of reporting methods. We realize that the cost of the failure is more than just the cost of replacing the part. The significant costs of a failure are usually associated with downtime, production losses, accidents, and customer dissatisfaction. Our mission is to help you avoid the costs of repeating the failure with its associated costs. Combining our expertise with yours, we can understand the root cause of the failure and help you take the appropriate action.


We will use our analytical tools and expertise to define the mode of failure (fatigue, corrosion, material defect, overload, etc.). Our modern facility, equipped with SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope), EDS (Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectrometer), FTIR (Fourier Transform Infra-Red Spectroscope) and other metallographic and analytical equipment, provides our scientists and technicians with the tools they need to expedite the investigation of your failure. Our corrosion lab compliments the failure analysis investigations by allowing testing of replacement materials for your application in a laboratory environment or in the field.  During our failure investigations, quality and traceability are followed in accordance to recognized industrial standards.


Parts and components failures can be caused by various reasons. The following represents a number of examples of the types of failures that can occur along with some brief case histories, drawn from CTL’s archives.

The Case Of The Vanishing Molybdenum  

Formicary Corrosion of Copper Tubes in a Chiller

Formicary Corrosion of Unused Copper Tubes

Technical Articles on Formicary Corrosion

in stainless steel

Chloride Stress Corrosion Cracking in Stainless Steel Underground Piping

Chloride Induced Stress Corrosion Cracking of Stainless Steel Water Still

Polythionic Stress Corrosion Cracking Failure Analysis in Stainless Steel Tube

Stress Corrosion Cracking Failure Analysis in Type 304H Stainless Steel Piping

in carbon steel
Stress Corrosion Cracking Failure Analysis on Steel Fasteners in a HVAC System
in copper
Stress Corrosion Cracking of Unused Copper Tube from Air Conditioner Coil
Stress Corrosion Cracking Failure Analysis of Copper Tube in Evaporator

Chemical Reactions of Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion (MIC)

in stainless steel

Rouging (discoloration) of Stainless Steel

Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion Attacks Welds Before Component Is Put Into Service

in copper

Corrosion Failure Analysis of Heat Exchanger Copper Tube Assembly

Pitting Failure Analysis of Copper in Heat Exchanger System

Pitting of Copper Condenser Tubes

Corrosion Failure Analysis of Iron Piping in a Fire Sprinkler System

Nitrate Corrosion of a Sight Glass Housing

Oxygen Corrosion Failure Analysis in Carbon Steel Tubing


Technical Brief on Fatigue Failure

Technical Brief: Fretting Effects on Fatigue Strength

A Multidisciplinary Approach Gets to the Root Cause of a Failed Shaft

in stainless steel

Mechanical Fatigue of Stainless Steel Bolts

Failure Analysis of a Mechanical Fatigued Stainless Steel Shaft

Fatigue Failure Analysis  in a Stainless Steel Bellow

Fatigue Cracking Failure Analysis of an Inlet Nozzle in a Crude Unit

Mechanical Fatigue Failure Analysis of Stainless Steel Shaft

in carbon steel
Thermal Fatigue Failure Analysis in an Overhead Line within an Oil Refinery
in copper
Corrosion Fatigue Failure Analysis of Copper Tubes in a Subcooler
in aluminum
Mechanical Fatigue Failure Analysis of an Aluminum Antenna

Technical Brief: Erosion Corrosion

in copper

Erosion Corrosion Failure Analysis in a Copper Water System

Failure Analysis of an Incomplete Weld in a Carbon Steel Gas Main Pipe

Failure Analysis of an Incomplete Weld in a HDPE Reducer

Corrosion of a Stainless Steel Handrail caused by Fabrication Process





Technical Brief: Denickelification of Cupronickel Tubes

Dezincification Failure Analysis of Brass Heat Exchanger Tubes

Dezincification Failure Analysis of Brass Wax Actuator

Denickelification Failure Analysis of Cupronickel Tubing in an Oil Refinery


Cracking Failure Analysis on Screwdriver Blade Initiated by Nickel Plating

Under Coating Corrosion Failure Analysis on Sliver Plated Copper

Under Coating Corrosion Failure Analysis of Tin Coated Copper

Long Term Overheating Failure Analysis of Carbon Steel

Galvanic Effects in Carbon Bed Absorbers

Atmospheric Corrosion Failure Analysis of Galvanized Steel

Failure Analysis of Corroded Rupture Discs


Corrosion consultation on caustic piping system with failures.

Failure analysis of plates from a plate and frame heat exchanger.

Corrosion consultation on waste heat boilers with scale deposits and corrosion of tubes.

Failure analysis of C276 impeller blade in reactor vessel due to sensitization resulting from incorrect heat treatment.

Failure analysis of MgO waste heat boiler tube.

Failure analysis of aeration blower with failure of drain nipples due to fatigue

Failure analysis of overpressured chemical reactor resulting in failed bolts.


Metallurgical evaluation of Alloy 800 reformer tubes for creep.

Failure analysis of polythionic acid intergranular cracking of heater tubes.

Failure analysis of thermal fatigue cracking of steam header.

Failure analysis and consultation for water side denickelification of copper-nickel heat exchanger tubes in a reformate bottoms column.

On-site investigation and failure analysis of stress rupture cracking of a catalytic cracker plenum due to overheating.

On-site investigation and failure analysis of 600# steam tubes in a carbon monoxide boiler.

Failure analysis of HIC in a depentanizer condenser heat exchanger shell.

Failure analysis of caustic stress corrosion cracking in a depentanizer bottoms oxygen stripper exchanger.

On-site investigation and failure analysis of alloy steel carburization in a catalytic cracker regenerator air ring.

Failure analysis of hydrogen embrittlement cracking in a sour water stripper concentrator feed tank.

Failure analysis of a diethanolamine piping system.

Failure analysis of polythionic acid cracking of high pressure sour gas line.

Failure analysis of overheated radiant tubes in a reformer unit.

On-site investigation and failure analysis of caustic gouging of the superheater section in a steam boiler.

Failure analysis of thermal fatigue of a reactor bird-cage outlet cone.

Failure analysis of oxidation of an air dryer heater element tube.

Field replication of methanol plant 1450# steam line valves.

Failure analysis of chloride induced stress corrosion cracking and polythionic acid cracking of superheated steam lines.

Corrosion testing and failure analysis of polythionic acid cracking in a fluid catalytic cracking reactor unit transfer line.

On-site investigation, failure analysis and consultation of water side microbial corrosion in hydrofluoric acid coolers in alkylation units.

Failure analysis of gasoline heat exchanger tube. Corrosion consultation on hydrogen induced cracking (HIC) and stress oriented hydrogen induced cracking (SOHIC) of refinery equipment caused by wet H2S.

Corrosion consultation on material selection for steam sterilizer.

Failure analysis of C276 thermowell by high temperature corrosion attack.

On-site investigation of failed FRP pipe in chemical sewer renovation.

Failure analysis of steel transfer lines with hot spots associated with steam tracing connected to pipe wall.

On-site evaluation of 316 stainless steel mixer vessel with wear of wiper blades.

Consultation on suitability of rubber lining in HCl storage tank being converted to Phosphoric acid service.

On-site investigation and failure analysis of vessels cooled by brine. Numerous on-site investigations of rouging on stainless steel vessels, piping, and other equipment.

Corrosion consultation on a transformer with damage to paint and steel substrate.

Corrosion consultation on condenser waterboxes and tubesheets with damaged coatings.

Failure analysis of 6-inch diameter cast iron gas line.

Failure analysis of steam let down valve with cracked diffuser plate.

Failure analysis of cracked bellows in fluidized bed combustor system.

On-site investigation for corrosion control program for condensers.

Failure analysis of ash removal system in a flue gas reduction process On-site investigation of recycled fly ash silo to determine extent of damage to internal coatings and lining.


Failure Analysis Standards - Partial Listing

ASTM A 123/A 123M – Standard Specification for Zinc (Hot-Dip Galvanized) Coating on Iron and Steel Products

ASTM A 135 – Standard Specifications for Electric-Resistance-Welded Steel Pipe

ASTM A 262 – Standard Practices for Detecting Susceptibility to Intergranular Attack in Austenitic Stainless Steels   

ASTM A 380 – Standard Practice for Cleaning and Descaling Stainless Steel Parts, Equipment, and Systems

ASTM A 90/A 90M – Standard Test Method for Weight [Mass] of Coating on Iron and Steel Articles with Zinc or Zinc-Alloy Coatings

ASTM A 923 – Standard Test Method for Detecting Detrimental Intermetallic Phase in Wrought Duplex Austenitic/Ferritic Stainless Steels

ASTM B 813 – Standard Specifications for Liquid and Paste Fluxes for Soldering Copper and Copper Alloy Tube

ASTM E 1020 – Standard Practice for Reporting Incidents

ASTM E 112 – Standard Test Methods for Determining Average Grain Size

ASTM E 1138-89 – Standard Terminology of Technical Aspects of Product Liability Litigation

ASTM E 1188 – Standard Practice for Collection and Preservation of Information and Physical Items by a technical Investigator

ASTM E 165 – Standard Test Method for Liquid Penetrant Examination

ASTM E 18 – Standard Test Methods for Rockwell Hardness and Rockwell Superficial Hardness of Metallic Materials

ASTM E 3 – Standard Guide for Preparation of Metallographic Specimens

ASTM E 384 – Standard Test Method for Microindentation Hardness of Materials

ASTM E 45 – Standard Test Methods for Determining the Inclusion Content of Steel

ASTM E 620-97 – Standard Practice for Reporting Opinions of Technical Experts

ASTM E 678 – Standard Practice for Evaluation of Technical Data

ASTM E 860 – Standard Practice for Examining and Testing Items That Are or May Become Involve in Litigation

ASTM B 75 – Standard Specification for Seamless Copper Tube

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Corrosion Testing Laboratories, Inc.

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Newark, Delaware USA 19713

Phone: 1-302-454-8200

Fax: 1-302-454-8204