Hydrogen-induced stress cracking of swaged super duplex stainless steel subsea components
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A recent subsea failure of two subsea connectors made of UNS S32760, a 25 wt% Cr super duplex stainless steel, led to an extensive root cause failure analysis. The components showed a single longitudinal crack along a swaged section, which arrested toward its thicker end. The brittle nature of the fracture surface, calcareous deposits on the component, and exposure to cathodic protection suggested hydrogen-induced stress cracking—a form of environmentally assisted cracking—as a plausible failure mechanism. Thus, the three causative factors promoting hydrogen-induced stress cracking, namely, a susceptible microstructure, a hydrogen bearing environment, as well as sufficiently high applied and residual stresses in the material were the focus of this investigation. This work details the material characterization work and presents a possible failure mechanism. The results showed that the failure developed from a combination of factors, typical for hydrogen-induced stress cracking. The measured hydrogen content in parts of the material exceeded 40 ppm, more than an order of magnitude higher than what is normally expected in super duplex stainless steels. Additionally, a highly anisotropic, coarse microstructure was observed, which in combination with the introduced cold-work from the swaging process and potential stress raisers from design and machining could have facilitated crack initiation, ultimately leading to the failure of the component. This hypothesis was reinforced by the presence of secondary cracks along the main, brittle fracture surface. Furthermore, mechanical testing results showed a detrimental effect on the material’s properties due to the presence of residual hydrogen and the swaging operation.
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