During fabrication of Pressure Vessels, steels undergo several heat treatments that aim to confer the required properties on the entire equipment, including welds and base metal. Indeed, the production heat treatment of the base material, which leads to achieve the target properties, is most of the time followed by post weld heat treatment (PWHT). The aim of such treatments is to insure a good behavior of the welded zones in terms of residual stresses and obviously properties such as toughness. Generally, many simulated PWHT (up to 4 or more) are required for the testing of the base material, which can affect its properties and even lead to unacceptable results. In some cases for fabrication purposes an intermediate Stress relieving treatment can be required. Special attention is paid on C-Mn steels (e.g., SA/A516 from ASME BPV Code) with the effect of thickness and Ceq (International Institute of Welding Carbon equivalent formula: see page 3) requirements on the final compromise between properties and heat treatments. In particular, toughness and ultimate tensile strength (UTS) are the critical parameters that will limit the acceptance of too high PWHT. Although micro-alloying is a mean to increase the resistance to PWHT, this leads to difficulties in softening the heat affected zones. This solution is therefore not the best one considering the whole equipment optimization. Finally, the manufacturing process can play a major role when specifications are stringent. Quenching and tempering (Q&T) can indeed provide better flexibility in terms of PWHT and improved toughness for given Ceq and thickness. The case of Cr-Mo(-V) steels, which are widely used in the energy industry, is also addressed. Indeed, PWHT requirements for increasing the toughness in the weld metal can lead to decrease the base metal properties below the specification limits. For example, the case of SA/A387gr11 is very typical of metallurgical changes that can occur during these high PWHT leading to a degradation of toughness in the base metal. Another focus is made on the Vanadium Cr-Mo grade SA/A542D that must withstand very high PWHT (705 °C and even 710 °C) because of welds toughness issues. Optimization has therefore to be done to increase the resistance to softening and to guarantee acceptable microstructure, especially in the case of thick wall vessels. Some ways for improvement are proposed on the basis of the equivalent Larson–Miller parameter (LMP) tempering parameter concept. The basic philosophy is to fulfil the need for discussion between companies involved in pressure vessels fabrication so that the best compromise can be found to ensure the best and safest behavior of the equipment as a whole. In particular, the tempering operation can sometimes be done at lower temperature than PWHT in order to offer the best properties to the final vessel.

References

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