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by J. Malcolm Gray

Paper presented at the "API X-80 Pipeline Cost Workshop" Hobart, Australia - 30 October 2002

An Independent View of Linepipe and Linepipe Steel for High Strength Pipelines: How to get Pipe that's Right for the Job at the Right Price by J. Malcolm Gray


This paper describes the state of development of high strength linepipe up to X-100 and beyond. API Grade X-80 pipe steel, the subject of this conference, is available in the market place in ERW, DSAW and SMLS product forms and has been for several years, however, only large diameter DSAW systems and seamless risers have been installed to date.

This paper describes a reliable, proven methodology to be applied in sequential steps for procuring large or small quantities of high quality linepipe from mills worldwide. It is expected to be especially useful for sourcing a new grade such as X-80 from an unproven manufacturer. The approach was developed and refined during the past two decades and was successfully used for purchase of 1,766 miles of sour service X-70 linepipe for the All American Pipeline System, a summary of the project outcome is included in the paper.



Linepipe strengths have increased steadily during the past 40 years as metallurgical practices and manufacturing techniques have evolved in response to the demands of the marketplace. Technical requirements and expectations have escalated continuously as both the oil and gas industry and pipe production have become fully internationalized and very competitive. It can be argued that linepipe installability and reliability have simultaneously improved due to impressive improvements in steelmaking, rolling, pipe manufacturing and inspection technologies. Despite this, adoption of new grades representing increments in strength have been impeded by tangible and intangible factors, many of which are being discussed in this workshop. The present paper reviews the state of the art concerning

pipeline steels having yield strengths of 80 ksi (551 MPa) and above and presents a methodology for procuring the correct steel at a sensible price.


Line Pipe Development X-80 and Beyond

Available yield strength levels have doubled in the past 50 years from the X-42 to X-52 (289 - 358 MPa) range in 1950 to 100 ksi (689 MPa) and above. The overlapping development periods for each grade are presented in Figure 1. The early higher strength steels were based on heat treatment of vanadium microalloyed steel whereas more recent steels, up to the present day, are based on thermomechanical processing of low carbon complex steel compositions which universally depend on the beneficial effects of niobium during hot rolling.

Figure 1. Development periods for high strength linepipe.

The adoption dates for new or even improved steels have lagged the initial developments by between 10 and 15 years. This is true even as the pace of metallurgical development has accelerated due to the emergence of Exxon-Mobil, an end user in the steel development business. This can be traced to conservatism in the pipeline industry as well as the time it takes to develop the data necessary to support the end user design and safety concerns.

The inertia concerning the adoption rate has held despite seemingly impatient or irresistible demands of the marketplace, some of which are chronicled in Table I. For example, one of the first initiatives to transport natural gas from Alaska to Canadian and USA market circa 1970 was based on X-80 strength levels (48 inch [1202 mm] O.D., 0.60" [15.24 mm] w.t. and 90 ft-lbs [120 J] CVN energy at -90F [-69C]). The steels were mostly developed by 1972[1] but the first Alaskan gas project has yet to be built! However, X-80 linepipe was indeed adopted some eleven years later in the Megal and Ruhr Gas Projects,[2-5] a delay of 10-12 years. By this yardstick significant usage of small diameter X-80 HFERW linepipe, which has been available since 1993[6], may be imminent.

Table I Stimuli for Technological Development

Date 1943 Event Discovery of ductile-brittle transition in carbon steels. Above characteristics considered relevant to pipelines. Brittle fracture propagation of 13 km in NPS 30 pipeline. Propagating ductile fracture in non-brittle, supposedly crack resistant, material. Proposed construction of Alaskan/ Canadian gas pipelines (CAGSL) HIC failure in X-65 BP pipeline in Ummshaif (Arabian) Gulf. Unpredictable fracture arrest in full scale (CAGSL) tests. Attributed to rich gas, separations, high hoop stress and faulty models. Stress corrosion cracking failures in newly installed Australian and Canadian pipelines. Molybdenum "shortage" and price escalation. Vanadium price increase to $50/kilo Development of deepwater oil and gas reserves and design of Oman-India and Black Sea pipeline. Industry Reaction Introduction of 15 ft-lb CVN energy requirement into specifications for ship plate. TV introduced 3.5 mkg/cm2 energy requirement for pipelines. Development of Battelle drop weight tear test (BDWTT). Introduction of minimum Charpy energy requirements based on various fracture models. Steel development frenzy centered on X-80 (551 MPa) and -69C (-90F) toughness requirements. Introduction of BP test (NACE TM-02-84 [Solution B]). Introduction of crack arrestors, improved fracture arrest modeling and revision of rolling ideas for high strength linepipe. Better metallurgical (hardness) controls and improved external coatings. Improved operating practices. Mo designed out of X-70 steels. Nb-Cr design introduced plus TMCP. Vanadium eliminated from many steels. Mo and Cr + TMCP substituted. Very heavy wall thickness (44 mm) collapse-resistant DSAW linepipe developed for pipelines and TLP tendons as well as high strength (80 ksi) seamless risers. Ultra high strength (135 ksi UTS) steels considered and composite reinforcement of conventional steels introduced.

1954 1960 Dec. 1968 Jan. 1969 1970

1972 1974


1978 1988/89 1990


Need for very high pressure systems for Arctic developments in remote areas.

The literature abounds with technical data concerning the metallurgy, welding and fracture resistance of X-80 linepipe in all diameters and pipe types (ERW, SMLS and DSAW). The required technology is undoubtedly available, in many quarters, for manufacturing high quality pipe in large quantities. All obstacles appear to be surmountable.

For example higher strength grades such as X-80 or ultra high strength X-100/120 require very high Charpy V-notch or DWTT energies for ductile fracture control which can only be achieved in clean low sulfur steels. Fortunately, steelmaking and desulfurization technologies have advanced to the point where sulfur content <10 ppm are available on a large scale and even amongst the emerging steel producers in Korea, Ukraine, India and China. The effect of the reduced sulfur contents on Charpy V-notch energy is shown in Figure 2. This paper describes effective methodologies for efficient procurement of these new steels.

Figure 2. Effect of sulfur content on toughness of linepipe.


Steel Purchase

Successful execution of the procurement function requires a complete understanding of the several essential steps chronicled in Table II. The various steps are briefly introduced below. Table II Procurement Sequence Referencing Engineering & Technical Issues
Finalization of design premise by the owning company or engineering contractor.

Preparation of project specific specifications or review and updating of existing documents. Demand Manufacturing Procedure Specification (MPS) and Inspection and Test Plan (ITP) as part of specification.

Develop list of qualified or potentially qualifiable vendors.

Develop a commercial strategy based on above documents and knowledge of the marketplace.

Develop bid package and send out to selected mills.

Review bids for technical and commercial content. Review MPS and ITP for low bidders.

Hold preaward clarification meetings and preproduction meeting if necessary.

Award pipe contract and third party inspection contracts: (a) Steel/slab Production. (b) Skelp Production (c) Pipe Mill (d) Coating

Provide technical assistance as required, especially during steelmaking and skelp production.


Definition of Project Requirements

The profile of the project helps to determine options for steel sourcing. Apart from obvious factors such as diameter, grade, wall thickness and intended use one must consider challenges related to installation and options. Onshore, even very high strength pipelines in advanced countries such as Australia, may only represent the moderate end of the risk spectrum whereas offshore, deepwater sour hydrocarbon lines to be installed by J-Lay or reel barging in hostile waters may present additional challenges. The "personality" of the engineering company and installation contractor also plays a part in the selection of the pipe mill(s). Cavalier contractors with fixed price contracts and limited knowledge of the pipe market and a "poor boy" mentality can purchase the wrong steel at the right price and then they and their clients will pay dues later.

Some additional comments on the above methodical steps are presented below:


Design Premise

This is the fundamental basis for the project which immediately defines the project risk and the potential to qualify marginal manufacturers.



The specification should accurately match the technological requirements of the project. Prescriptive specifications are preferred by the author since they outline expectations of the buyer and minimize surprises during the preaward discussions. The bid price should thereby represent a quality level closely paralleling that required and which can be accepted as is. Nevertheless, technical requirements can usually be improved from this platform without attracting significant increase

in cost. The Manufacturing Procedure Specification (MPS), once approved, becomes the guiding document during pipe production.


Bidders List

There is a very wide spectrum of linepipe production available ranging from seamless and ERW in the smaller diameters to longitudinal seam and spiral seam linepipe in the larger diameters, with substantial overlap throughout the diameter range. The basic diameter ranges for the different linepipe products are as follows:

Product Diameter Range Number of Manufacturers Seamless 4 to 28 inch 11 ERW 4 to 24* inch 40 DSAW (UOE) 12 to 72** inch 22 *Except for Kawasaki Chita Works which produces 26". **UOE up to 60" O.D. with three roll bending up to 72" O.D. It is useful and desirable to maximize the different linepipe manufacturing options in the bidders list. HFERW linepipe production economics put pressure on both SMLS and DSAW when the size ranges overlap. Likewise, small diameter DSAW is encroaching on SMLS markets in deep offshore development including linepipe and production risers.

The quality of linepipe from each mill can be assessed using a variety of assessment or scoring systems and field audits. Each mill's equipment and track record are important components in the assessment process. A formalized system for assessing ERW mills is presented in Figure 3. Critical components of the pipe mill assessment are as follows:


Proven ability to produce the size and grade of linepipe and a documented supply record.



Reliable skelp source with proven track record, especially when considering sour gas service.

(iii) When a new grade such as X-80 is involved, availability of trial data and existence of an enlightened technical organization reduces the risk of disappointment or project delays. (iv) Enlightened management organization and strong QC/QA functions demonstrating proper awareness of the opportunity and the risk

Figure 3. Example of ERW pipe mill audit form.


Whatever the scoring system, criteria must be developed for establishing the cut off point below which mills are not to be seriously considered. Nevertheless, wild cards in the form of new producers, geographically advantaged or indigenous mills, or simply commercially aggressive entities may be usefully added to the list if there is a fair chance that they can be qualified and technically supported during execution of the project. However, to reduce risk the technical team must control the final selection of producer to avoid awarding of the order to the low cost but otherwise unproven and possible naive or overzealous vendor.


Commercial Strategy

A keen working knowledge of the local and international market is invaluable when developing an effective strategy. The objective is to put price pressure on the desired or even inevitable (indigenous or otherwise advantaged) supplier. Local or indigenous producers must be considered in terms of realistic capability plus risk. For example, the local mill may be able to offer lower strengths or alternative grades with a competitive advantage. Market distortions arise from time to time due to currency fluctuations, duties and tariffs, financing packages, overcapacity in adjacent markets and the need of some mills to sell at any price to survive.

In Australia, there is one major linepipe producer with another possibility in the works within its limited size range. One Steel is a competent and maybe preferred, domestic producer which nevertheless has its eye on competition from Korea, Indonesia, Japan, Greece and other low cost sources. In connection with the X-80 theme of this conference, One Steel may have a tactical advantage due to its pioneering research and development of X-80 linepipe and past trial production data. However, the experience is unlikely to justify a sizeable premium for this type of product.



Distribute Bid Package

The full bid package should be sent out direct to the selected bidders. Distribution to trading companies is not always useful since they often duplicate contacts, confuse the market environment and may try to manage competition particularly in Japan. We have found that the presence of trading companies in technical meetings also hinders open dialog.


Review of Bids for Technical Content and Commercial Terms

The commercial evaluation should be completed before the MPS and Inspection Test Plan (ITP) are submitted for formal review. In this way, the three or four lowest bidders can be properly evaluated and technical exceptions assessed and scrupulously compared in formal spreadsheets.


Preaward Clarification Meeting

This meeting involves a thorough review of the MPS and ITP as well as outstanding commercial issues. This is a critical step in procuring the "right steel at the right price". The meeting affords a last opportunity to extract final concessions related to quality issues. Once the order is let, or letter of intent signed, it becomes increasingly difficult to challenge exceptions or deviations raised in Item (f) above. Participation of experienced metallurgists in this critical meeting, to represent the buyer is advised and is usually very beneficial.



Third party inspection of pipe production and coating is traditionally used in the USA. It is less intense in Australia and often non-existent when engineering


companies operate under EPC (engineer, procure, construct) contracts. Consequently, pipe and coating quality may suffer. Some form of oversight represents a prudent expense, especially when it is focussed early in the manufacturing process in the steelmaking plant and rolling mill. Embryonic problems may be identified long before they create or contribute to a pervasive decline in quality and productivity during pipe making. Oversight of X-80 skelp production would likely be prudent since segregation and yield strength issues could be addressed early in the production cycle.


Technical Assistance

If the linepipe purchaser is willing to fund technical assistance during all states of the manufacturing process it is possible to buy technically sophisticated product from low cost emerging or even marginal producers.


Alternative Procurement Strategies

Conventional bidding is considered in Item (e) above. Direct negotiation with available producers also works well especially when qualified mills are limited in number. This option has been used in Australia, especially by EPC contractors. It is also useful to "piggy back" on an existing MPS or ongoing production run. Third party inspection is rarely used in typical "partnering" schemes or negotiated agreements which is a risky proposition in the author's opinion.

Online or reverse auctions have become popular as the proponents have sought to commoditize linepipe technology. While the technique undoubtedly puts pressure on prices, it has serious drawbacks, for example old loyalties are destroyed and the low bidder is rarely qualified to perform as required. The several online auctions known to the author have all failed miserably due to naivity in assembling the list of participants, allowing inclusion of rogue traders, not prequalifying mills, poor definition of required steel, poor or non-existent


supplementary specification and not mandating an appropriate and preapproved MPS. In the absence of a level playing field, the competent mills are mistreated and the less competent cause damaging static in the marketplace.


A Case History

The All American (Sour Crude) Pipeline Project (AAPL) was completed in 1984 and consisted of 1,766 miles (476,000 tons) of 30 inch O.D. x 0.281 inch X-70 linepipe. At the start of the project, the pipe order was placed with four pipe producers as illustrated in Figure 4. Due to trade issues and import restrictions resulting from the actions of domestic steelmakers and pipe producers, it was not possible to source the steel as originally planned. However, the principals of AAPL refused to buckle under the pressure of the domestic steel mills and elected to source from interested and motivated pipe mills worldwide, taking advantage of all available quotas and favored trade agreements.

Figure 4. Original supply plan (letters of intent) for AAPL linepipe supply.

The methodology described in Section 3.2 of this paper was fully applied, detailed MPS and ITP documents were prepared and technical assistance was provided to several pipe mills. The end result was that the pipe was purchased from 18 pipe mills utilizing skelp from 20 different sources, Figure 5. All steel was covered by detailed MPS documents and was fully inspected at source. High quality steel tested according to NACE TM0284, Solution B


arrived on schedule and under budget. The project was completed without technical problems and is operating today as a gas pipeline, in the reverse direction, transporting natural gas to California.

Figure 5. Actual supply contracts AAPL X-70 sour service linepipe.


Risk Factors


Project Experience

The author and his associates have participated in several projects in recent years and routinely utilizes the methodologies presented herein. Despite this exposure, problems may still occur due to insufficient oversight or overestimation of producer capability and integrity. Breakdown in mill quality systems and loss of corporate memory are becoming increasingly


frequent. A listing of certain problems is presented in Table III which covers both Microalloying International assisted and other projects.


TABLE III Linepipe Non-Conformances Technical Problem

(A) When using Microalloying Intl. or similar methodology. Low Pipe Yield Strength (circa 2000) Excessive Centerline Segregation 10 percent of heats <70 ksi found during hydrotest @ 100% SMYS. Steel composition and rolling practices changed without client notification. (a) Malaysian Project circa 1988 (b) Australian Project circa 1999 (c) Korean Production circa 1997 (d) German Pipe Mill circa 2000 X-70 linepipe with yield strengths up to 108 ksi produced poor shape before expansion. Seven additional cracks found during receiving inspection. Initial hydrotest aborted due to pipe distortion but not recorded in the mill tracking system. About 49 pipes found on the right of way. Pipe received at destination with either OD or ID oil contamination, required expensive detergent wash. Large particles of tungsten carbide found in weld metal traced to flux reprocessing facility or maintenance tools which fell onto the plate surface. Bar code system overridden by shipping supervisor. Require all ( even minor) changes to agreed MPS to be approved by client.

Background & Manifestation

Corrective Action

Introduced proper macro etch procedure (no sulfur prints), increase surveillance at the slab stage. Improve concast parameters such as speed and superheat.

Toe cracks in I.D. weld area created during expansion due to peaking. Non-complying Hydrotest Oil Contamination Tungsten carbide contamination of seam weld (DSAW) Non-conforming pipe with missed end x-ray or improper hydrotest pressure arrived at customers site. (B) Other Projects End cracks in DSAW weld

Use PSL-2 maximum yield strength limits and check dimensions (shape or peaking) before expansion. Improve final weld seam U.T. Automatic recording of final hydrotest pressure and computerized accept/reject procedure. Audit of hydrotest charts introduced. Intensified or focused pipe mill inspection and updated (improved) pipe mill housekeeping and inspection. Prohibit flux crushing and refurbishment, audit plate mills to identify potential problems. Bar code system updated and working instructions mandate reliance on computer database.

Weld metal Chevron (hydrogen) cracking (I) Weld metal delayed cracking (II) Failed stepwise cracking (HIC) tests Cracks in weld area caused by transit fatigue Hot bends having low yield strength and/or poor toughness Poor weld seam toughness in HFI linepipe

28 defective pipes identified after installation (during audit of end x-rays) required internal crawler to locate affected pipe. Two others found during offshore lay in girth weld X-ray took $3 million to locate and repair. Chevron cracking found during transit from Europe to Middle East. Hydrogen assisted cracking found during UT traced to oil bevels and moisture prone flux Pipe shipped prematurely before completion of HIC (NACE TM0284) tests. Poor CLR results. Poor loading, procedures for lasch barges allowed pipe-to-pipe contact and excessive pipe movement. Failed test bends due to inappropriate bending parameters and wrong assumptions about material and procedure. Normalizing (seam annealing) temperature excessive

Improve radiographic film contrast, improve film viewers and audit or duplicate mill inspection. Ban on moisture prone titaniferrous agglomerated fluxes. Check storage and rebaking procedures for other fluxes. Cleaned bevels with detergent and followed flux vendors recommendations. Review proposed steel chemistry and reject high calcium levels and inappropriate Ca:S ratios. Enforced API RP5LW ship loading recommended practices and intensify inspection. Required vendor to qualify MPS on actual pipe to be used. Witness bending esp. bending temperature and speed. Establish proper <1000C peak normalizing temperature.



X-80 Linepipe Risk Issues

The methodology and project experience presented in this paper may be used to identify and address the predominant and relevant risk issues related to procurement of X-80 linepipe. These are presented in Table IV below.

Table IV Risk Issues Specific to X-80 Linepipe


Risk Factor Low Yield Strength

Mitigation Residual Technical Risk Integrate efforts of skelp and pipe Poor pipe dimensions caused by 100% SMYS hydrotest. manufacturer. Require demonstrated competence. Utilize 100% SMYS mill hydrotest. Avoid thin slab cast skelp. Require rigorous monitoring of macro, etc. results and caster parameters. Utilize medium manganese Nb-Mo formulations rather than high manganese alloy designs. Restrict phosphorus to 0.010%. Deny request for <100% SMYS and require automated recording of hydrotest pressure with go-no go shipping release. Centerline condition may cause cracking during girth welding if supplier is not conscientious.

II. Excessive Centerline Segregation

III. Non-Complying Hydrotest

Minimal same as Item I above.

IV. Poor Weld Seam Toughness

Use milled edge skelp. Prevent use of Occasional low toughness values may center-slit skelp. Assess track record slightly increase the probability of of potential vendors. Encourage use of fracture initiation. Q&T weld seam heat treatments. Use reverse bend testing. Witness loading operation and provide for reinspection on unloading. Inconsequential. Missed defects will be found during field hydrotest.

V. Transit Fatigue



High strength linepipe is a metallurgical sophisticated product that is produced by more than 65 mills worldwide. High quality product can be purchased from new or unfamiliar sources utilizing the methodology described and documented in this presentation. For the produces to succeed, there must be close cooperation between all parties, especially the skelp


and pipe producers. Supervision by experienced metallurgists during the preaward and subsequent phases has proven invaluable in the past and should be incorporated into the master execution plan.

References: J. M. Gray and William G. Wilson, "Molycorp Develops X-80 Pipeline Steel", Pipeline and Gas Journal, p. 50, December, 1972. H. Engelmann, A. Engel, P.A. Peters, C. Duren and H. Musch. First Use of LargeDiameter Pipes of the Steel GRS 550 TM (X-80) in a High Pressure Gas Pipelines. 3R International, Issue 5, 1986. M. Matousu, Z. Skarda, I. Beder, J. Lombardini, H. G. Schuster and C. Duren. "Large Diameter Pipes of Steel GRS 550TM (X80) in the 4th Transit Gas Pipeline in Czechoslovakia". 3R International, Vol. 8, October 1987. H. G. Hillenbrand, K. A. Niederhoff, E. Amoris, C. Perdrix, A. Streisselberg and U. Zeislmair. "Development of Linepipe in Grades up to X-100". EPRG/PRC Biennial Joint Technical Meeting on Linepipe Research, April 1997, Washington, D.C. M. K. Graf, H. G. Hillenbrand, K.A. Niederhoff. Production and Girth Welding of Double Submerged Arc Welding Grade X-80 Large-Diameter Linepipe. EPRG/NG18, 8th Biennial Joint Technical Meeting on Linepipe Research. Paris, France, May 1991. J. G. Williams, C. R. Killmore, F. J. Barbaro, A. Meta and L. Fletcher. "Modern Technology for ERW Linepipe Steel Production (X-60 to X-80 and Beyond)". Microalloying '95 Conference Proceedings; June 11-14, 1995; Pittsburgh, PA.