Hydrogen assisted cold cracking (HACC) is a welding defect which may occur in the heat affected zone (HAZ) of the base metal or in the weld metal (WM). Initially the appearance of HACC was associated more closely with the HAZ of the base metal. However, recent developments in advanced steel processing have considerably improved the base material quality, thereby causing a shift of HACC to the WM itself.
This represents a very serious problem for industry, because most of the predictive methods are intended for prevention of HACC in the HAZ of the base metal, not in the weld metal .
HACC in welded components is affected by three main interrelated factors, i.e. a microstructure, hydrogen concentration and stress level [2–4].
In general, residual stresses resulting from the welding process are unavoidable and their presence significantly influences the susceptibility of weld microstructures to cracking, particularly if hydrogen is introduced during welding . Therefore various weldability tests have been developed over the years which are specifically designed to promote HACC by generating critical stress levels in the weld metal region due to special restraint conditions [4, 6–8]. These tests were used to develop predictive methods based on empirical criteria in order to estimate the cracking susceptibility of both the heat-affected zone and weld metal .
However, although the relationship between residual stress, hydrogen and HACC has received considerable attention, the interaction of residual stresses and microstructure in particular at microscopic scales is still not well understood [5, 9–21].
Therefore the current paper focuses on the development and assessment of techniques using Focused Ion Beam (FIB), Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) and Electron Backscatter Diffraction for the determination of local residual strains at (sub) micron scales in E8010 weld metal, used for the root pass of X70 pipeline girth welds, and their relationship to the WM microstructure. The measurement of these strains could be used to evaluate the pre-existing stress magnitudes at certain microstructural features .