The present work aims to evaluate the microstructural mechanisms associated with the initiation of fatigue damage in steels used in the petroleum industry. Microdeformations and residual stresses (macrostresses) are evaluated by X-ray diffraction in real time during alternating bending fatigue tests performed on samples taken from an API 5L X60 grade steel pipe. Microdeformations are evaluated from measurements of the full width at half maximum (FWHM) of the diffraction peak and residual stresses are estimated from the peak displacement. The evolution of microdeformations shows three regular successive stages of changes. The amplitude of variation of each stage is intensified with increasing stress amplitude, while the duration is reduced. A similar evolution is found for residual stresses, whose stages of changes have nearly the same durations as those of microdeformations. Changes in density and distribution of dislocations are observed by transmission electron microscopy combined with the technique of focused ion beam. To understand the role of the initial structure, fatigue tests on annealed samples are performed under the same test conditions. Again, three stages of changes are observed, but with an increase in microdeformations instead of a decrease during the first stage due to the initial state of the dislocation network. The results are very encouraging for the consideration of microstructural changes measured by X-ray diffraction in the development of a future indicator of fatigue damage initiation in API 5L X60 grade steel pipes.

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