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Proceedings of the 2012 9th International Pipeline Conference IPC2012 September 24-28, 2012, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

IPC2012-90229

INCREASED ROBUSTNESS IN HYPERBARIC WELDING OF SUBSEA PIPELINES BY INTRODUCING COPPER BACKING


Hans Fostervoll SINTEF Materials and Chemistry Trondheim, Norway Odd Magne Akselsen SINTEF Materials and Chemistry, NTNU Trondheim, Norway Jan Olav Berge Statoil Haugesund, Norway

ABSTRACT Hyperbaric tie-in and repair welding of pipelines at the seabed is performed as full penetration TIG butt welding. Variations in pipe end fit-ups make the root pass welding challenging with relatively low robustness. The present investigation concerns with exploiting copper backing to increase the root pass welding robustness. Initial welding experiments are performed at 15.4bara ambient pressure with the TIG process based on the technique and procedures used by the Statoil PRS (Pipeline Repair System). The results demonstrate that significant increase in robustness can be achieved, which can be an important contribution in the strive for cost reductions. Mechanical testing and microstructure examination of the weld metal revealed no negative influence of the copper backing. Initial MIG root pass welding experiments at 11bara are also performed as a part of the development of hyperbaric MIG butt welding of pipelines. These results are promising and demonstrate that by exploiting copper backing can robust procedures be developed, which opens for deep water MIG butt welding in the future.

SINTEF and others, started the development of a diver assisted system based on remotely controlled TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding, given the name PRS (Pipeline Repair System) /1/. After the first subsea tie-in weld in 1988, 85 hyperbaric welds have been performed in water depths down to 218m. In 2011 and 2012 PRS was used for the tie-in welds at the 48 inches Nord Stream pipeline from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea. The welding is performed as full penetration butt welding in an U-groove machined at the sea bed. Variations in root face thickness, root gaps and alignment of the pipe ends make the root pass welding challenging with regard to controlling the root weld penetration. Hence, the welding requires tight tolerances of the bevel machining and the alignment of the pipes, which are time consuming and expensive to achieve. Still, the risk of incomplete penetration or burn-through is significant, which requires time-consuming and expensive weld repair. A way to increase the robustness of the welding and reduce the preparation costs, can be to apply an internal weld pool support, i.e. weld backing, which is extensively used in lay barge and onshore pipeline welding. However, use of backing in remotely controlled welding on the seabed under hyperbaric conditions is of practical reasons more challenging both regarding equipment handling and welding. For example larger variations in pipe end fit-ups have to be handled than normally in conventional pipeline welding.

INTRODUCTION Development of reliable technology for subsea tie-in and repair welding of pipelines has been of vital importance for exploitation of the oil and gas fields in the North Sea. In the early eighties, Hydro and Statoil, in close cooperation with

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The depth limit for use of divers in The North Sea is by Statoil set to 180m, which has enforced the development of diver-less technology for tie-in and repair welding of pipelines at deeper waters. Based on extensive research and development on hyperbaric welding down to 2500m sea depth, performed by Richardson et al at Cranfield University /2,3/, MIG (Metal Inert Gas) was selected as the most suitable welding process for future remotely controlled deep water welding operations. The MIG process proved to be more insensitive to ambient pressure variations compared to TIG and the welding parameters can be kept constant over a wider depth range. However, due to its process characteristics, full penetration butt welding, as used in the diver assisted TIG welding, was found to be too challenging. Since robustness is of crucial importance in deep water operations, the conventional butt joint was replaced with a sleeve solution, where the sleeve is welded to the pipe by MIG fillet welding /3,4/. On the other hand, the current work is a contribution to the development of butt welding also with the MIG process, if possible to replace the sleeve solution in the future. The motivation of the work presented here was to investigate and demonstrate the possibilities regarding robust root pass welding by exploiting copper backing both in TIG and MIG butt welding of pipes under hyperbaric conditions. Copper was chosen since it is proven to be suitable as weld backing due to its high thermal conductivity, and is in extensive use in lay barge and onshore pipeline welding. The practical solutions for use under real hyperbaric welding operations, i.e. backing tool design etc., is not dealt with here. It is assumed that this can be based on known pigging technology.

Root face High/Low 2.90 1.5 2.61 0 1 2.75 0.5 1.0 Root gap

FIGURE 1. FIT-UP RANGE BOX FOR PRS TIG WELDING (BLUE/GREY AREA IS NOMINAL).

Equipment The TIG welding experiments were performed in a chamber as shown in Figure 2, as orbital welding on pipe test coupons with outer diameter 310mm. The copper backing was installed as shown in Figure 3 and the backing design is shown in Figure 4.

EXPERIMENTAL - TIG Introduction The robustness of a root pass welding procedure can be characterised by its ability to cope with different fit-ups, i.e. variations in root gap, high/low and root face thickness. In standard PRS TIG welding procedures the acceptable fit-up range is of practical reasons divided into boxes, each covered by one set of welding parameters. The nominal fit-up box covers 0-0.5mm root gap, 2.61-2.90mm root face thickness combined with 0-1.5mm high/low, as shown in Figure 1. If weld backing can be exploited, it is believed that the acceptable fit-up range and hence the robustness can be increased considerably.

FIGURE 2. THE HYPERBARIC TIG WELDING CHAMBER.

FIGURE 3. THE COPPER BACKING INSTALLED.

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FIGURE 4. THE COPPER BACKING DESIGN.

The half of the circumference (from 6 to 12 o'clock) was welded with and the other half without copper backing, with the same root pass welding parameters, Table 1, for both sides. The backing was removed when the weld was completed. The pipe material was API X65 with nominal thickness 13.7mm. Its yield and tensile strength was 499 and 582MPa, respectively. The base metal chemical composition is outlined in Table 2, basically showing small additions of Ni and Cu.
TABLE 2. BASE METAL CHEMICAL COMPOSITION (weight%).

Root pass welding robustness To get an indication of the robustness achievable with backing, root pass welding trials with a "cold" fit-up (2.90mm root face and no gap) and a "warm" fit-up (2.61mm root face and 1mm gap) were performed without adjusting the welding current. The only adjustment was an increase of the wire feed from 0.2 m/min to 0.3m/min to compensate for the wider root gap. Basically, the welding parameters for the nominal fit-up box shown in Table 1, was used, with the exception of the high pulse welding current, which was increased with 40A. In Figure 1 the tested fit-ups are shown as blue and red points. The ambient pressure for all tests was 15.4bara, corresponding to 144m sea depth.
TABLE 1. TIG WELDING DATA

C Si Mn Ni Cu Al 0.09 0.27 1.36 0.15 0.16 0.028 1 With traces of Cr and Mo. P: 0.008, S: 0.0004.

Ti 0.004

The welding wire was 1.6mm solid wire with chemical composition indicated in Table 3. It shows that the wire contains primarily Ni and Mo alloying, but also some Cu. This alloying level provides some weld metal overmatch in strength, and the wire can be used for both X65 and X70 welding.
TABLE 3. WIRE CHEMICAL COMPOSITION (weigth%). C 0.08
1

Si <0.10

Mn 1.36

Ni 1.02

Mo 0.57

Cu 0.20

Only traces of Cr. P: 0.005, S: 0.0005; Al: 0.020.

Base material

Pipe X65, 10" Wall thickness: 12.7mm Filler wire Kobe TGS 60A, 1.6mm Chamber gas He + 0.5% O2 Shielding gas 70% He + 30% Ar Root pass (Nominal fit-up box) Clock positions Current, (0.4s/0.4s) 6 (start) 8-9 12 4-3 140A/55A 110A/55A 150A/55A Voltage 24V Weld. speed 1.0mm/s Wire speed 0.20m/min Weaving Dwell time left/right: 0.4s Width: 1-2mm

Potential influence of copper backing on weld metal properties To investigate whether the copper backing used in the TIG experiments has any influence on the weld metal microstructure and mechanical properties, a complete TIG butt weld was produced. For this test the nominal fit-up was used, i.e. root face thickness was 2.75mm and no gap and high/low.

Weld Evaluation: Charpy V notch specimens of subsized dimensions (10mm x 7.5mm in cross section, and 55mm in length) were cut perpendicular to the welding direction with the through thickness notch located in the weld metal centre and the fusion line. Thus, the fracture path was parallel with the welding direction. For the FL location, the fracture will encompass tentatively 50% weld metal and 50% HAZ along the notch. The testing was conducted at -30C, carried out in agreement with the offshore standard DNV-OSF101 (Submarine pipeline systems). Specimens for macrographic inspection and microstructure characterization were cut from each weld perpendicular to the welding direction (cross sections). These were subjected to standard metallographic techniques, including grinding and polishing, and finally, etching in a 2% nital solution. Vickers pyramid hardness measurements were performed using 10kg load (HV10), with traverses taken 1.5mm below the pipe surface in both cap and root sides. In addition, a through thickness hardness profile was included in the centre of the weld metal.

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RESULTS AND DISCUSSION TIG Root pass welding robustness The results of welding with "cold" and "warm" fit-ups without changing the welding current, are shown in Figure 5. The penetration and appearance of the root surfaces are judged to be acceptable for both in all clock positions, with the highest surface quality for the "warm" fit-up. This indicates clearly, that compared to conventional welding without backing, the fit-up box covered by one single parameter set can be significantly increased, which means improved robustness. It indicates also that the requirements to the tolerances today required for the groove machining and pipe alignment at the sea bed, which are time consuming and expensive to achieve, can be lowered. "Cold" fit-up Root face: 2.90 High/Low: 1.5 Root gap: 0
5 o'clock 2 o'clock 12 o'clock

Influence on weld metal properties The root surface of the welds with and without backing, welded with the same welding parameters, is shown in Figure 6. Both welds are visually judged to be acceptable. However, as expected the appearance is somewhat different, indicating a colder weld with backing due to the cooling effect from the copper backing.

With backing

Without backing

14 o'clock 8 o'clock

6 o'clock

3 o'clock

1 o'clock

"Warm" fit-up Root face: 2.61 High/Low: 1.5 Root gap: 1.0
5 o'clock 2 o'clock 12 o'clock

11 o'clock

1 o'clock

FIGURE 6. ROOT PASS WELDED WITH AND WITHOUT COPPER BACKING SEEN FROM THE BACK SIDE AT CORRESPONDING POSITIONS. (Fit-up: Root face 2.75mm, root gap 0mm, high/low 0mm).

6 o'clock

4 o'clock

1 o'clock

FIGURE 5. THE ROOT WELDS SEEN FROM THE BACKSIDE, WELDED WITH "COLD" AND "WARM" FIT-UP.

Weld Macrographs: The macrograph of the weld with and without backing is shown in Figures 7 and 8, respectively. The two welds have the same appearance with the same number of stringer beads; i.e., a total number of 8 beads in addition to a dressing pass. The only difference is the root pass, which is without reinforcement when backing is used. Consequently, the weld profile in the root area is different between the two cases with narrower weld metal in the weld

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with backing. Here, the profile of the visible heat affected zone (HAZ) is also narrower, a width of 8mm (weld metal + the visible HAZ) compared with 11.2mm for the weld without backing. This fact indicates that welding with copper backing cause steeper temperature gradient and faster cooling, which will be important to clarify in the metallographic inspection below. It is not surprising if this is the case since copper has high heat conductivity. Impact Toughness: The Charpy V notch impact toughness at -30C is reported in Table 4. Thus, the toughness is excellent with all individual values above 169J. With these values it can be stated that the use of backing does not act harmful to the weld metal or fusion line toughness. It is difficult to see any difference between the two welds.
TABLE 4. CHARPY V NOTCH TEST RESULTS.

Metallographic Inspection: Hardness profiles across the weld were measured 1.5 mm below the surfaces. The results are summarized in Table 5. Low maximum hardness levels were found with all values below 240. The highest individual value was 237, found in the weld metal of the root side. In the HAZ, the highest value was 217, also found in the root pass. Both these highest individuals were located in the weld performed with backing. Although the hardness differences between the weld with and without backing are small, the data seems to confirm that there is somewhat faster cooling when copper backing is used.

TABLE 5. RESULTS FROM HARDNESS MEAUREMENTS.

Position Weld metal Fusion line

Charpy V notch toughness at -30C (J) Without backing With backing 185, 197, 194 204, 169, 207 Mean: 192 Mean: 193 209, 202, 199 193, 188, 194 Mean: 203 Mean: 192

Position

Weld Backing No backing Backing No backing Backing No backing

Cap Root Through thickness weld metal

Maximum individual hardness, HV10 Base Weld HAZ metal metal 223 203 221 184 204 212 177 217 232 177 203 210 237 225

13.7 mm

In the following section, the microstructure examination is discussed. Emphasis is put on welding without backing, since this is the current welding practice for hyperbaric tie-ins and repair. If differences occur in the weld with backing, this will be explained. The macrographs contained in Figures 7 and 8 demonstrate that there is extensive recrystallization, with only small isolated areas left of primary weld metal. Here, the microstructure is a mixture of acicular ferrite in the grain interior with ferrite side plates growing from the prior austenite grain boundaries, which in turn, were occasionally decorated by grain boundary ferrite. Acicular ferrite is by far the dominating constituent, Figure 9.

FIGURE 7. MACROGRAPH OF TIG WELD WITH BACKING (10:30 o'clock position).

13.7

FIGURE 8. MACROGRAPH OF TIG WELD WITHOUT BACKING (1:30 o'clock position).

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FIGURE 9. MICROGRAPH OF PRIMARY WELD METAL (without backing).

considering the toughness values contained in Table 4, there is no negative effect observed for the weld made with copper backing. This is probably linked to the high degree of recrystallization in the area encompassed by the Charpy test. Small isolated islands of primary weld metal were only found in the upper part of the weld, which was the initial cap layer. The heat affected zone microstructure was surprisingly fine grained. It is seen from Figure 13a that the initial banded base metal ferrite-pearlite microstructure is extended into the fusion line. The details are seen in the close-up in Figure 13b. The ferrite grain size was estimated to be ~9m. This kind of microstructure is found over a large HAZ area. Similar microstructure and ferrite grain size was found in the weld with copper backing, indicating that the microstructure difference for the two welds primarily is related to the root area. As concluded for the weld metal toughness, HAZ is not negatively influenced by the use of copper backing.

Reheating of the cap centre area did not change the initial microstructure very much for the coarse grained reheated zone. Still, acicular ferrite is the dominating microstructure, but with some more ferrite side plates, Figure 10a. The grain boundary ferrite seems to disappear on reheating to high temperatures. In the fine grained reheated area, there is still some acicular ferrite and ferrite side plates. However, the dominating microstructure seems to be more equiaxed ferrite (but still with irregular shape), and not at least, the overall microstructure is finer, Figure 10b. The different regions (coarse grained and fine grained reheated zones) are repeated throughout the plate thickness until the area reheated by bead number 4 from the root side. Remaining parts of an inter critically reheated region are also present in some parts of the weld, but the extension is rather limited both with respect to depth and width. The microstructure in these regions consists of a mixture of acicular ferrite, polygonal ferrite, ferrite side plates and degenerated pearlite, Figure11. It is also seen that some new, very fine ferrite grains have been formed, which may indicate that the temperature has been slightly above the Ac1 isotherm. Unlike previous observations /10/, the harmful martensiteaustenite (M-A) phase seems to be absent; it appears to be degenerated pearlite and carbides inside the former austenite islands. However, this needs further investigation in electron microscope for verification. In the 1-4 passes, and especially in the root region, the microstructure is mainly ferritic with small islands of a second phase (dark areas in Figure 12), which seems to be degenerated pearlite or carbide aggregates. In the weld carried out with backing, there are also areas of fine bainite. In addition, an inspection of Figure 12 may indicate that the ferrite grain size is slightly smaller when welding with backing (7.6m, compared with 9.4m without backing). The two latter observations confirm that the cooling rate is higher when copper backing is used. This minor difference in grain size is in agreement with the slightly higher hardness. When

(a) (a)

(b)

(b)

FIGURE 10. MICROGRAPH OF REHEATED WELD METAL: (a) COARSE GRAINED, (b) FINE GRAINED REGIONS (without backing).

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(a)

(a)

(b)

(b)

FIGURE 11. MICROGRAPH OF INTERCRITICALLY REHEATED WELD METAL; WITHOUT BACKING; (b) is close-up of (a).

FIGURE 12. MICROGRAPH OF ROOT PASS WELD METAL. (a) WITHOUT BACKING, (b) WITH BACKING.

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(a)

HAZ

Weld metal

FIGURE 14. CHAMBER FOR HYPERBARIC MIG WELDING.

(b) Test Program Maximum root gap and misalignment to be coped with, i.e. the requirement to root pass welding robustness for a diverless deep water system for MIG butt welding, was set to 2mm for both. The experiments were therefore performed with root gaps 0mm and 2mm, combined with 2mm high/low in 4 welding positions, to simulate orbital pipe welding. The base material was C-Mn steel with thickness 15mm, width 150mm and length 200mm. The welding groove was of U-shape with root face thickness 2.5mm and land length 2mm. The copper backing bar was 35mm wide and 13mm thick. The bar was rounded to minimize the gap between the backing and pipe when welding with misalignment (high/low). The groove and backing configuration is shown in Figure 15. The other main welding data are shown in Table 6. The same welding parameters and process settings were used for all welding positions and both fit-ups.

FIGURE 13. MICROGRAPH OF HAZ CLOSE TO THE FUSION LINE IN MID THICKNESS POSITION OF PLATE WELDED WITHOUT BACKING. (a) OVERVIEW, (b) CLOSEUP OF YELLOW AREA IN (a).

EXPERIMENTAL - MIG Equipment The MIG welding experiments were performed as longitudinal welding in the hyperbaric welding chamber shown in Figure 14. The chamber can be rotated and set in fixed positions for welding in all clock positions for simulating orbital pipe welding. The chamber was pressurised with argon. The power source, welding process control system and settings (nonpulsed mode) were identical to those used in the development of the deep water welding procedures for the PRS welded sleeve system, performed by Isotek at Cranfield University, /3/. This procedure has further been tested at lower pressure by SINTEF /6/.

FIGURE 15. THE MIG WELDING GROOVE AND COPPER BACKING CONFIGURATION.

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TABLE 6. MIG WELDING DATA. Ambient pressure Filler wire Wire speed Welding speed Weld. current/voltage 11 bara (100m sea depth) Esab HBQ Coreweld, 1.0mm 8.0 m/min 4.7 mm/s 248A/18.2V (average, dip transfer conditions, electrode negative) Width: 4mm Dwell time left/rigth: 0.4s Frequency: 1 Hz 0o 10mm

Welding (clock) position

Root gap 2mm High/low 2mm

Root gap 0mm High/low 2mm

12

Weaving Torch lead/trail inclination Torch tip stand-off

3 (Down)

4:30 RESULTS AND DISCUSSION MIG The results are shown in Figure 16 as macrographs of the root welds in four welding positions, representing orbital pipe welding. All welds appear as acceptable with respect to weld bead profile with safe sidewall fusion and relatively smooth transitions to the base material. However, use of backing introduces a risk of root overlap, depending on i.a. how good the backing fits to the pipe. Here, a rounded backing profile was used to minimize the gap between the backing and pipe, resulting in no or very small root laps. A profiled backing requires accurate positioning of the backing tool, which will be challenging under pipe welding at the sea bed. However, the results demonstrate that by exploiting backing, hyperbaric MIG root pass welding with high robustness is possible, which makes MIG butt welding to a realistic option. In the further work it will be focused on the development of a backing system based on flexible flat backing shoes, making positioning less critical. It will also be performed welding trials at higher ambient pressure. Copper Contamination Copper contamination of the weld metal is an issue when using copper backing. However, no indication of surface contamination could be seen on the TIG welds. But on the MIG welds in wide root gaps, spots with copper adhered to the root weld surface could be seen occasionally. Depending on the actual pipeline application, this can be critical with respect to corrosion properties. This risk is assumed to be higher in the current hyperbaric application than in conventional pipeline welding, due to the fact that wider fit-up tolerances have to be counted on, leading to higher heat load on the copper from the welding arc. How to reduce or eliminate this will be studied in the further work. One alternative to be tested is different types of coating of the copper. (Down)

FIGURE 16. MACROGRAPHS OF THE ROOT WELDS IN DIFFERENT WELDING POSITIONS AND WITH TWO DIFFERENT FIT-UPS.

CONCLUSIONS Based on the hyperbaric TIG and MIG welding experiments with copper backing carried out in this study, the following conclusions may be drawn: The results indicate that compared to the hyperbaric TIG butt welding technique as used by PRS to day, the robustness of the root pass welding can be significantly increased by exploiting copper backing. No copper contamination of the TIG root weld surfaces was observed. It was demonstrated that by exploiting copper backing can MIG root pass welding be performed with high robustness, which makes hyperbaric MIG butt welding of pipelines to a realistic option in the future. There is a risk of copper contamination of the weld metal when welding in wide root gaps with MIG, when using

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pure copper backing. Coating of the copper backing can probably be an option to avoid this and will be tested in the further work. The hardness of the examined TIG welds was low with maximum weld metal and HAZ hardness of 237 and 217 (HV10), respectively. The toughness of the welds at -30C is excellent with the lowest single value of 169J. The introduction of copper backing did not have any negative impact on the TIG weld metal or fusion line toughness. It was observed that the use of copper backing may cause steeper temperature gradients and narrower weld zone (weld metal + visible HAZ) in the root area due to the high thermal conductivity of copper. This seemed to cause a finer ferrite grain size to occur in the root pass.

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Fostervoll H., Woodward N., Akselsen O.M.: The effects on process performance of reducing the pressure from 36 to 1bar in hyperbaric MIG welding., Paper No. 79291, OMAE, Hawaii 2009. Akselsen O.M., Fostervoll H., Hrsvr A., Aune R.: Mechanical Properties in Hyperbaric GTA Welding of X70 Pipeline, Int. J. Offshore and Polar Eng. 16, 2006, 233-240.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The present work was financed by the Research Council of Norway (Petromaks project 192967/S60), Statoil, Technip and EFD Induction and performed within the DEEPIT (Deep Water Repair and Hot tapping) project. The authors would like to thank Mr. Ansgar Hrsvr and Mrs. Synnve ldstedt for their technical assistance in welding and metallography, respectively.

REFERENCES 1. Akselsen O.M., Aune R., Fostervoll H., Hrsvr A. S.: Dry Hyperbaric Welding of Subsea Pipelines in the North Sea, Welding Journal, June 2006, pp 2-5. 2. Richardson I. M., Nixon J. H., Nosal P., Hart P., and Billingham J.: Hyperbaric GMA Welding to 2,500m Water Depth, Paper No. OMAE 2000 2160, Proceedings of ETCE/OMAE2000 Joint Conference, Energy for the New Millenium, February 14-17, 2000, New Orleans, LA, USA 3. Hart P., Richardson I.M., Nixon J.H.: The effects of pressure on electrical performance and weld bead geometry in high pressure GMA welding, Welding in the World, Vol. 45, no. 11/12 2001. 4. Woodward N. J. et al: Subsea Pipeline Repair Diverless GMA Welding Using A Fillet Welded Sleeve, IIW Doc. XII-1868-05, SCUW-211-05, IIW Conference, Prague, Czech Republic, 2005. 5. Woodward N. J., Knagenhelm H. O., Berge J. O., Verley R., and Armstrong M. A.: Hyperbaric GMA Welding for Contingency Repair using a Fillet Welded Sleeve at 1000m Water Depth, Paper No. ISOPE-2007- JSC-455, ISOPE Conference, Lisbon, Portugal, July 1-6, 2007.

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