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Technical Data Sheet

Weld Decay Testing and
Stainless Alloys
ASTM A249 Supplemental Requirement 7
(S7 — weld decay testing) is an accelerated
corrosion test where welded austenitic
stainless tube is subjected to boiling 20%
hydrochloric acid. This test dissolves half
the wall thickness in a matter of minutes
to hours depending on the alloy. A wall
thickness ratio is then generated, which
compares the corrosion rate of the base
metal to that of the weld or weld Heat
Affected Zone (HAZ) on a worst-case basis.
A ratio of 1.25 represents a weld that
corrodes 25% faster than the base metal.
In S7 a ratio of 1.25 or less is an acceptable
result for this test.
This corrosion test is applicable or has real-world application where
tubes become ‘coked’ or lined with organic matter, which can only
be removed by a short-term hydrochloric acid cleaning operation.
The austenitic stainless alloys are not suitable for long-term
exposure to any signifcant level of hydrochloric acid (HCl). Nickel
and high nickel alloys are some of the few metallic materials that
exhibit useful long-term resistance to hydrochloric acid
1
.
Short-term performance in boiling 20% hydrochloric acid can have
little or no signifcance in other acids, environments, or caustics.
Please see Figures 1 & 2. Typically “weld decay” environments
or operations are found in sugar refning and in some paper pulp
processing operations. The vast majority of stainless applications
do not require S7 or weld decay corrosion resistance. Those
environments that do are isolated and few, estimated at less than
0.8% of stainless tubular sales.
FIGURE 1. (Left) Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) secondary electron image of transverse RathGibson laser welded 304L tube section,
which was weld decay tested using HCl acid per the ASTM A249 S7 supplement. Please note base metal thinning in excess of weld thinning.
Also please note that this RathGibson weld lacks the Heat Affected Zone (HAZ) attack present in competitive laser welds. (Right) Optical image
of 304L laser weld at higher magnifcation, showing complete weld recrystalization.
Base Metal Weld
Data shown is typical, and should not be construed as limiting or necessarily suitable for design.
Actual data may vary from those shown herein.
2
The weld decay test has been too frequently
sold as a good general corrosion test
with wide application. It is not. There
are corrosion tests such as ASTM A262
practices A & E, which test for sensitization
or susceptibility to intergranular attack and
have good general applicability in a wide
range of environments and alloys, in both
oxidizing and reducing acids. The weld decay
test was never designed as a test with wide
application. Producers who push weld decay
testing regardless of service environment
do so simply because their manufacturing
process makes doing so advantageous.
The S7 weld decay test tends to
preferentially attack weld retained delta
ferrite in stainless alloys such as 304, 316,
317, 308, and 309. A small percentage of
retained delta ferrite is evidence that the
weld has generally undergone primary ferritic
solidifcation
3
. The chemistry of these alloys
and the resultant ferrite content in welds are
controlled to achieve dramatically improved
weld solidifcation cracking resistance due
to the ferritic mode of solidifcation. This
signifcantly improves solidifcation cracking
resistance and makes the use of small
deliberate sulfur additions possible. Sulfur
is used for improved weld penetration,
which is important particularly in tubular
products where out-of-position feld welding
is generally a given.
In the base metal the ferrite is isolated and
discontinuous; however, in conventional
arc welds it will be skeletal, offering a near
continuous path for preferential chemical
attack by the hydrochloric acid. See Figure
4. Heat treatments to improve weld decay
corrosion ratios, slightly reduce the ferrite
content, but mostly they spheroidize the
FIGURE 2. (Left) Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) secondary electron image of transverse laser welded 304L tube section, which was
weld decay tested using 85% Phosphoric Acid for 24 hours. Please note weld-metal thinning in excess of base-metal thinning. Please note
these results are essentially reversed from the HCl test. (Right) Optical image of 304L laser weld at higher magnifcation, showing complete
weld recrystallization.
Alloy “S7” Ratio Condition / Form Weight Loss (mpy)
304L 1.5—3.71 Mill Anneal GTAW 4,840
2.06 Mill Anneal Laser 691
1.6 Furnace Anneal GTAW —
316L ~2.0 Mill Anneal GTAW 59.3*
2205 1.2 Mill Anneal Laser 1,087
825 — — Seamless 36—50
625 — — Seamless >180+
— Furnace Anneal GTAW 23.5
C-276 — — Seamless 5—121*
— Furnace Anneal GTAW 13.3
Table 1. Boiling 85% Phosphoric Acid, 24-hour duration
* Minor Cu variations are known to play large roll in corrosion rates
2
.
Seamless data as reported by Huntington Alloys a Special Metals Company
+ 168 hour tests
Data shown is typical, and should not be construed as limiting or necessarily suitable for design. Actual data may vary from those shown herein.
weld ferrite and break up its continuous skeletal nature
4
. This
eliminates the preferential attack path in conventional welds and
improves weld decay ratios. Laser Beam Welding (LBW) in the
tube industry produces tubing at roughly 3 times the speed of
conventional arc processes. It is LBW’s high energy density, low total
heat input and speed that cause suppression of the ferrite phase in
the weld through very fast non-equilibrium solidifcation
5
.
Conventionally, arc welded heats (304L, 316L) exhibiting weld
retained ferrite will typically not display signifcant weld ferrite when
laser welded at relatively high speed
5
. This suppression of ferrite
results in acceptable weld decay corrosion ratios in laser welded
tubing without the need for extended heat treatments.
3
FIGURE 3. Above is a competitive S7 Test exactly as shown in their published
sales literature (laser welded alloy 304L)
6
. Please note the weld appears to be
unrecrystallized and that there is signifcant attack at the fusion boundary.
Compare this to Figure 1.
FIGURE 4. Skeletal retained weld ferrite in as welded (GTAW) 304L. Photo on the top displays the weld and Heat Affected Zone (HAZ) at the ID or
the root of the weld. Photo on the bottom is the same weld area only at higher magnifcation.
Weld decay corrosion ratios will vary by the alloy because of each
alloy’s chemistry and resultant weld retained ferrite. For example,
in alloy 316/316L ferrite is nominally controlled to a weld ferrite
number range of 2–5. However, for alloy 317/317L a slightly higher
ferrite number of 4–8 is necessary to achieve appropriate weld
cracking resistance
3
. In addition to the higher ferrite level, Alloy 317
has a higher nominal chromium and nickel content, the combination
of which makes it diffcult to achieve good S7 ratios in 317.
Manufacturers will frequently speak to their 304 S7 achievements
(low ratios), mostly because they do not manufacture a full range
of alloys, or understand what is required in some alloys for weld
cracking resistance. Table 2 is a listing of RathGibson’s average
S7 ratios. Please note ratios are very much dependent on the alloy
and predicted ferrite levels. Alloy 310, while being heavily alloyed by
chromium and nickel has no ferrite and tests very well without any
extended heat treatment! This is strictly related to the alloy’s lack
of ferrite. Ferrite’s major beneft is in weld solidifcation cracking
resistance. In most alloys S7 performance can be improved through
chemistry control and elimination of ferrite. In effect, alloys such
as 304, 316, and 317 could be produced without ferrite. As the
alloy 310 example demonstrates, this would have a signifcant
impact on S7 results. However, an elimination of ferrite would
come with a signifcant weldability penalty. Alloy 310 cannot tolerate
deliberate additions of sulfur because no ferrite is possible. This
reduces ease of penetration, slows welding speed and makes the
alloy far more susceptible to weld cracking. RathGibson does not
take this approach. Instead S7 ratios are achieved through Laser
Beam Welding (LBW) or extended heat
treatment when necessary.
While a ratio of 1.25 or less is required for
an acceptable result in this test, too many
producers have inferred that an infnitely
lower ratio is better. As an example: a
result of 0.95 is too often considered
inferior to a lower result of say 0.65. This
is shortsighted logic. A corrosion ratio of
1, effectively a seamless result, should be
the ideal. This can in fact be experimentally
demonstrated.
As weld cold working and annealing are
perfected, the weld in the resultant
product will become increasingly hard to
fnd metallographically and weld decay
ratios will approach 1. Figure 5 represents
a 304L laser beam welded tube where
the cold work was not suffcient to assure
complete recrystallization. This resulted in
an S7 ratio of 0.66. Figure 6 represents a
304L laser beam welded tube where cold
work was suffcient to assure complete
recrystallization during annealing. This
resulted in a S7 ratio 0.84, or closer to
a 1 to 1 ratio.
Data shown is typical, and should not be construed as limiting or necessarily suitable for design. Actual data may vary from those shown herein.
4
Some users specify an S7 requirement as added assurance that
quality welded tubing is supplied and this is true if the service
environment involves hydrochloric acid clean-outs. However, for
other environments and acids the applicability of this HCl test is
questionable. Performance in a HCl test carries little implication in
many other acid environments. It should be noted that there may
be some additional cost and possible delays associated with this
since S7 requires an extended anneal which in most applications
is overkill.
S7 weld decay / Hardness / A262/E
RathGibson
0.84 / 86 Rb / Pass
Competitive
0.66 / 86 Rb / Pass
FIGURE 5. Transverse section of competitive laser welded 1" x 16 gauge (25.4 x 1.6 mm) 304L tubing. Left photo is at lower magnifcation with
the tube ID surface visible at the bottom. Right photo is the same area at higher magnifcation. Please note no discernable recrystallization of
cold work and the ID is unforged. These photos are similar to those used in the competitive Company‘s own literature, which appear to exhibit no
obvious recrystallization.
Alloy 310 results only Mill Annealed. All other alloys and tests represent extended off-line annealing.
Ferrite number was calculated based on chemistry, not actual weld testing.
Table 2. S7 Test Data
Alloy
304/304L 316/316L 317/317L 321 347 309S 310
S7 Ratio 0.74 0.82 0.94 1.0 1.03 1.13 0.75
Ferrite Number 6.8 4 5 5.5 4 3.1 0
Cr (wt %) 18.3 16.5 18.2 17.2 18 22.39 24.6
Ni (wt %) 8.4 10.3 13.4 13.8 19.4
Cr + Ni 26.7 26.8 31.6 36.19 44
Data shown is typical, and should not be construed as limiting or necessarily suitable for design. Actual data may vary from those shown herein.
5
FIGURE 6. Transverse section of RathGibson laser welded 1" x 13 gauge (25.4 x 2.4 mm) tubing. Left photo is at lower magnifcation with the
tube ID surface visible at the bottom. Right photo is the same area at higher magnifcation. Please note complete weld recrystallization and the
ID weld is well forged.
Conclusions
1. The ASTM A249/S7 weld decay test is a special application
corrosion test designed only for environments which use a
short-term exposure of hydrochloric acid to clean out organic
matter. The S7 test is a poor predictor of performance in other
acids or environments. Intergranular corrosion or sensitization
tests (ASTM A262 practices A or E) should be considered for other
types of environments as these tests have good general applicability
in a wide range of environments and alloy, in both oxidizing and
reducing acids.
2. S7 weld performance is determined largely by weld ferrite
morphology, or content, and the alloy’s nickel plus chromium
content. S7 ratios slightly less than 1 should be preferred.
Conventional Gas Tungsten Arc Welds (GTAW) are rendered S7
suitable by long-term heat treatments which break up the nearly
continuous skeletal weld ferrite. Laser beam welds generally do
not require extended heat treatments to achieve acceptable S7
ratios. This relates to the high solidifcation rate and the resultant
suppression of weld ferrite (304L, 316L, and 317L).
1.2
1.1
1
0.9
0.8
0.7
20 25 30 35 40 45
Ni + Cr (wt %)
S
7

R
a
t
i
o
304/304L
316/316L
317/317L
309S
310
Data shown is typical, and should not be construed as limiting or necessarily suitable for design. Actual data may vary from those shown herein.
References
1
Corrosion Engineering Bulletin (CEB-3) Resistance of Nickel
and High Nickel Alloys to Corrosion by Hydrochloric Acid,
Hydrogen Chloride and Chlorine. The International Nickel
Company, Inc.
2
Trans. Am. Soc. Mech. Engrs., “A Standard Laboratory
Corrosion Test for Metals in Phosphoric Acid Service”, 73
1951, page 975, by H. F. Ebling and M. A. Scheil
3
The Welding Journal, December 1988. Ferrite Number
Prediction to 100 FN in Stainless Steel weld Metal by T. A.
Siewert, C. N. McCowan, and D. L. Olson
4
The Welding Journal, July 1974. Ferrite in Austenitic Stainless
Steel Weld Metal, by W. T. DeLong
5
The Welding Journal, June 1994. Solidifcation Behavior and
cracking Susceptibility of Pulsed-Laser welds in Austenitic
Stainless Steels, by J. C. Lippold
6
LTV CopperWeld. A Comparision of Laser-Welded and
TIG-Welded Stainless Steel Tubing. Page 5
The following fgure is a comparison of the listed alloy’s S7 ration to their nickel plus
chromium content.
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Data shown is typical, and should not be construed as limiting or necessarily suitable for design.
Actual data may vary from those shown herein.
The information herein was correct at the time of publication and is subject to change without notice.
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