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International Journal of Pressure Vessels and Piping 148 (2016) 1e8

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International Journal of Pressure Vessels and Piping

journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/ijpvp

Research on weld cracking of TP321H stainless steel pipeline under

elevated temperature
Jian-hua Pan a, b, *, Zhi-cao Fan b, Ning-sheng Zong c
Mechanical Engineering Department, Anhui University, Hefei 230601, China
National Engineering and Technology Research Center on Pressure Vessel and Piping Safety, Hefei General Machinery Research Institute, Hefei 230031,
Petro China Ningxia Petrochemical Co., Ltd., Yinchuan 750026, China

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: The failure of pipeline which adopted material type TP321H austenitic stainless steel and occurred
Received 24 July 2015 cracking after servicing at elevated temperature for less than two years had been investigated. The cracks
Received in revised form were appeared repeatedly although they had been repaired for several times. The pipeline stress analysis
14 September 2016
was conducted to determine stress levels of cracking positions by finite element analysis software
Accepted 24 October 2016
Available online 24 October 2016
ABAQUS. The mechanical properties of base metals and welds including tensile and charpy impact tests
were carried out. The test results showed that ductility of welds cut from the serviced pipeline was very
poor. The microstructure investigations suggested that it was intergranular crack located in the HAZ near
TP321H stainless steel
fusion line. It could be determined that it was reheat cracking based on some other works such as
Reheat cracking metallographic inspection, SEM, X-ray diffraction, etc. Welds analysis results showed that the welding of
Weld pipeline had not been in accord with right qualification of welding procedure leading to poor welding
Pipeline quality. The cracking reasons and preventive measures were discussed. Several suggestions were pro-
Elevated temperature posed to help extend service lifetime of the stainless steel pipeline under elevated temperature
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction temperature cases [5].

Stabilized austenitic stainless steel 321H (Ti-stabilized) shows
Austenitic stainless steels are widely adopted in petrochemical better performance in welded structures when serving at a high
and chemical fertilizer plants due to their excellent mechanical temperature than steel 347H (Nb-stabilized) which is more expert
properties and superior resistance to corrosion under elevated in resisting polythionic acid corrosion. However, It is known the
temperature in service. Generally, stainless steel with high carbon intergranular cracking will occur in the heat-affected zone (HAZ) of
content such as AISI Type 304H, 321H and 347H are selected to welded geometries when 321H serves at high temperature [6]. It is
service at high temperature case according to usual material rec- observed by Dhooge [7] that reheat cracking or stress relief cracking
ommended selection handbook [1] for designers of pressure vessel appeared in austenitic stainless steel and nickel-based alloys. The
and pipeline. However, they are very susceptible to occur cracking cracks accompanied with creep in welds and HAZ at high temper-
due to stress relaxation crack or reheat crack in early experiences ature. In particular, reheat cracking is found to associated with
[2,3]. It seems that the phenomenon of austenitic stainless steel thick-section nozzle welds in type 316H stainless steel serviced at
occurring service cracking is associated with quality and route of temperature up to 550  C after 10,000e20,000 h operation in steam
weld, magnitude of residual stresses, degree of triaxiality and stress headers [8].
relaxation behaviour [4]. They are major concerns in many chem- In this paper, a failure analysis is carried out for the cracking of
ical plants when stainless steels are employed in elevated pressure pipeline service under elevated temperature condition,
the pipeline which material is austenitic stainless steel 321H
serviced in the synthetic ammonia equipment of a petrochemical
plant. The study in this paper presents the results such as pipeline
* Corresponding author. Mechanical Engineering Department, Anhui University,
Hefei 230601, China. stress distribution, material mechanical properties obtained from
E-mail address: panjianhua_123@163.com (J.-h. Pan). finite element analysis, a series of tests and observations which

0308-0161/© 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
2 J.-h. Pan et al. / International Journal of Pressure Vessels and Piping 148 (2016) 1e8

provides a better understanding of the involved failure mecha-

nisms. Based on the fact that pipeline worked well for about 4 years
after completely repairing, Some useful proposals are suggested. It
is helpful to improve the design of high temperature pipeline and to
prevent similar kind cracking appearing repeatedly.

2. Cracking observation

Several welds of an austenitic stainless steel pipeline occurred

cracking. The material of pipeline was AISI Type 321H namely Ti-
stabilized austenitic stainless steel. The cracks were located at T-
joint welds and welds between straights pipes and elbows. Most of
the cracks lied in parent material sides adjacent to fusion lines of
welds. The cracks penetrated from the outer surface to the inner
wall. The macro-morphology cracks were shown in Fig. 1. A length
of pipe including cracking welds and uncracked welds to be pro- Fig. 2. The pipe cut to be processed various kinds of specimens.
cessed to obtain specimens for different kinds of tests was shown in
Fig. 2. The whole layout of pipeline and locations of cracks were
shown in Fig. 3. The cracking sites mostly located in welds of elbow The mechanical properties including thermal linear expansion
and straight pipe junction and T-weld positions. Most cracks were coefficient obtained from ASME Boiler and pressure vessels cod,
located in outside of the elbows. In particular, almost all of T-weld SectionⅡ,Part D [9] were implemented in FEA analysis.
positions of the pipeline occurred cracking. The surface cracks The value of internal pressure and temperature were taken as
found in T-weld positions were eliminated and repaired by pol- 3.4 MPa and 650  C respectively according to actual service con-
ishing. The repaired cracks tested by non-destructive testing ditions. The pipe element PIPE32 in ABAQUS was selected to carry
including 100% RT and 100% UT, but they repeatedly appeared out pipeline finite element analysis. There were 2685 elements and
during period field inspection in two years. 8056 nodes in total. Constant spring hangers were simulated with
vertically upward constant loads which were equal to load value of
3. Analysis and experimental springs. Different degree of freedoms were restrained as boundary
conditions to impose on the FEA model for various constrained
There should be a certain reason for these cracks happened supports. Connection elements which allowed a certain displace-
repeatedly in the pipeline shown in Fig. 3. In order to understand ments in specific direction were adopted to simulated the supports
the problem better, several analysis were carried out in terms of with gaps.
mechanical and materials.
3.2. Results of finite element analysis
3.1. Finite element analysis of pipeline
In present study, the stress calculation and assessment of
The design parameters of pipeline were shown in Table 1. The reconstruction pipeline were according to Chinese standard GB/T
specification of pipe material were shown in Table 2. In order to 50316 “Industrial Metal Pipeline Design Specification” [10] which
know the stress levels of cracking location, finite elements analysis had similar contents with ASME B31.3 code of Process Piping [11].
had been conducted by commercial software ABAQUS. Since the The stress distribution and relatively displacement of pipeline were
boundary conditions of pipeline were relatively complex, general shown in Fig. 4. The maximum stress was 153.5 MPa lied in location
situations were introduced instead of listing details here one by number 11. The stress of each cracking location shown in Fig. 3 was
one. There were ten constant spring hangers in total scattered in list in Table 3. The allowable stress of material TP321H were
the pipeline. Three variable spring hangers were used in original 137.3 MPa and 46.7 MPa at room temperature and high tempera-
design drawings. It had four types of constraints namely three fixed ture 650  C respectively. Primary stress and secondly stress were
supports, one sliding support, four guider supports and four also calculated in terms of standard “Industrial Metal Pipeline
spacing supports with gaps. The loads came from internal pressure, Design Specification”. Primary stress came from the loads such as
displacement due to thermal expansion, gravity of pipeline and internal pressure, gravity and other constant loading. Secondly
insulation, spring hangers. The tresca stresses were obtained from stress mainly caused by thermal expansion and contraction. The
FEA software to identify stress levels endured by cracking locations maximum primary stress of pipeline was 67.2 MPa. The maximum
of pipeline. secondary stress was 144.6 MPa at the same location. The results of

Fig. 1. Morphology cracks.

J.-h. Pan et al. / International Journal of Pressure Vessels and Piping 148 (2016) 1e8 3

Fig. 3. The layout of pipeline and cracking locations.

Table 1 3.3. Chemical composition

Design parameters of pipeline.

Design pressure/MPa 3.9 The chemical compositions were checked for materials cut from
Operating pressure/MPa 3.4 pipeline occurred cracking(called old pipe) and new pipe materi-
Design temperature/ C 675 al(called new pipe) in order to give clearly comparison results. It
Operating temperature/ C 650
was shown that both the chemical composition of old pipe and new
Media High-temperature natural gas
Insulation material Silicate salt cotton insulation pipe in agreement with the requirements of ASME Boiler and

Table 2
Specification of pipe material.

Site Material Diameter (mm) Thickness (mm)

1400 Straight pipe SA312-TP321H 4356 22

1400 Elbow SA403-TP321H 4356 22
2000 Straight pipe SA312-TP321H 4508 33
800 Straight pipe SA312-TP321H 4219.1 14.3
800 Elbow SA403-TP321H 4219.1 14.3
Reduced Tee 1 (2000  1400 ) SA403 TP321H 4508  4356 33  22
Reduced Tee 2(1400  800 ) SA403 TP321H 4356  4219.1 22  14.3

Fig. 4. Stress distribution and relative displacement of pipeline (distortion mu-factor 5).

stress assessment were in agreement with criterion of standard pressure vessels cod, SectionⅡ,Part D(ASME BPVC-II-D-2004) [9]for
specification. It was shown that the stress levels of cracking loca- material type TP321H. The results were shown in Table 4. The re-
tion were not very high. It suggested the stress was not the main sults of weld were also indicated in Table 4.
reason caused cracking obviously.
4 J.-h. Pan et al. / International Journal of Pressure Vessels and Piping 148 (2016) 1e8

Table 3 Table 6
Stress levels of cracking locations. Tensile properties at operating temperature.

Cracking location number in Fig. 3 Tresca stress (MPa) Specimen Number Rp0.2 (MPa) Rm (MPa) A (%) Z (%)

1 42.7 New pipe 1-1 182.94 303.99 32.87 72.07

2 42.8 2-1 168.88 309.28 26.60 71.06
3 41.7 3-1 183.85 308.92 30.02 73.27
4 47.3 Old pipe 1-2 208.60 300.99 25.34 61.34
5 89.3 2-2 202.04 300.94 29.69 56.57
6 62.9 3-2 203.84 309.02 22.37 59.97
7 37.4a Weld 1-3 222.56 312.02 18.26 74.90
8 65.7 2-3 224.56 312.24 15.63 72.86
9 66.7 3-3 223.63 314.12 14.82 59.64
The value of position 7 would larger than 37.4 exactly taking account of the
relatively high stress concentration coefficient of tee geometry.

Table 4
Chemical composition results(wt%).

Sample C Si Mn P S Cr Ni Ti

New pipe 0.071 0.324 1.04 0.035 0.0010 17.31 9.57 0.296
Old pipe 0.038 0.448 1.33 0.032 0.0066 17.58 9.41 0.255
Demand of ASME BPVC-II-D-2004 0.04e0.10 0.75 2.00 0.040 0.030 17.0e20.0 9.00e13.00 4C%and 0.60
Weld 0.067 0.443 1.52 0.028 0.0012 19.75 9.85 Nb ¼ 0.297

3.4. Mechanical properties facture surface is shown to be candy like and the particles to be off.
This can be used to explain why the charpy impact toughness
Tensile tests of old pipe and new pipe were conducted at room values of welds are so low.
temperature and operating temperature 650  C. The results were
shown in Table 5 and Table 6. Charpy impact tests at room tem- 3.5. Microstructure and hardness
perature were carried out to study the changes of material prop-
erties. The values of charpy impact test were demonstrated in Metallurgical investigations of the pipeline materials were
Table 7. conducted. The microstructure of new pipe material was shown in
The tensile properties of parent materials for old pipe and new Fig. 6. The metallurgical structure was a combination of
pipe at both room temperature and operating temperature are both austenite þ a little ferrite þ geometry TiN. The fineness number of
in agreement with requirements in ASME BPVC-II-D-2004. The grains was 7. Hardness was 86.3 HRB. The microstructure of old
strength values of old pipe material are a little greater than that of pipe material was shown in Fig. 7. The fineness number of grains
new pipe, and the trend of ductility values is opposite with values was 6 . Hardness was 86.8 HRB. The weld microstructure was
of strength. The strength data of weld are a little larger than parent austenite þ ferrite shown in Fig. 8 which were appeared normal.
materials, and the ductility is a little inferior to that of base metal.
The yield stresses at high temperature are a bit larger for old pipe 3.6. SEM and X-Ray diffraction analysis
material served for about 2 years. The tensile strength values of old
pipe are almost the same as that of new pipe material at elevated The specimens were cut from pipeline containing cracks and
temperature. then to be etched. The crack morphology was shown in Fig. 9. It
The charpy impact toughness of old and new pipe parent ma- could be seen that the crack grew along with fusion line and located
terials are regular with normal values at room temperature. But the in base metal side. It was obviously intergranular cracking. X-ray
average value of charpy impact toughness for welds is as low as diffraction was conducted for samples with cracks. The results were
25.3 J which is exactly abnormal. The facture morphology of shown in Fig. 10. It shown that crack region including g-Fe(aus-
specimens demonstrates obviously brittleness characteristics. It tenite), FeeCr chemical compound(brittle s phase), and chromium-
means that properties of welds appear to be abnormal seriously. rich carbide precipitation Cr23C6.
The weld fracture surface of charpy impact samples is shown in EDS(Energy Dispersive Spectrometer) was conducted to test the
Fig. 5. It can be seen that the macrofractography is relatively flat. chemical composition of cracking location shown in Fig. 11. Point A
There are almost no shear lip and only small amount dimples. The is located in the middle of crack, point C is near to the crack, point F
is relatively far away from crack site. The colour of regions adjacent
to crack were different from other regions. It could be seen that
Table 5
there were a few grains almost dropping down from the crack re-
Tensile properties at room temperature.
gion. This may suggest that the ductility of this part material would
Specimen Number Rp0.2 (MPa) Rm (MPa) A (%) Z (%) not be good. The EDS analysis results were illustrated in Table 8
New pipe 1-1 238.78 564.73 59.22 76.77 which showed that different regions had distinct chemical com-
2-1 245.96 568.73 58.20 76.86 positions amount especially for elements chromium and carbon.
3-1 302.47 583.44 54.06 74.70
Old pipe 1-2 324.48 574.67 51.68 74.75
2-2 321.92 573.61 51.62 73.89 4. Weld procedure analysis
3-2 317.01 575.28 51.22 73.27
Weld 1-3 370.67 592.76 31.74 74.95 Qualification of welding procedure was carried out before the
2-3 368.70 594.39 31.36 75.10 construction and welding of pipeline. The specification of samples
3-3 381.65 596.93 28.38 74.80
used to assessment was 4219  23 mm and the material type was
J.-h. Pan et al. / International Journal of Pressure Vessels and Piping 148 (2016) 1e8 5

Table 7
Charpy impact toughness.

Temp ( C) Sampling direction Number Sample size AKV (J)

25 Transverse direction of new pipe 1-1-T 10  10  55 >179

2-1-T 10  10  55 >190
3-1-T 10  10  55 >180
Transerve direction of old pipe 1-2-T 10  10  55 142
2-2-T 10  10  55 147
3-2-T 10  10  55 152
Vertical direction of new pipe 1-1-V 10  10  55 >213
2-1-V 10  10  55 >220
3-1-V 10  10  55 >218
Vertical direction of old pipe 1-2-V 10  10  55 >162
2-2-V 10  10  55 >170
3-2-V 10  10  55 >160
Weld 1-3-R 10  10  55 14
2-3-R 10  10  55 18
3-3-R 10  10  55 15
650 Weld 1-3-O 10  10  55 72
2-3-O 10  10  55 96
3-3-O 10  10  55 110

Fig. 6. Metallurgical micrograph of new pipe parent material.

Fig. 5. SEM micrograph of fracture surface for weld specimen.

TP321. The weld groove was V type. The backing weld used arc
welding. The welding consumables was TGF347 with 42.0 mm
spec. The welding current and voltage were 90 A and 10e12 V
respectively. Manual electric arc welding was employed to filling
and cover during the welding process, in which A137 with 43.2 mm
spec was implemented as welding consumables. And the welding Fig. 7. Metallurgical micrograph of old pipe parent material.
current and voltage were 80e100 A and 20e25 V respectively. The
1e4 layers weld of groove bottom were single-pass welding, the
5e8 layers of filling and cover welding were double-pass welding. of materials in completion data of the project such as welding route
The welding joints of samples were checked by X-ray radiographic specification and parameters, groove type and layout of welding
inspections, tensile tests and bending tests. But there were lacking sequence. There were only a few papers with some tables wrote
6 J.-h. Pan et al. / International Journal of Pressure Vessels and Piping 148 (2016) 1e8

Fig. 11. EDS analysis regions.

Fig. 8. Metallurgical micrograph of weld.

Fig. 9. Crack morphology.

Table 8
EDS analysis result of cracking locations.

Element Weight percentage


CK 65.50 24.89 12.59 10.93 13.74 7.89 3.47

NK 21.20
Ti K 74.49
OK 9.61 17.27 21.97 14.76
Al K 2.16
Si K 1.25 0.52 0.66 0.50
Cr K 3.82 14.34 19.66 17.72 1.56 17.08 0.84
Mn K 1.21 1.98 1.45 1.59
Fe K 13.77 34.74 36.71 44.10 79.47 63.89
Ni K 3.88 7.02 6.43 10.55 5.24 9.56
Total 100.00 100.00 100.00 100.00 100.00 100.00 100.00

melting and thick layers for weld. That should be six layers and nine
Fig. 10. X-ray diffraction analysis result. passes according to welding procedure assessment. Most melting
depth of welds were 5e6 mm with deepest 7 mm by the actual
measurement for welding butt joints with thickness section of
steel materials, welding consumables and weld methods. It was 25 mm. It could be seen that the cylindrical crystal of material in
fount that the qualification of welding formation was not in single-pass welding was very clear in Fig. 13. That was not allowed
reasonable accordance with anticipation after checking the welding obviously. This was the results of weaving welding with 44mm
surfaces by visual observation. The situation was serious for local welding rods and large current which should be 43.2 mm welding
welding undercut within some locations. Welding joint was illus- rods and small current in the welding procedure assessment. The
trated in Fig. 12. large welding which was even not allowed in low alloy steel such as
It was shown that most of the filling weld was 3 layers and SA516-Gr.70 used in the pipeline necessarily supplied the condi-
weaving welding with one layer and single pass leading to deep tions for stress relieve cracking. If continuous large welding was
J.-h. Pan et al. / International Journal of Pressure Vessels and Piping 148 (2016) 1e8 7

phenomena surveyed above occurred likely [15e17].

High carbon austenitic stainless steel is tend to appear reheat
cracking in the temperature range of 550e850  C [7,12,13]. The
operating temperature of pipeline in present work is 650  C which
is in the sensitive range for material TP321H. The morphology of
cracking locations shown in Fig. 9 indicate that cracks grow along
grain boundaries in the edge of base metal side. It is typical situa-
tion for austenitic stainless steel reheat cracking exposed in service.
The weld joints containing cracks approximately exists three
kinds regions as follows: the region 1 which is far away from crack
has normal chromium content, the region 2 which is around the
crack such as point C in Fig. 11 shows a slightly higher chromium
Fig. 12. Weld section after polishing and etched. content than normal zone, the region 3 which is in the intermediate
zone of crack illustrates very low chromium content and relatively
high carbon amount such as point A in Fig. 11. It is indicated that
there are s phase and chromium precipitation arising from analysis
result of X-ray diffraction shown in Fig. 10. The reason may be that
the precipitation of the chromium-rich carbides that formed at the
grain boundaries caused the formation of an adjacent narrow re-
gion of chromium depletion.
Generally, the precipitates mentioned above formed at the grain
boundaries will weaken the grain boundaries. And brittle s phase
appeared shall also depress the ductility of these zones. The
explanation which is well known and widely accepted for reheat
cracking or stress relief cracking occurred in austenitic stainless
steel at elevated temperature is that the deformation will concen-
trate on the grain boundaries which are weaken by facts mentioned
above when welding residual stress and pipeline system stress are
relaxed during service.
This is the intrinsic material characteristics for austenitic
stainless steel. We know that stress relaxation cracking usually
occurs for a period of 10,000e100,000 h from the literatures when
austenitic stainless steel welded parts exposed in the temperature
Fig. 13. Morphology of cylindrical crystal in weld. range of 550e850  C [8,14]. Repair is not a good measure to solve
the problem, the cracking will appear in short time no matter how
hard work to be made. In fact, there is creep damage occurred in the
involved namely without controlling interpass temperature, the
structure not only for weld and HAZ but also for base metal [8]. The
later welding pass would reheat the next one which should make
author have a memorable experience in field repairing for this
some of ferrite, austenite and carbonization in weld metal convert pipeline that crack was appeared and running to the elbow direc-
to s phase. That caused the welding joints to be more inclined to
tion while the repair welding was processing.
occur cracking. Poor weld quality is an important reason causing Since reheat cracking is inevitable during in service at high
reheat cracking, but not the only one.
temperature for this kind material, designers of equipments should
try their best to adopt useful methods to extend the service time. If
5. Discussion the lifetime can attain 100,000 h, it is believed that most owners
will accept this lifetime.
It can be concluded that cracking will not happen in the case of Stabilizing treatment which is holding the weld at 850e950  C
normal situation from the finite element analysis of pipeline stress. for several hours is not a good method among reheat cracking
The stress levels of cracking locations shown in Table 3 are not high preventing means. A number of facts have demonstrated that sta-
enough to exceed the requirements of ASME standard. However, bilizing treatment is not only no benefit for both of Ti- and Nb-
the tresca stress values of locations between straight pipes and stabilized austenitic steel preventing reheat crack occurring but
elbows where cracking happened are somewhat greater than also tending to the result of cracking which may take place during
others. It means stress levels are one condition resulting in cracking stabilize processing for thick components. The author has experi-
but not the main reason. enced an event that a thick section austenitic stainless steel nozzle
The results of tensile tests illustrated that mechanical properties component of a pressure vessel appearing numerous cracks just
of austenitic stainless steel used in pipeline are not decreasing after stabilizing heat treatment.
clearly at high temperature exposed in service for two years. But Some views are to be presented here according to the investi-
marked reduction of charpy impact toughness for weld joints gation in this paper and the reconstruction work of pipeline. First of
shown in Table 7 indicates that the intrinsic material microstruc- all, stress levels of the weld positions in pipeline should be reduced
tures of welds are appeared to be changed significantly at long time as low as possible, because high stress level will accelerate
staying at elevated temperature. It is verified by the SEM micro- austenitic stainless reheat cracking. The large welding tees involved
graphs of fracture surfaces for charpy samples which show a in pipeline shall be canceled or replaced by forging ones owning to
marked brittle fracture phenomenon. It is found that there are severely stress concentration. When the whole devices start up, the
candy like grains, little dimples and a lot of small secondary temperature increasing speed shall be slowed down in order to
intergranular cracks. This is suggested that reheat cracking or stress avoid bringing large operating stress that would cause unwanted
relax cracking which is in reasonable accordance with the damage of welds. Since the ductility of weld is reduced on the
8 J.-h. Pan et al. / International Journal of Pressure Vessels and Piping 148 (2016) 1e8

grounds of charpy impact toughness data list in content above, it stress concentration should be avoided. Stress levels of pipeline
should be noticed especially for pipeline welds serviced in several may be reduced as low as possible. Welding quality should be
years. The welding quality should be strictly controlled following strictly controlled.
qualification of welding procedure.

6. Conclusion Acknowledgements

This paper carried out the study on welds cracking of TP321H The authors gratefully acknowledge Mr. Ai Zhibin and Mr. Zong
stainless steel pipeline at elevated temperature. Some conclusions Ningsheng for the discussion and sharing of technology
were obtained on the basis of the results of pipeline stress analysis, informations.
mechanical property tests, microstructure research, SEM, EDS, X-
ray diffraction and weld quality analysis.
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