Wall thickness transition joints are used to connect energy pipeline segments; such as straight pipe to fittings with different wall thicknesses. The transition joint may be subject to axial forces and bending moments that may result in a stress concentration across the transition weld and may exceed stress based design criteria. Current engineering practices, such as CSA Z662, ASME B31.4, and ASME B31.8, recommend the use of back-bevel transition welded connections. An alternative transition weld configuration is the counterbore-taper design that is intended to reduce the stress concentration across the transition.

In this study, the relative mechanical performance of these two transition design options (i.e., back-bevel and counterbore-taper) is examined with respect to the limiting burst pressure and effect of stress concentrations due to applied loads. The assessment is conducted through numerical parameter study using 3D continuum finite element methods. The numerical modelling procedures are developed using Abaqus/Standard. The performance of continuum brick elements (C3D8I, C3D8RH, C3D20R) and shell element (S4R) are evaluated. The continuum brick element (C3D8RI) was the most effective in terms of computational requirements and predictive qualities.

The burst pressure limits of the transition weld designs were evaluated through a parameter study examining the significance of pipe diameter to wall thickness ratio (D/t), wall thickness mismatch ratio (t2/t1), material Grade 415 and Grade 483 and end-cap boundary condition effects. The limit load analysis indicated the burst pressure was effectively the same for both transition weld designs. The effect of pipe diameter, D/t, t2/t1, and counterbore length on the stress concentration factor, for each transition weld design, was also assessed. The results demonstrate the improved performance of the counterbore-taper weld transition; relative to the back-bevel design as recommended by current practice, through the relative decrease in the stress concentration factor. The minimum counterbore length was found to be consistent with company recommended practices and related to the pipe diameter and wall thickness mismatch.

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