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May 2003

Surface inspection methods for detection of stress

corrosion cracking in austenitic & duplex stainless steel
For: A Group of Sponsors
Chloride stress corrosion cracking (SCC) causes
rapid failure of austenitic and duplex stainless
steels (DSS) under conditions of combined
stress, environment and temperature. Recent
failures of DSS due to external SCC has
highlighted the need to more readily inspect for
the initial presence of such surface cracking,
ideally without the need to reduce the operating
temperature of the equipment. A range of NDE
inspection technologies will be assessed for their
suitability to detect the presence of SCC. This
will allow improved safety through more reliable
inspection of areas at potential risk on plant and
equipment, thus avoiding failure, via an effective
corrosion management scheme.

Chloride stress corrosion cracking (SCC) of austenitic stainless steels and duplex stainless
steels (DSS) is known to cause rapid failure of these materials. This environmentally assisted
cracking leads to failure of the material at a stress less than the UTS and in conditions where
corrosion alone would not lead to cracking. The presence of residual stresses at welds
increases the likelihood of SCC occurring at such locations when the equipment is subject to
the necessary environmental conditions of temperature, chloride concentration and oxygen
availability. Operating temperatures may be as high as 130C for duplex stainless steels, or
possibly higher for superduplex stainless steels and there have been instances of recent
failures of such equipment. Austenitic stainless steels are susceptible to SCC at lower
temperatures, e.g. 55C. Industrial practice is to use barrier coating systems to mitigate
against attack, but these have led to concern about susceptibility to damage and thus use of
thermally sprayed aluminium is being considered (Ref 1).
However, within overall corrosion management systems and schemes, it is still necessary to
inspect equipment to demonstrate that the potential damage mode has not occurred. Presently,
no reliable standard NDE method exists which is recognised as suitable for inspection whilst
the plant is in-service and thus it is proposed to assess a range of techniques and to optimise
the procedures for the most promising on uninsulated pipework

To provide industry with the means to manage the risk of failure due to SCC, inspection is
required which will have a high probability of detection of surface cracking whilst the plant is
operational (i.e. hot pipework). Due to the rapid propagation of such cracks, the inspection
method will need to be able to detect cracks of relatively narrow width (e.g. 50-100m).
These data will allow appropriate additional measures such as detailed inspection and
remediation to be undertaken.
For the purposes of detecting flaws in structures, many non-destructive test methods are
available and in most cases the optimum method can be chosen from a range of techniques.
However, chloride stress corrosion cracking in austenitic and duplex stainless steels is
difficult to assess because the crack morphology comprises very fine, branching cracks with
very small gaps, which do not produce a response from most NDT systems.
There is a need for an improved method(s) which can be applied whilst the plant/facility is
operational at temperature, allowing more frequent inspection if determined as appropriate by
Risk-Based Inspection without leading to expensive downtime nor compromising safety for
personnel, plant and environment. This project will assess a number of techniques for
application to operational plant and equipment.
Avoidance of failure due to SCC thus
reducing risk of injury to personnel,
downtime for operation and impact on
the environment due to hydrocarbon or
chemicals release.
Increased confidence in the operational
condition of plant where likelihood of
chloride SCC exists, and thus
increased safety.
Inspection during plant operation,
avoiding need for shut-down and lost
To assess relative performance of
established, recently developed and
novel inspection methods to detect
chloride- induced SCC.
To assess the best techniques and
procedures for further development of
in-situ detection of external SCC on
hot pipe.
It is proposed that the methods listed
below will be evaluated and initial work
will be carried out to optimise procedures
for selected techniques(s). Finally the
selected technique(s) will be tested on hot
pipe samples as SCC is induced.


Initially the techniques will be tested on
SCC induced in plain plate specimens of
type 316L austenitic and 22Cr duplex
stainless steels to allow comparative
ranking and selection of the most
promising for furthe r study. SCC will be
induced using artificial seawater to ensure
MgCl2 is present which is particularly
Samples will be prepared and cracking
induced by drop evaporation within a
loading jig to provide specimens for
inspection, firstly by dye penetrant testing
and then the techniques described below.
The specimens will be retained in the
loading jig to minimise the relaxation and
crack closure which may occur, although
testing will be at ambient temperature.
Specimens will be metallographically
sectioned to confirm the extent of SCC.
The most promising techniques will then
be tested on plates (316L and 22Cr)
containing butt welds which have had SCC
induced in a similar manner as the plain
plates. Cracking will be assessed by
metallographic sectioning post-testing.

The most suitable technique(s) will then be

assessed on welded pipe containing hot oil.
The cracks will be developed in-situ
through drop evaporation of seawater
externally and the inspection methods
compared for their accuracy of operation
at temperature, probability of detection
and minimisation of false calls for the two
welded test materials. The welded pipe
will be sectioned to allow metallographic
circumferential distribution to correlate
with NDE results.
Dye Penetrant
The dye penetrant method is the standard
method to detect SCC in such systems, but
can only be used on cold pipework to give
an indication of cracks in the surface.
However special procedures (e.g. long
dwell times) may be necessary. The dye
penetrant method will be used as the
benchmark for crack detection (using
NACE RP0198-98). The need to have a
cool test area is a recognised limitation
against in-service application.
Continuous Wave Multi Frequency
Eddy Current
Very high frequency eddy currents (i.e.
2MHz or greater) will detect surface
breaking cracks, but will not give
information about the sub-surface crack
development. However by use of lower
frequencies, information about the subsurface condition can be gained. Using a
system that allows two, or more,
frequencies to be used simultaneously will
enable better analysis of the sub surface
Non-contact operation is possible,
therefore high temperature inspection is
likely to be feasible. TWI has suit able
equipment for this application, which can
also be used on a flat surface. A range of
conventional probes would be tested
including shielded types and weldscan

A special technique will need to be

developed for welds as these have
different magnetic properties. These will
have a higher permeability and will
therefore need lower frequencies for the
This technique is similar to eddy currents
and is primarily applied for the detection
and sizing of fatigue cracks in welds.
Duplex stainless steel welds are commonly
measurement is less well known and
special procedures will be needed for
randomly oriented cracks on a plane
Pulsed Eddy Current
The pulsed eddy current signal produces a
complete frequency spectrum and,
combined with suitable analysis may
therefore provide information on cracks
close to the surface. TWI has supported
work at Huddersfield University to
develop a pulsed eddy current system that
has capability for wavelet analysis. This
has yielded some improved results
compared with simpler analysis methods.
Some development of a probe may be
needed for the application. Inspection of
welds will also need different procedures.
Ultrasonic Phased Array and Creeping
The ultrasonic creeping wave technique
detects surface cracks in an ultrasonic
pulse echo mode. It is sensitive to cracks at
right angles to the beam. The use of a
phased array allows electronic scanning to
be carried out and enables a wider range of
angles to be deployed, and therefore gives
a wider coverage area. The equipment also
has imaging techniques to enable better
visualisation of the signals. A special
probe would need to be developed for this

Ultrasonic Camera
Some early work from the ultrasonic
camera has shown a capability to detect
diffracted signals from an edge on a
surface. The project would investigate
whether these signals are present from
cracked surfaces. TWI has the equipment
for this and work in developing the
acoustic camera is progressing. Since this
device is water coupled, there will be a
limitation on temperature. It will however
have the capability of investigating large
areas rapidly.
The ACPD method is normally used for
sizing a known surface crack, and is
theoretically limited to straight (nonbranching) cracks. However, in stainless
steel, the frequencies used are suitable to
give some sub-surface analysis. To carry
this out, automatic scanning of the whole
area is proposed. Temperature is not a
major limitation but probes may need
some modification. TWI has two different
types of ACPD equipment that can be
evaluated for this application. An adaptor
for a scanner may be needed to apply the
Acoustic Emission
Acoustic Emission works by detecting the
incremental growth in cracks. It is
therefore a monitoring method, and special
arrangements need to be made to monitor
the specimens during the period of crack
growth. Crack growth in weld and plate
may exhibit different acoustic emission
properties and these may need separate
evaluation. Recent study has shown that
growing SCC may be detected by this
Thermal/Optical Methods
The presence of SCC should affect the
thermal properties of the surface. Methods
of surface temperature measurement are
now extremely sensitive. The method will
need to be developed, in particular an
appropriate heat source will need to be

chosen. The technique has the potential for

remote operation. TWI has recently won a
contract within the Pioneer programme of
the Industry Technology Facilitator to
evaluate and develop a method based on
this process.
shearography, are able to detect changes in
strain over a surface and might therefore
be used for crack detection. These methods
will be investigated for feasibility.
The estimated duration of the programme
is two years. The price of the study is
estimated at 300,000. It is suggested that
six sponsors each contribute two payments
of 25,000.
1 TWI Proposal PR6351-1 Thermally
sprayed aluminium coatings for prevention
of corrosion of duplex stainless steels at
elevated temperature. November 2002.
2 NACE Recommended Practice RP019898
The control of corrosion under
thermal insulation and fireproofing
materials A systems approach.
For further information regarding this
project please contact:
Andrew Leonard or Stuart Bond at TWI
Ltd, Granta Park, Great Abington,
Cambridge, CB1 6AL, UK.
Tel: +44 (0) 1223 891 162
Fax: +44 (0) 1223 890 689
Date: Tuesday, 1 July 2003
Time: 10.30
Venue:TWI Ltd, Granta Park,
Great Abington, Cambridge