The types of defects that have caused in-service failures and hydrostatic test failures of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines comprised of electric resistance welded (ERW) or flash-welded seams were revealed by a study of 569 seam failure incidents that occurred over a period from the 1940s through the present. This study confirmed that ERW and flash-welded seam manufacturing defects, such as cold welds (lack of fusion) and hook cracks, are frequent causes of hydrostatic test failures. Causes of in-service failures included cold welds, hook cracks enlarged by fatigue, other manufacturing defects enlarged by fatigue, selective seam weld corrosion, hydrogen stress cracking, sulfide stress cracking, and stress corrosion cracking (SCC). An important finding with respect to low-frequency-welded ERW and flash-welded materials was that defects in the bond lines of such materials (e.g., cold welds, selective seam weld corrosion) sometimes failed at much lower stress levels than one would predict based on the toughness of the parent metal. This fact complicates seam integrity assessment by means of in line inspection (ILI) because toughness is needed to prioritize anomalies for examination, and the toughnesses of the bond lines of most pipelines are not known. The findings suggest that conservative assumptions may have to be made in order for a pipeline operator to have confidence in a seam integrity assessment by means of ILI even if the ILI technology accurately characterizes the anomalies.

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