The level of welding residual stress is an important consideration in the ECA of a structure or component such as a pipeline girth weld. Such a consideration is further complicated by their variation under load and the complexity involved in the proper assessment of fracture mechanics parameters in a welding residual stress field. In this work, 2D axi-symmetric FEA models for simulation of welding residual stresses in pipe girth welds were first developed. The modelling method was validated using experimental measurements from a 19-pass girth weld. The modeling method was used on a 3-pass pipe girth weld to predict the residual stresses and variation under various static and fatigue loadings. The predicted relaxation in welding residual stress is compared to the solutions recommended in the defect assessment procedure BS 7910. Fully circumferential internal cracks of different sizes were introduced into the FE model of the three-pass girth weld. Two methods were used to introduce a crack. In one method the crack was introduced instantaneously and the other method introduced the crack progressively. Physically, the instantaneously introduced crack represents a crack originated from manufacturing or fabrication processes, while the progressively growing crack simulates a fatigue crack induced during service. The J-integral values for the various cracks in the welding residual stress field were assessed and compared. This analysis was conducted for a welding residual stress field as a result of a welding simulation rather than for a residual stress field due to a prescribed temperature distribution as considered by the majority of previous investigations. The validation with the 19-pass welded pipe demonstrated that the welding residual stress in a pipe girth weld can be predicted reasonably well. The relaxation and redistribution of welding residual stresses in the three-pass weld were found to be significantly affected by the magnitude of applied loads and the strain hardening models. The number of cycles in fatigue loading was shown to have little effect on relaxation of residual stresses, but the range and maximum load together governed the relaxation effect. A significant reduction in residual stresses was induced after first cycle but subsequent cycles had no marked effect. The method of introducing a crack in a FE model, progressively or instantaneously, has a significant effect on J-integral, with a lower value of J obtained for a progressively growing crack. The path-dependence of the J-integral in a welding residual stress field is discussed.

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