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WTIA-Panel 1 Guidance Note 6 PWHT February 2003 Disclaimer appliesPage 1 of 10
Research, Education, Technical Support & Information
ABN 69 003 696 526Unit 3, Suite 2, 9 Parramatta Road, Lidcombe, 2141. PO Box 6165, Silverwater, NSW 1811 AustraliaPhone: (02) 9748 4443 Fax: (02) 9748 2858 E-mailinfo@wtia.com.auURL http://www.wtia.com.au
During the fabrication process, welding isthe most commonly used method of joiningitems together. The welding processgenerally involves melting and subsequentcooling, and the result of this thermal cycleis distortion if the welded item is free tomove, or residual stress if the item issecurely held. There comes a point when theamount of residual stress can create potential problems, either immediately or during thelife of the welded structure, and it needs to be reduced or removed. Post weld heattreatment is the most widely used form of stress relieving on completion of fabricationof welded structures. The principle is that asthe temperature is raised, the yield stress andthe elastic modulus of the material fall. A point is reached when the yield stress nolonger supports the residual stresses andsome localised plastic deformation occurs.The objective of this Guidance Note is todescribe the various post weld heattreatment techniques, when it has to be usedand the circumstances where it canlegitimately be avoided. The Note is alsointended to assist the Fabrication Industry in providing information on where to look for guidance on post weld heat treatmentheating rates, cooling rates, holdingtemperatures, holding times, thermocouple placement, thermocouple attachment, andqualification of welding procedures. It isintended for use by Welding Supervisors,Welding Inspectors, fabrication personneland Engineers involved in both thefabrication industry and typicalOwner/Operator industries.
Post weld heat treatment in the contextdescribed here refers to the process of reheating a weld to below the lower transformation temperature at a controlledrate, holding for a specific time and coolingat a controlled rate. No consideration has been given to normalising of welds incarbon-manganese and low alloy steels, tosolution annealing of stainless steels or toany precipitation hardening treatments toother alloy materials. Therefore, almost byexclusion, the materials involved will be C-Manganese steels, C-Mo, 1¼Cr½Mo,2¼Cr1Mo, 5Cr1Mo, 9Cr1Mo and12Cr1MoV steels.
The development of residual stressesapproaching or even exceeding the yieldstress is possible when welding thick sections. For certain industry sectors, eg.Petrochemical, Chemical, Oil and Gas, etc.the existence of residual stress of thismagnitude is completely unacceptable. With pressure equipment operating at 200
C and below a variety of stress corrosion crackingmechanisms under the general term“environmental cracking” become prevalent.There is also the problem of fatigue to beconsidered and the effect that residualtensile stresses have in that regard.
WTIA-Panel 1 Guidance Note 6 PWHT February 2003 Disclaimer appliesPage 2 of 10
Other industries such as Power Generationhave different considerations, and the stressdeveloped due to thermal expansion of  pipework can take on a far greater significance than residual stress due towelding. It is interesting to note that it can be shown (1) by the use of the Larson-Miller  parameter that residual stresses in non-postweld heat treated welds are almost fullyrelaxed after approximately 20,000 hours ata service temperature of 540
Tempering Effect
Post weld heat treatment will generallyresult in a modification of the microstructureof both the weld metal and heat affectedzone. With the exception of the 9Cr1Mo and12Cr1MoV materials, the microstructure of all other materials should contain a mixtureof ferrite and iron or alloy carbide. Theeffect of short-term (1 to 2 hours) post weldheat treatment on the carbide is generally beneficial, whereas longer times result in areduction in toughness due to spheroidisingeffects. The normal microstructure for the parent, weld and HAZ for the 9Cr1Mo and12Cr1MoV materials is martensite, and postweld heat treatment is absolutely essential inthese materials to temper the martensite phase.
Effect on Mechanical Properties
As a series of very general statements, thefollowing are the consequences of post weldheat treatment compared with the as-weldedcondition:
Yield strength is decreased slightly, theeffect falling off fairly rapidly with time.
The tensile strength is decreased.
The ductility is increased.
Hardness levels are reduced.
Toughness is slightly reduced at shorttimes but the effect can be significant over longer times.
Effect on Creep Properties
For creep resisting material, post weld heattreatment is required in order to fullydevelop the creep strength. This is especiallytrue for thicker components such as headers.There has been a tendency in recent years toallow waiving of the post weld heattreatment stage for thinner materials usedtypically for superheater and reheater coilsin the Power Generation industry, but avariety of conditions have to be met.
Other benefits
Improving the diffusion of hydrogen outof weld metal
Softening the heat affected zone and thusimproving toughness (although not weldmetal toughness)
Improving dimensional stability duringmachining.
Improving ductility.
Improving the resistance to stresscorrosion cracking.
Reducing the effects of cold work.
Within pressure equipment standards, therequirement for post weld heat treatment islargely a function of the material and thethickness. The material (in terms of alloycontent) and the thickness (in relation to thequench effect) control the microstructurethat will be formed. Large sectionthicknesses in alloy steels can result inmartensitic, pearlitic or bainitic structures,depending on the cooling rate, and this isusually controlled by the use of preheat. Inaddition, the thicker the material that iswelded, the greater the amount of residualstress that will be developed on cooling.
WTIA-Panel 1 Guidance Note 6 PWHT February 2003 Disclaimer appliesPage 3 of 10
For typical carbon-manganese steels, thethickness at which post weld heat treatment becomes mandatory is consistent in the 32 – 38 mm range for most of the Codes in use inAustralia. The reason for each standardchoosing a specific thickness is not entirelyclear, but little has changed over the past 30years. What is interesting though is thatexperiments conducted in the mid-1970sshowed that fully restrained butt welds incarbon-manganese steels could developresidual stresses in excess of the yield stressat a thickness of approximately 35 mm.With alloy steels, the thickness at which postweld heat treatment becomes mandatory ismuch less. Typically, the range is 13 – 20mm, and even below 13 mm, a series of strict conditions have to be met before postweld heat treatment can be waived. It isclear therefore, that with alloy steels, theremoval of residual stress is not the onlyconsideration for the application of postweld heat treatment.Post weld heat treatment of structural steelsis almost unheard of. Even in the offshoreindustry, the Nodes and K-joints on theJackets are no longer post weld heat treated.When that industry was in its infancy, postweld heat treatment was mandatory and wasapplied, but very little CTOD informationwas available then, and the materials in usesuffered laminar tearing. That has allchanged now, and very few joints requireany attention today. Similarly, the massivemachines in use in the mining industry arenot subjected to post weld heat treatment,and it is not even addressed in the range of structural welding standards, AS 1554 parts1 to 6. Therefore, the topic is essentiallylimited to the pressure equipment industry.
Most of the requirements for post weld heattreatment can be found in the fabricationStandard to which the vessel is constructed.In Australia, most fabrication standards nowrefer to AS 4458 for manufacture, and alldetails can be found there. The AmericanStandards still tend to retain their ownrequirements, and ASME I, ASME VIIIDivision 1 and ASME VIII Division 2 areall different. Part 4 of the new EN 13445deals with manufacture, and contains a lot of detail on post weld heat treatment.
Fixed Furnace
This method is traditional and well known tomost people in the fabrication industry. Afixed furnace usually consists of arectangular box made from heat resistantmaterials in which are embedded electricresistance elements. Doors open at each endand a travelling bogie allows for loading andunloading of the charge. Furnaces such asthese are often capable of heating to 1200
Cand can normalise and anneal as well asstress relieve. Some furnaces are gas fired,with two or even four nozzles at each end.Fixed furnaces tend to be large andexpensive to operate. They often have fixedthermocouples that measure the furnaceatmosphere temperature and not thetemperature of the article being heat treated.This is usually satisfactory up to around300
C, but beyond, thermocouples physically attached to the article must takeover both temperature control andtemperature measurement. Furnaces such asthese must be equipped with correctlycalibrated temperature controllers/recorderswith at least 12 recording points.Care must be taken when cooling after postweld heat treatment. Most manufacturingCodes specify a controlled rate of coolinguntil a certain temperature is reached(typically 300 – 400
C depending on thethickness), so it is normal to control cool inthe furnace before opening the doors.
Temporary Furnace
These are custom-built around a vessel,rather than transport a vessel to a fixed

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