Hydrogen is well known to have a detrimental influence on the ductility of low alloy steels, reducing the fracture toughness. Standard test methods to characterize fracture toughness of steels in terms of ductile tearing resistance curves have not been developed to account for any hydrogen-driven contribution to the crack extension, Δa. Simply plotting J or CTOD against Δa is not necessarily appropriate for defining the initiation fracture toughness for tests performed in a hydrogen-charging environment. This paper explores a method to further analyse experimental data collected during fracture toughness tests, which allows the contribution of plasticity (i.e. when blunting precedes ductile tearing) to be considered separately from the initiation of crack extension (which could be by stable tearing and/or by hydrogen-driven crack extension). The principle is based on the assumption that a crack growing by a hydrogen-driven mechanism in a quasi-static fracture mechanics test performed in environment may not be associated with significant ductility in the plastic zone (which would accompany crack growth by stable tearing). The analytical method presented in this paper compares the different points of deviation from linear behavior of the components of J, to isolate the effects of ductility within the plastic zone from pure crack extension. In this way, the point of crack initiation can be defined in order to determine the relevant initiation fracture toughness; whether by blunting and stable tearing, or by hydrogen-driven crack growth. This approach offers a screening method which is illustrated using examples of fracture mechanics specimens tested in environments of varying severity (air, seawater with cathodic protection, and sour service). This method can be used to identify the relevant definition of initiation fracture toughness while allowing for a combination of ductile tearing, hydrogen-driven crack extension, or both, to be present during the test.

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