The oil and gas industry has seen unexpected failures of sour service carbon steel pipelines in the recent past. Below par performance of girth welds and line pipe material have been identified as the root causes of such failures. Although mechanized welding can achieve good consistency, the weld region is more heterogeneous as compared to base material, which can lead to inconsistencies and poor weld performance. Overall, the effects of welding parameters on performance of carbon steel pipeline girth welds for sour service are not well understood. Furthermore, industry is moving towards more challenging environments, such as production of hydrocarbons from ultra-deepwater, which further necessitates the need to improve welding practices for additional high criticality applications. Many of the critical parameters for sour service performance will also improve general weld performance for ultra-deepwater. So, there is a clear need to understand the effects of various welding parameters on weld properties and performance.
This effort aims at assessing the effects of key welding parameters on performance of girth welds to develop improved welding practice guidelines for sour service pipeline applications. In this study, several API X65 grade line pipe girth welds were made using commercially available welding consumables. The effects on weld root performance of preheat, wire consumable chemistry, hot pass tempering, single vs. dual torch, copper backing, root pass heat input, metal transfer mode, pipe fit-up (root gap, misalignment) were studied. Generally, carbon steel welds with hardness 250HV or below are considered acceptable for sour service. So, detailed microhardness mapping and microstructural characterization were conducted to evaluate the performance and reliability of welds. It was evident that the welding parameters studied have a significant impact on root performance. Preheat and pipe fit-up showed the most significant impact on weld root performance. Based on the results and understanding developed with this study, recommendations for industry are provided through this paper to improve reliability of pipeline girth welds in sour service application.