There have been recent incidents associated with cracking and leaks in C-Mn line pipe steels exposed to high H2S service. The incidents led to pipeline replacement with very expensive CRA clad pipeline causing substantial project delays and project cost escalations.
The incidents occurred when TMCP ACC steels were exposed to severe Region 3 environment as per domain diagram in NACE MR0175 (high partial pressure of H2S). The leaks were associated with longitudinal cracking which initiated at hard zones present on the parent pipe internal surface, and possibly also in girth welds.
The hard spots were observed to be contained within a very shallow depth of the ID surface of the pipe. The pipe microstructure beyond the thin layer of the hard zones at the ID surface did not contain hard material. However, the cracks propagated through the parent pipe normal microstructure in the through thickness direction.
Several of the operators are now concerned and uncertain on how to ensure the integrity of C-Mn pipelines in similar severe sour environments. Some operators have therefore introduced more stringent requirements for sour environment resulting in significant challenges to manufacture of line pipes and qualification of welding procedures that meet these new requirements. We also see different requirements being imposed by different operators. The use of CRA, clad/lined pipes or other exotic materials can solve the challenges, but are very expensive and can significantly reduce margins and make several sour service projects less viable.
Several R&D institutions have already started to study the phenomena. DNV GL have also initiated a broad JIP that will look into the challenges, with the objective of developing an industry guideline for use of C-Mn line pipe for high H2S service.
This paper will give background on the challenges associated with using C-Mn steel in high H2S service, describe the various uncertainties in detail, and describe how the JIP will address the challenges on a broad basis.