Gaseous hydrogen is an alternative to petroleum-based fuels, but it is known to significantly reduce the fatigue and fracture resistance of steels. Steels are commonly used for containment and distribution of gaseous hydrogen, albeit under conservative operating conditions (i.e., large safety factors) to mitigate so-called gaseous hydrogen embrittlement. Economical methods of distributing gaseous hydrogen (such as using existing pipeline infrastructure) are necessary to make hydrogen fuel competitive with alternatives. The effects of gaseous hydrogen on fracture resistance and fatigue resistance of pipeline steels, however, has not been comprehensively evaluated and this data is necessary for structural integrity assessment in gaseous hydrogen environments. In addition, existing standardized test methods for environment assisted cracking under sustained load appear to be inadequate to characterize low-strength steels (such as pipeline steels) exposed to relevant gaseous hydrogen environments. In this study, the principles of fracture mechanics are used to compare the fracture and fatigue performance of two pipeline steels in high-purity gaseous hydrogen at two pressures: 5.5 MPa and 21 MPa. In particular, elastic-plastic fracture toughness and fatigue crack growth rates were measured using the compact tension geometry and a pressure vessel designed for testing materials while exposed to gaseous hydrogen.

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