Hydrotesting has been used by the transmission pipeline industry for decades, and remains the only effective means to control stress-corrosion cracking until in-line inspection is proven. This paper addresses the conditions for effective proof-pressure testing in terms of ductile fracture referenced to peak pressure and hold-time, and then contrasts these to the response in low-toughness situations. Fracture properties typical of an early-vintage electrical-resistance weld (ERW) seam were determined and used as the basis to simulate the response at toughness levels typical of some lower-toughness steels. Fracture properties characterized via Charpy-vee notch (CVN) energy showed low energy to failure, and confined inelastic response characteristic of linear-elastic fracture mechanics. Hydrotest and service breaks associated with cracking in an ERW seam showed a very small shear lip and often showed chevrons pointing back toward the origins — features consistent with the CVN results and characteristic of low fracture ductility. The results indicate hydrotest protocols derived and effective for ductile fracture are not directly applicable when brittle-like fracture controls. Hydrotesting was indicated to be an effective means to expose defects in ERW seams, as rupture is indicated to occur under typical hydrotest conditions. Simulated growth of the scope of defect lengths and depths evident along hydrotest breaks showed virtually no time dependent cracking, which means the hold time at maximum pressure should be reduced to the minimum time required to ensure all pipe in the test section has reached its target pressure.

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