Fracture mechanics assessments for pressure vessels are performed to determine critical flaw sizes and/or estimate the fatigue life of a growing crack as a means of establishing inspection intervals for the equipment. In most cases the evaluation is performed based on methods described in API 579-1/ASME FFS-1 and BS7910. The approaches described in these standards are mostly based on a linear elastic fracture mechanics approach. Even though plasticity can be accounted for by using a failure assessment diagram (FAD); however, even with this approach the effect of plastic strain around the crack is not explicitly considered.

This paper presents an approach as per API 579, Annex 9G.5 which recommends utilizing a driving force method whereby the J-integral is directly evaluated from an elastic-plastic finite element model. The main goal is to study differences between the FAD approach against the elastic-plastic J-integral approach wherein the crack is modeled explicitly. Simplified representative geometries are considered for this study. Two scenarios for the plastic zone are considered a) crack present during initial loading with no residual plastic strain and b) crack in a residual stress zone. Different crack sizes are considered for this comparison study ranging from small cracks completely embedded within the plastic region and larger cracks with partial embedment.

The paper presents comparison studies which highlight the key differences between different analysis approaches with the aim of identifying the most conservative assessment method for different crack geometries.

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