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Hydrogen induced cracking (HIC) testing of low alloy steel in sour environment - Impact of time of exposure on the extent of damage

Abstract : The selection of materials for application in the oil and gas industry in environments containing hydrogen sulphide (H 2 S) is an important matter for the safety of equipments. In the presence of H 2 S, hydrogen atoms originating from the cathodic corrosion reaction can diffuse into the steel, resulting in cracking mechanisms such as hydrogen-induced cracking (HIC) or sulphide stress cracking (SSC). For the SSC cracking mode, a diagram defining different regions of environmental severity was established in the 1990's. The requirements for SSC testing of steels in a given environment are well defined and accepted by the industry. On the other hand, fit-for-purpose (FFP) testing for HIC remains a subject of debate. The most common practice consists in 96 hours exposure under 1 bar H 2 S. But this test environment is extremely severe, and is often considered to be too conservative for the selection of steels for use in mildly sour environments. However, a universally applicable FFP test method for HIC has not yet been established. In addition to pH and H 2 S partial pressure, test duration is another major parameter for HIC testing. Therefore, this experimental study was launched to investigate the impact of time of exposure on HIC. Experiments consisted of HIC exposure tests based on the NACE TM0284-2003 standard method. Experiments were conducted in different nodes of the pH-pH 2 S diagram respectively between pH 6.5 and 3.5, and between 10 mbar and 1 bar of H 2 S. For each condition, tests with different times of exposure were realised, from only a few hours and up to three months. Characterisation of HIC consisted in ultrasonic testing. Permeation experiments were also performed in selected pH-pH 2 S conditions. Permeation transients were analysed for calculation of diffusion coefficients. Modelling of hydrogen profiles in HIC specimens was then realised, and compared with the results of HIC immersion tests. For each test condition, it was possible to draw the evolution with time of the extent of HIC. Depending on the environment, the minimum duration necessary to initiate HIC was extremely variable, from a few hours in the most severe conditions to several weeks in low severity conditions. The extent of cracking at equilibrium also seemed to vary with pH and H 2 S. A good correlation was found between HIC and permeation results, confirming that HIC is strongly linked with the increase of hydrogen concentration in the steel. These results confirm that low severity conditions require longer exposures to reach equilibrium levels of internal hydrogen. This must be taken into account for FFP HIC testing in mildly sour environment. With that aim, permeation experiments could represent an interesting technique to assess the time to reach a certain level of hydrogen in the material.
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Jean Kittel, Veronique Smanio, Laurence Garnier, Xavier Lefebvre. Hydrogen induced cracking (HIC) testing of low alloy steel in sour environment - Impact of time of exposure on the extent of damage. Eurocorr 2009, Sep 2009, Nice, France. ⟨hal-02475498⟩

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