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Engineering Encyclopedia

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Defect-Related Metal Failures

Note: The source of the technical material in this volume is the Professional
Engineering Development Program (PEDP) of Engineering Services.
Warning: The material contained in this document was developed for Saudi
Aramco and is intended for the exclusive use of Saudi Aramcos
employees. Any material contained in this document which is not
already in the public domain may not be copied, reproduced, sold, given,
or disclosed to third parties, or otherwise used in whole, or in part,
without the written permission of the Vice President, Engineering
Services, Saudi Aramco.

Chapter : Materials & Corrosion Control


File Reference: COE10604

For additional information on this subject, contact


S.B. Jones on 874-1969 or S.P. Cox on 874-2488

Engineering Encyclopedia

Materials & Corrosion Control


Defect Related Metal Failures

CONTENTS

PAGES

TYPES OF MANUFACTURER DEFECTS .............................................................. 1


Casting Defects................................................................................................ 1
Centrifugal Castings............................................................................. 2
Processing Defects .......................................................................................... 2
Additional Defects........................................................................................... 5
TYPES OF FABRICATION DEFECTS..................................................................... 6
Common Welding Defects .............................................................................. 6
Dimensional Defects ............................................................................ 6
Structural Discontinuities..................................................................... 7
Weld Cracking ..................................................................................... 8
High Hardness Welds .......................................................................... 9
Additional Metal Defects............................................................................... 10
Quench Cracking ............................................................................... 10
Cladding............................................................................................. 10
Workmanship..................................................................................... 10
Shipping, Storage, and Handling ....................................................... 10
GLOSSARY ............................................................................................................. 11
REFERENCES.......................................................................................................... 14
ADDENDUM ........................................................................................................... 15

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Defect Related Metal Failures

TYPES OF MANUFACTURER DEFECTS


Defects in metals account for a large number of field failures. The defects often can be traced
back to the manufacturer of the material or the fabricator of the component/equipment.
Metals and alloys that are used in the petroleum industry usually originate as castings that
were poured from molten metal. Complex component shapes that require little or no finishing
are produced by means of casting techniques such as sand, shell, and investment molding. In
other cases, molten metal is cast in ingots, which are further processed into wrought products
such as bars or tubes with improved homogeneity and mechanical properties. A steelmaking
flowline is included in the Addendum.
Casting Defects
Several types of defects are inherent to castings. Failures most commonly occur when the
defects are of such size that the remaining sound metal is insufficient to maintain the load
requirements of the part. In some cases, defects provide stress risers which lead to crack
propagation. In other cases, surface defects cause flow-induced erosion or they provide
regions for concentration of corrodants, which cause accelerated corrosion.
Common castings defects include the following:

Sand or nonmetallic inclusions, which occur when slag particles, or sand that
has broken away from the mold become entrapped in the casting during
solidification. These defects can occur at any location within the casting, and
they must be identified by metallography or scanning electron microscopy
(SEM) that employs energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy.

Porosity, which is caused by gas bubbles that become trapped within the
molten metal and cannot escape during solidification. Examples of gases that
are generated during pouring are vaporized moisture or binders in mold sands.
Large pores on the casting surface are called blowholes. Porosity may occur in
individual regions or it may be randomly distributed through the casting.
Additional types of porosity are described as pinholes, interdendritic porosity,
and microporosity.

Shrinkage, which occurs from thermal contraction during solidification.


Thinner sections of a casting solidify rapidly and shrink, and thereby cause
molten metal to feed from the thicker, molten sections. As a result, shrinkage
cavities form in the thicker sections. These cavities usually are more irregular
than gas porosity.

Hot tears, which occur primarily at corners or abrupt changes in casting section
thickness. They are caused by shrinkage and stress concentration due to
differential thermal contraction. Hot tears appear as cracks which are oxidized
significantly.

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Cold shuts, which are surface or internal discontinuities that are caused by a hot
stream of molten metal as it flows into or over an already solidified surface.
Other discontinuities can result when chaplets or chills inside the mold fail to
melt and become part of the casting.

Misruns, which occur when a casting is not fully formed as a result of


premature solidification of the molten metal before the mold is filled. Misruns
typically exhibit rounded edges or corners that may be rejectable for certain
applications.

The above defects represent some of the most common problems with castings. Since there
are numerous specific defects and there are sometimes different names that are used for the
same defect, the International Committee of Foundry Technical Associations (CFTA) has
standardized nomenclature for casting defects. The standardized tables are included in the
Addendum.
In the analysis of failures in castings, it often is prudent to radiograph the casting to locate
defects. If a casting had one defect that caused a failure, it often has additional, similar
defects. After defects are located, metallographic examinations and elemental analyses are
used to categorize the defects. Experience indicates that when defects are found in a casting
such as a valve body or pump casing, similar valves or pumps from the same foundry will
also contain defects and, therefore, these valves or pumps will require inspection.
Centrifugal Castings
High temperature tubing that is used in the petroleum industry is often centrifugally cast from
high alloy steel. The process involves the pouring of the molten alloy into molds that are
spinning at high velocities. The resulting product has superior properties compared to static
castings. While centrifugal castings usually contain far fewer internal defects, poor melt shop
practices can result in surface defects that cause failures. When orders are rushed, numerous
defects can result. In one case, a batch of centrifugal tubes was found to contain surface pits
and imperfections, hot cracks (formed while pulling tubes from molds), dimensional
problems, and weld defects (tubes are welded together to make up coils).
Processing Defects
Wrought alloy products typically are produced from castings that are called ingots. The ingots
are then hot rolled into semifinished forms that are called blooms, billets, or slabs, or forged
into more complex shapes. Blooms and billets are further hot rolled into bars and tubes, and
slabs are rolled into sheets. Final finishing may also involve cold rolling, cold drawing, and
extruding.
The above forming processes can create various defects, which are mostly surface-related, in
the finished products. The most common defects are seams and laps, where the metal is
folded over, which result in unwelded discontinuities that are similar to cold shuts. Rolled-in
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scale, scratches, roll marks, and internal inclusions are additional defects that are found in
finished products.

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Failures that result from processing defects are analyzed through the use of ordinary
metallographic and fractographic methods. Defects in rolled, drawn, or extruded products
usually run longitudinally for great distances, and regions away from the failure typically
reveal indications of the defects. On the surfaces, the defects may appear as thin lines or
scratches. Transverse cross sections provide information on the nature and depth of the defect.
Seams or laps appear in cross sections as straight or curved cracks, as shown in Figure 1. In
this case, the defect was on the ID surface of the seamless tube, and it caused a catastrophic
failure. Defects do not necessarily have to run deeply below the surface to cause problems.
The sharp tips of the defects are stress risers, which promote crack propagation, and the defect
regions often provide crevices for contaminant concentration, corrosion, and environmental
cracking.

Figure 1. ID Surface Defect in Seamless Steel Tube

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Additional Defects
Refined metals and alloys have specified composition ranges or limits for various elements.
While occurrences are infrequent, cast or wrought components may not meet compositional
specifications, and failures can result from degraded mechanical and physical properties. The
manufacturer of the alloy is responsible for producing heats of material with compositions
within specifications.
Improperly applied and/or mixed (improperly identified) materials are more common causes
of failure than are off-chemistry alloys. Mixed materials can occur at the manufacturers shop,
fabricators shop, or at various warehouses and supply companies. In recent years, there have
been specific equipment problems that have involved substandard bolts and valves. For the
above reasons, compositional checks should almost always be included in failure analyses.
Welded pipe and tubing have failed in service due to poor welds. Quality problems with
electrical resistance welded (ERW) pipe in particular have resulted in failures.

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TYPES OF FABRICATION DEFECTS


Common Welding Defects
Failures in welds account for a high percentage of the total number of failures in equipment.
Defects occasionally occur in shop welds, but more defects are found in field welds.
Defective welds may be produced from improper weld technique, incorrect filler, or incorrect
heat treatment. All welding must follow a welding procedure and each procedure needs to be
qualified prior to use. The WPS (Welding Procedure Specification) and PQR (Welding
Procedure Qualification Record) are the two pieces of documentation that are required.
Common welding defects and their descriptions are listed below:
Dimensional Defects
When weldment dimensions do not meet specifications, structures and components are prone
to failure by overload. Common dimensional defects are as follows:

Weld Discontinuities due to Incorrect Joint Preparation: Incorrect preparation


of a joint with the proper dimensions can result in weld discontinuities and
possible failure. Typical single V joint design dimensions are shown in
Figure 2. The joint geometry is keyed to weld composition, thickness, and
welding process.

Figure 2. Typical Single V Joint Design Dimensions

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Weld Discontinuities due to Joint Misalignment, which refers to offset or


mismatch across butt joints. This misalignment causes stress risers at the toe
and root of the weld.

Undersized Welds, which result in inadequate strength for the intended


application.

Structural Discontinuities
Types of structural discontinuities are as follows:

Porosity and Slag Inclusions, which affect the soundness of welds just as in the
case of castings.

Incomplete Fusion, which results when the weld metal does not fuse to the base
metal or when successive weld passes do not fuse to each other.

Incorrect Weld Profiles (Figure 3), which can result in incomplete fusion or
slag inclusions when successive layers are deposited. Improper profile can also
lead to stress risers. Undercutting, underfill, and overlap are common causes of
failures.

Acceptable Butt Weld Profile


R

Note: R denotes reinforcement.

Unacceptable Butt Weld Profiles

Excessive
Convexity

Insufficient
Throat

Excessive
Undercut

Overlap

Figure 3. Acceptable and Unacceptable Weld Profiles

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Weld Cracking
Cracks occur in the weld metal, base metal, and heat-affected zone (HAZ) of a weldment
when localized stresses exceed the ultimate tensile strength of the metal. Cracking is often
associated with stress risers at discontinuities or mechanical notches in the weldment.
Hydrogen embrittlement often contributes to crack formation in steel. Cracking also can result
from insufficient preheat, excessive interpass temperatures, using the wrong filler metal, rapid
cooling, or poor fit-up.
Cracks can be classified as either hot or cold types. Hot cracks develop at elevated
temperatures, commonly during solidification of the weld metal. Hot cracks may be
associated with impurities and high restraint. Cold cracks result from thermal stresses
developed during cooling and are often associated with hardenable alloys, high restraint,
and/or hydrogen embrittlement. Hot cracks propagate intergranularly, while cold cracks can
be either transgranular or intergranular.
In multiple layer welds, weld cracking is most likely to occur in the first weld layer (root pass
or root bead). Unless the cracking is repaired, crack propagation occurs through subsequent
passes as the weld is completed.
Three types of cracks that can occur in weld metal are as follows:

Transverse Weld Cracks, which appear perpendicular to the axis of the weld
and, in some cases, extend beyond the weld into the HAZ and base metal. This
type of crack is more common in joints that have a high degree of restraint.

Longitudinal Weld Cracks, which are found mostly within the weld metal and
are confined to the center of the weld. Such cracks may be the extension of
cracks that were formed at the end of the weld or in the root of the weld.

Crater Cracks, which occur whenever the welding operation is interrupted and
a crater is formed. The cracks are usually star-shaped and progress only to the
edge of the crater. However, crater cracks can be initiation sites for larger
longitudinal and transverse cracks. Crater cracks are found most frequently in
alloys with high coefficients of thermal expansion, such as austenitic stainless
steels.

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Weld cracking that is caused by hydrogen embrittlement can also occur in the HAZ and base
metal. This cracking generally occurs at temperatures below 120 C (248 F) and
immediately upon cooling or after a period of several hours. Such cracking is known by
several names, including underbead, cold, and delayed cracking.

Underbead Cracking (Figure 4) typically occurs in the HAZ, may be transverse


or longitudinal, and is almost always associated with hardenable steel alloys.

Figure 4. Underbead Cracking

Lamellar tearing is a form of cold cracking that results from high stress in the
through-thickness direction. Lamellar tears are generally terrace-like
separations in base metal that are caused by welding thermal stresses.
Inclusions are often associated with the cracking. Fractographic examination of
the cracks reveals a fibrous appearance.

High Hardness Welds


Carbon steel generally is easy to weld. However, if the welding process is not followed
correctly, or the carbon content of the steel is too high, high hardness in the weld metal or
heat affected zone may occur. Hardnesses above approximately 200 HB or 225 HB, which is
determined by using the Brinell hardness scale discussed in COE 106.07, generally are
considered "high." High hardnesses can result in cracking in service, especially if the service
contains hydrogen sulfide or caustic. Proper weld procedures must be used to avoid high
hardness welds. If the hardness continues to be too high, a post weld heat treatment (PWHT)
should be performed. Alloy steels harden very easily and almost always require a post weld
heat treatment.

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Additional Metal Defects


Incorrectly following heat-treating requirements/specifications can result in corrosion or
mechanical failures in service. Quench cracking is one of the most serious problems with
hardenable steels.
Quench Cracking
This type of cracking can occur when ferritic steels are heated above approximately 816 C
(1500 F) and rapidly cooled (quenched). As the steel is heated, the ferrite and pearlite
microstructure transforms to austenite. Upon quenching, brittle martensite is formed and
accompanied by internal stresses that are due to the thermal gradients. The internal stresses
place the surface of the piece in tension, which results in immediate or delayed cracking.
Quench cracks usually originate at the surface and propagate toward the center of the piece.
Cracks are very fine and clean after quenching. If the piece was tempered after cracking,
oxide may be observed within the cracks. Fractographic examination of the crack surfaces
reveals a shiny, crystalline appearance since quench cracks are always intergranular.
Cladding
Cladding of vessels and equipment is performed for corrosion or erosion resistance. Whether
the clad is applied by co-rolling, explosive bonding welding, or casting, it is important that a
sound interface is formed between the layers to avoid delamination. Weld overlays, as well as
weld joints where clad sections are fabricated, are especially prone to failure due to defects.
Failures in weld overlayed equipment result from many of the same defects, especially
porosity, slag inclusions, and brittle cracking, that are found in other welded joints.
Workmanship
While most failures can be explained in terms of a scientific mechanism, the root cause of
many failures is poor workmanship. Lack of reasonable cleanliness can result in
contamination and corrosion. Careless work habits can result in failures. For example, failures
have been analyzed where catastrophic cracks grew from defects such as arc strikes on the
workpiece.
Shipping, Storage, and Handling
When it is not well protected, equipment is often damaged during shipment or installation.
Excessive vibration and exposure to the atmosphere during transit have caused fatigue
cracking and stress corrosion cracking. Bumping and dropping components during installation
have caused overload and impact failures.

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GLOSSARY
billet

A semifinished product with a smaller rectangular cross section


than a bloom, that is produced by hot rolling, forging, or
extrusion.

bloom

A semifinished product with a rectangular cross section that is


produced by hot rolling an ingot.

castings (cast alloys/


Static castings)

Parts or components that are solidified (molded) directly from


liquid metal into the desired shape.

chaplets

Solid metal that is used to support internal parts of the mold.


(Similar to chills.)

centrifugal castings

Cylindrical shapes that are formed by solidification in a rotating


mold, and result in improved physical properties.

chills

Solid pieces of metal that are added to a mold to increase the rate
of solidification in regions of the casting. The chill becomes part
of the casting.

cladding

The attachment of a special alloy to a component surface to


improve corrosion or erosion (wear) resistance.

cold cracks
(cold cracking)

Cracking in weld regions after the weld has cooled.

cold drawing

Final forming by pulling bars or tubes through a die of a desired


cross section.

cold shuts

Discontinuities that are formed in castings when molten metal


solidifies over previously solidified metal.

crater cracks

Cracks that occur in the final molten puddle that remains at the
end of a weld pass.

defect

Flow in a part or piece of equipment that exceeds the limits of


standards.

extrusion

Hot or cold forming of metal or plastic by pushing billets


through a die of the desired cross section.

flaw

Detectable imperfection in a part or piece of equipment.

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forged (forging)

Hot forming of metal into desired shapes by means of


compressive stresses.

Heat-Affected Zone
(HAZ)

Region that is adjacent to welds and in which the base metal


mechanical properties and microstructural features were altered
by heating.

hot cracks (hot cracking) Cracking in weld regions that occurs while the region is at high
temperatures due to welding.
hot tears

Casting defect that is caused by shrinkage and stress


concentration due to differential thermal contraction.

indication

A flaw or defect detectable by NDE.

incomplete fusion

Lack of metallurgical bonding (mixing of molten metals) of weld


metal to base metal or between weld passes.

lamellar tearing

Base metal cracking that is parallel to the rolling direction of


plates, and is caused by thermal stress.

misrun

Casting defect that results from incomplete filling of the mold.

nonmetallic inclusions

Foreign particles that have been entrapped in castings during


solidification.

porosity

Casting defect that is caused by gas bubbles.

quench cracking

Cracking, that is caused by internal stresses, which were created


by rapid cooling from a high temperature.

rolling

Hot or cold forming of metal by compressing metal between


mechanical rolls.

shrinkage

Casting defect that is caused by thermal contraction during


solidification.

underbead cracking

Cracks that occur in the HAZ of hardenable steel welds.

Welding Procedure
Qualification Record
(PQR)

A record of welding data that is used for a test coupon. The


supporting data used to establish a WPS.

Welding Procedure
Specification (WPS)

A document that provides instruction to the welder on how to


make a weld that complies with the code.

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workmanship

Quality that is imparted to a product by the craftsman.

wrought products
(wrought alloys)

Metal forms that are produced by hot working after


solidification. Wrought materials with improved properties
generally are more homogeneous than are castings.

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REFERENCES
1.

D. B. Roach and F. H. Beck, Performance and Reliability of CorrosionResistant Alloy Castings, MTI Manual No. 5: Phase 1 Causes
of
Unsatisfactory Performance, and MTI Manual No. 6: Phase 2 Casting
Discontinuities, Materials Technology Institute of the Chemical Process
Industries, Columbus, Ohio, USA, 1981.

2.

American Society for Metals (ASM), Failure Analysis and Prevention,


Metals Handbook, Ninth Ed., Vol. 11, Metals Park, Ohio, USA, 1986.

3.

The Making, Shaping, and Treating of Steel, Tenth Ed., Association of Iron
and Steel Engineers, Herbick and Held, Publishers, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,
USA, 1985.

4.

R. D. Port and H. M. Herro, The Nalco Guide to Boiler Failure Analysis,


McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York, New York, USA (1991).

5.

American Society for Metals (ASM), Fractography, Metals Handbook, Ninth


Ed., Vol. 12, Metals Park, Ohio, USA (1987).

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ADDENDUM

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