Multipass welding of high strength steels used for fabrication and joining of transmission pipelines presents a number of metallurgical challenges. A key concern is both the strength and toughness of the heat affected zone (HAZ) adjacent to both seam and girth welds. In this work, a systematic study has been conducted on regions of the heat affected zone in the base metal where the first welding pass produces a thermal excursion which results in a coarse-grained heat affected zone (CGHAZ). The subsequent weld pass involves intercritical annealing of this region, i.e. a microstructure associated with intercritically reheated coarse grain heat affected zone (ICCGHAZ). The small ICCGHAZ region is often identified as being particularly susceptible to crack initiation. This work was undertaken to understand microstructure development in this zone and how the ICCGHAZ may affect the overall performance of the HAZ.
Gleeble thermomechanical simulations have been conducted to produce bulk samples representative of different welding scenarios. Charpy impact tests and tensile tests have been performed over a range of temperatures. It was found that when a continuous necklace of martensite-austenite islands form on the prior austenite grain boundaries (i.e. for a M/A fraction of ≈10%), the Charpy impact toughness energy is dramatically decreased and the ductile brittle transition temperature is significantly raised. Detailed studies on the secondary cracks have been conducted to examine the fracture mechanisms in the different microstructures. The results show that the lower bainite microstructures obtained after the 1st thermal treatment, representative of CGHAZ have excellent impact properties. The impact toughness of the microstructures typical of ICCGHAZ is strongly dependent on the composition as well as morphology and spatial distribution of the resulting martensite-austenite (M/A) islands transformed from inter-critically formed austenite. This zone can play a significant role in fracture initiation and thus needs to be considered in alloy and welding process designs.