You are on page 1of 7

SPE 146125

Ensuring the Integrity of Subsea Hot Tap Welded Joints in Lieu of Hydro
Alan Smith, Det Norske Veritas; Robbie Williamson, Det Norske Veritas; Andrew Low, Intecsea
Copyright 2011, Society of Petroleum Engineers
This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE Offshore Europe Oil and Gas Conference and Exhibition held in Aberdeen, UK, 6–8 September 2011.
This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper have not been
reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not necessarily reflect any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its
officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is prohibited. Permission to
reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of SPE copyright.

Hot tapping of subsea pipelines is a cost effective method of transporting production fluids from satellite wells into existing
pipelines. The process involves welding a branch connection onto a flowing operational pipeline and trepanning a coupon
from the outside of the mother pipe. The technique is now well established and can minimise production down time. In most
cases, the integrity of the branch weld is proven via subsequent pressure testing to prescribed limits based upon a multiple of
the anticipated design pressure. However, in exceptional cases, such strength testing may not be possible. If this is the case it
may be necessary to ensure the integrity of the welded joint by non destructive testing. This paper examines the use of non
destructive testing and specifies the issues which need to be considered and the process involved in qualifying a Hot-tap weld.
The use of NDT is justified by reference to the fracture toughness of the weld and associated microstructure and is based on a
fracture mechanics argument. The paper draws on experience gained in the practical application of this methodology offshore.
Keywords: Hot-Tap, Engineering Critical Assessment, Non Destructive testing.

In order to provide confidence that the respective Hot-Tap welding operations will not compromise the integrity of the mother pipeline a thorough review the following documentation. Reference is made to a typical project that will illustrate some of the issues involved. A typical design is shown in Figure 1. in terms of strength capacity.2 SPE 146125 Introduction The construction of a subsea Hot-tap involves welding a teepiece directly onto an existing. Modelling these conditions requires care. Typically the Mother pipeline is highly utilised. skill and a good understanding of the engineering and material issues involved. One of the principle objectives of such a strength test would be to help demonstrate the integrity of the weld. A typical Hot-tap between a duplex stainless steel pup piece and carbon steel mother pipe consists of applying a buttering layer (typically Inconnel 625). the weld in question is referred to as a “Golden weld”. resulting from design Detailed Installation procedures Design verification requires that the integrity of the entire hot tapping process. is required supported by carrying out independent verification calculations which include a review of the following: • • • • • • Design philosophy Design process Specifications for design Design reports and drawings Specifications for construction and operation. Where strength testing is not able to be performed on a particular weld. . Quite often construction in shallow water conditions. calibrated against the pipeline design code. and welding activities can represent a major safety risk to the divers undertaking the welding operations. In turn these failure mechanisms are influenced by the cooling rate which is dependent on flow conditions within the mother pipe. In this case it is imperative that the welding procedures be reviewed in detail in terms of pre and post heat requirements specifically related to the potential for yielding of the Mother pipeline. Thus some other method must be found to demonstrate the integrity of a Golden Weld. This involves ensuring that the mother pipe does not yield by gross deformation during the preheat and that burn through cannot take place. in-service pipeline (the ”Mother pipe”) and then trepanning a circular coupon out of the mother pipe whilst being exposed to full operational pressure. will involve the use of a Habitat and divers capable of carrying out the required welding operations. welding the pup piece onto the buttering layer using an Inconnel filler material and then trepanning a circular coupon from the pipe wall of the Mother Pipe. It is often not feasible to strength test the Hot-Tap welded joint to the same pressure as would be required during the construction of a new build pipeline. This paper discusses various ways of achieving this using a combination of fracture mechanics and non destructive testing.

coupled with the actual geometry of the Hot-tap weld to the buttering layer. care has to be taken to avoid over pressurising the pup piece as this could lead to distortion or collapse of the local Mother pipe wall section. • Estimating the reliability and accuracy with which NDT can detect the flaws (if present) It is emphasised that this argument can only be used where it is not feasible to strength test.SPE 145125 3 Fig 1 Typical hot clamp design (Source: INTECSEA) It is technically possible to pressurise the pup piece before trepanning the Circular coupon out of the mother pipe. However. Thus testing at this intermediate stage provides little evidence that the Hot-tap weld itself has sufficient integrity. Therefore to demonstrate the integrity of the golden weld a fracture mechanics argument should be used. will not be representative to the stress distribution following removal. This argument is based upon the following steps: • Postulating the position of hypothetical flaws in the golden weld and associated buttering layers. • Determining the stress distribution in the golden weld at the maximum operating pressure with worst case environmental loading. the stress distribution achieved within the weld.   . whilst this is helpful in demonstrating the integrity of any flange welds or welds in the Hot-tap / Mother Pipe interface. As a result of this reduced test pressure. This has the practical effect of limiting the maximum value of the test pressure. • Assessing the critical flaw dimensions for the hypothetical flaws using BS7910. • Measuring the fracture toughness relevant to the various hypothetical flaws and operational service conditions.

It should be noted that for both stress distributions. Typical stress distributions are shown in Figs 3 and 4. This is often linearised into bending stress and membrane stress components (Fig 3 and 4). Under normal circumstances the highest (tensile) stresses can be found at or close to the crown position and include a high degree of bending to enable continuity between the mother pipe and pup piece to be maintained. the stress in the root region of the weld can be compressive which will result in significantly lower crack driving forces. For the purposes of fracture mechanics assessment of flaws at the buttering layer and within the weld.4 SPE 146125 Position and morphology of hypothetical weld defects Figure 2 shows the typical microstructure for a hot tap weld between a carbon steel mother pipe and a Duplex pup piece.   . the stress profile is required perpendicular to the mother pipe at the crown position. The following defects are considered plausible: • Lamellar type flaws in the Mother pipe • Planar flaws at the interface of the Inconnel buttering layer and the Mother pipe • Lack of root fusion • Lack of sidewall fusion between pup piece and weld and embedded flaws in the weld • Surface breaking flaws on the outer surface of the hot tap weld     Figure 2 Typical weld configuration showing weld and buttering layer (Source: INTECSEA) The Stress Distribution at a Hot Tap The stress distribution at a Hot-tap I can be very complex and require careful and accurate modelling.

SPE 145125 Figure 3 Stress Distribution for Stresses Perpendicular to the Hot Tap Weld at Buttering Layer (courtesy of Intecsea) (stress distribution through thickness along path shown in adjacent figure) Figure 4 Stress Distribution for Stresses Perpendicular to Weld at Toe of Weld to Pup Piece (stress distribution through thickness along path shown in adjacent figure) 5 .

Simplistically this improves as the defect size increases. Moreover. Often inspection of this region is difficult because of the local weld configuration and poor access. Carefully designed inspection procedures can improve the chances of locating a flaw for different regions of the weld. This can be achieved using electron beam welded (EBW) extension arms. the reliability of the inspection method would be based on rigorous inspection programmes. Calculating the critical flaw dimensions The critical flaw dimensions for flaws in the locations postulated above can be determined by iteration using specialised software packages and assuming stress intensity factor solutions applicable to the respective flaw and weld configurations. The specimens should use similar material and procedures to those of the actual weld metal. Thus the hardest region to inspect can frequently be the region most tolerant of relatively large flaws. heat affected zone and parent plate. These are as follows: • Magnetic particle inspection (MPI) and penetrant testing for surface breaking flaws from external visible surfaces • Compression wave ultrasonic testing (UT) for lamellar flaws and lack of fusion flaws between the buttering layer and the mother pipe • Creeping wave UT to check for flaws from both the inside and the outside of the pup piece to inspect the weld metal more fully. In an ideal world. fitness for service can be argued on the basis of whether it is reasonable to expect flaws larger than the tolerable flaw size in this region. It was noted previously that tolerable flaw dimensions for this region are relatively large and a flaw larger that the root run around the entire circumference of the root is very unlikely. The important parameter to note is the reliability of the inspection method. Inspection of the buttering layer using MPI or PT with compression wave UT prior to the main weld being laid down can provide full volumetric inspection for any defects between the buttering layer and the main pup piece weld. However a balance has to be struck between the desire for complete confidence that the weld is free of flaws and the critical flaw size that can be found in practice. it is also necessary to test with the crack plane parallel to the mother pipe surface. This is done using fracture toughness testing. being careful not to metallurgically affect the zone around the crack tip of the test specimen. Inspection Several methods of NDT can be used to locate the presence of flaws in the weld. the user should be aware that any improvement of detection capability tends to saturate around a probability of detection level of between 70 to 90% (lower for some NDT methods such as radiography). One region which is more problematic to inspect is the root of the main weld. To do this involves extending the fracture toughness test specimens. However. . However. This is often a zone of low toughness particularly for low quality steels. Using a combination of these techniques and based on expert judgement of the NDT capability. It should be noted that shear wave UT may not be as effective in inspection the full weld. a direction not normally tested. measured as the probability of detection (PoD). In reality. This is because the type of flaws deemed plausible are aligned parallel to the surface. it is possible to qualify most of the weld as having the required integrity provided the critical flaw dimensions predicted by the ECA are sufficiently large. measurement of the HAZ and mother pipe is particularly difficult.6 SPE 146125 Measuring the Fracture Toughness In order to determine the critical flaw size. Hence it may not be possible to qualify the weld on the basis of NDT reports alone. The fracture toughness normally requires measurement of the toughness of the weld metal. For this case. it is necessary to quantify the fracture resistance of the adjacent material. experience and judgement is required to estimate the effectiveness of the inspection procedure. Residual stresses can be estimated conservatively as being equal to the lower yield stress of the parent and weld metal and applicable residual stress relaxation can be allowed. the weld root is in a region of compressive stress and advantage may be taken of this in assessing the critical defect size. Above these levels. Thus inspection using compression wave probes prior to buttering can help to ensure that the mother pipe is free of inclusions. Tests should be cared out at the minimum design temperature.g. Similarly tensile testing should be carried out with the specimens orientated perpendicularly to the plane of any postulated defects. However. As mentioned above. flaw dimensions have to increase considerably to obtain even a small increase in the PoD. using a boroscope). It is advised that representative weld trial specimens are used to obtain fracture toughness specimens. where such an argument is used it will be necessary to inspect the weld root visually for quality (e.

it is necessary to demonstrate that the inspection has the capability of reliably detecting flaws smaller that a size likely to compromise the integrity of the weld in service. This requires a fitness for service approach based on fracture mechanics. Submarine pipeline systems. Here inspection may be the best available alternative. a materials testing programme is required to demonstrate the fracture toughness properties of the weld and adjacent material. this is not always possible. References 1 British Standards Institution. In this case. In addition. A comprehensive argument based on the evidence described above can provide justification that the golden weld has the integrity required to operate safely in practice. DNV OS F101. BS7608:1993 Code of practice Fatigue Design and Assessment of Steel Structures. October 2007 . However.SPE 145125 7 Conclusion Under normal circumstances the integrity of all welds and pipeline components should be demonstrated using a strength test by pressurising to a specified factor above the design stress. 1993 2 Det Norsk Veritas. for some welds (particularly where the line is already in service).