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Hydrogen Induced Cracking Test - HIC Test

HIC stands for hydrogen-induced cracking; it is related to hydrogen blistering. NACE MR01-
75/ASTM G193 includes the following description of hydrogen blistering:

”The formation of subsurface planar cavities, called hydrogen blisters, in a metal resulting from
excessive internal hydrogen pressure. Growth of near-surface blisters in low-strength metals
usually results in surface bulges.”

Hydrogen blistering occurs most often in carbon steels in wet H2S environments (i.e.,
applications in which water and hydrogen sulfide co-exist). Corrosion in this type of
environment tends to charge the steel with monatomic hydrogen. When the small monatomic
hydrogen atoms combine at a discontinuity in the steel, they form larger diatomic hydrogen (H2),
which is then too large to diffuse through the steel. As more and more monatomic hydrogen
atoms combine to form diatomic hydrogen at discontinuities, the pressure in the discontinuities
builds until blisters form.

In formed steels, blistering can result in the formation of planar cracks running along the rolling
direction of the steel and parallel to the surface. Cracks on one plane can link up with cracks on
adjacent planes to form steps, which can eventually reduce the effective wall thickness until the
component becomes over-stressed and ruptures.

This phenomenon has been known by many different names over the years, including stepwise
cracking, hydrogen pressure cracking, blister cracking and hydrogen-induced stepwise cracking.
NACE and ASTM have standardized on the name “hydrogen-induced cracking” for this
phenomenon in NACE/ASTM G193, defining it as:

“Stepwise internal cracks that connect adjacent hydrogen blisters on different planes in the metal,
or to the metal surface.”

Both hydrogen blistering and HIC are encountered most often in plate and in rolled and welded
pipe made from plate. These items exhibit a flat, planar grain structure and often contain large,
planar sulfide inclusion, which helps to promote the blistering and cracking mechanism. HIC has
also been reported in other forms (welding fittings, seamless pipe and forgings), although it
occurs much less frequently in those material forms.3

A number of methods are used to try to mitigate hydrogen blistering and HIC. First and foremost
is the use of “killed” steels, i.e., steels that are deoxidized with silicon, aluminum or some other
strong, oxide-forming element to prevent internal porosity in the poured ingot. Porosity in an
ingot can remain as internal voids in finished products, and those internal voids are prime
locations for the formation of hydrogen blisters.

The next level of mitigation is the use of so-called “clean steels.” Clean steels contain very low
concentrations of sulfur (and usually phosphorus). This results in very low concentrations of
non-metallic inclusions in the steel, which can also serve as sites for blister formation.
In addition to reduced sulfur contents, calcium or certain rare earth elements can be added to
steels to control the shape of sulfide inclusions. The resulting spheroidal inclusions provide
better resistance to blistering and HIC than the normal elongated (and flat, in the case of plate)

When a customer imposes HIC testing, it usually means that testing must be performed in
accordance with NACE TM02842. This standard outlines:

1. The test solution (A)

Solution A: 50g of NaCl and 5g of CH3COOH shall be dissolved in each 945g of distilled or
demonized water. The ratio of the volume of test solution to the total surface area of the test
specimens shall be a minimum of 3 ml per cm2. The solution will be desecrated by bubbling
argon or nitrogen (100cc / liter / min) for 1 hour.

2. The testing apparatus

3. The size, shape and location of test specimens

4. The testing procedure

5. Evaluation of test specimens, and
6. Reporting of results.
The sections were examined for stepwise cracking and the crack length ratio (CLR), crack
thickness ratio (CTR) and crack sensitivity (CSR) for each section of specimen were calculated.
As per test requirement as per NACE MR0175/ISO 15156:

CLR: 15% Max/Equal, CTR: 5% Max/Equal, CSR: 2% Max/Equal

Sectioning and preparation of test specimens is rather time consuming. Once the test is in
progress, it runs for 96 hours. After completion of the 96-hour exposure, further sectioning is
performed on each specimen, followed by metallographic polishing, etching and examination at
100X magnification. All cracks are then measured for length and thickness as defined in the test
method. In other words, this is a very labor-intensive, expensive test.

Now for the good news. HIC does not occur in castings, regardless of the material. Therefore, it
is inapplicable to cast valve bodies. The current version of TM0284 does not specifically
mention piping fittings or forgings, but the revision currently in progress includes coverage of
piping fittings, plate or forged blind flanges, and forged weld-neck flanges.

HIC does not occur in austenitic and duplex stainless steels, nickel alloys and copper alloys. In
addition, none of the standards relating to HIC mention its occurrence in alloy steels or
martensitic stainless steels.

In other words, HIC testing rarely applies to valves. The few exceptions would be:

• Butterfly valve bodies made from carbon steel plate

• Large, fabricated valves made from carbon steel piping fittings
• Carbon steel weld-neck flanges welded to valve bodies

It’s up in the air whether flanged bonnets made from carbon steel forgings need to be tested.
Forged bonnets typically have “necks” much more “significant” than the necks in a forged weld-
neck flange and would exhibit quite different metallurgical “texture” than a weld-neck flange. I
am not aware of any reported HIC failures in forged valve bonnets. Note that proposed revision
of NACE TM0284 only covers testing of blind flanges and weld-neck flanges. It does not cover
forgings in general.

Many end-users and engineering, procurement and construction contractors systematically group
valves under “piping” for material selection and specification purposes. Because of this, the
requirement to perform HIC testing on valve materials often occurs as a result of a general piping
specification being “extended” to cover valves. When this happens, the valve manufacturer needs
to bring the situation to the purchaser’s attention to avoid unnecessary testing and the associated
expense and delivery delays.

Another Definitions - What is hydrogen induced cracking?

Refer NACE Standard TM0284 All the test apparatus are manufactured to provide
interchangeable connections and fittings. It complies with requirements of TM0284. Purpose of
HIC test procedure is to study hydrogen induced cracking mechanism. HIC test apparatus is
suitable to use NACE TM0284 specified Solution A or Solution B. Solution A is acidified brine.
Solution B is simulated seawater prepared in accordance with ASTM D1141. In either case, H2S
is bubbled through the solution constantly throughout the test period. NACE TM0284 specifies
test duration of 96 hours. The test requires evaluation of pH values of the test solution before
exposure and after the exposure. HIC test specimens are cut into sections and examined under a
microscope for hydrogen-induced corrosion cracks. The dimensions of any such cracks are
recorded and used to compute the values in percentage for Crack Length Ratio (CLR), Crack
Thickness Ratio (CTR) and Crack Sensitivity Ratio (CSR) as per the NACE Standard. We are
also able to provide spares, HIC test procedures of all the items within shortest time.