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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

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.

1.0 Introduction

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.

2.0 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

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 Event Industry Reaction

1943 Discovery of ductile-brittle transition in carbon Introduction of 15 ft-lb CVN energy

steels. requirement into specifications for ship
1954 Above characteristics considered relevant to TV introduced 3.5 mkg/cm2 energy
pipelines. requirement for pipelines.
1960 Brittle fracture propagation of 13 km in NPS 30 Development of Battelle drop weight
pipeline. tear test (BDWTT).
Dec. 1968 - Propagating ductile fracture in non-brittle, Introduction of minimum Charpy energy
Jan. 1969 supposedly crack resistant, material. requirements based on various fracture
1970 Proposed construction of Alaskan/ Canadian gas Steel development frenzy centered on
pipelines (CAGSL) X-80 (551 MPa) and -69C (-90F)
toughness requirements.
1972 HIC failure in X-65 BP pipeline in Ummshaif Introduction of BP test (NACE TM-02-84
(Arabian) Gulf. [Solution B]).
1974 Unpredictable fracture arrest in full scale Introduction of crack arrestors, improved
(CAGSL) tests. Attributed to rich gas, separations, fracture arrest modeling and revision of
high hoop stress and faulty models. rolling ideas for high strength linepipe.
1978 Stress corrosion cracking failures in newly Better metallurgical (hardness) controls
installed Australian and Canadian pipelines. and improved external coatings.
Improved operating practices.
1978 Molybdenum "shortage" and price escalation. Mo designed out of X-70 steels. Nb-Cr
design introduced plus TMCP.
1988/89 Vanadium price increase to $50/kilo Vanadium eliminated from many steels.
Mo and Cr + TMCP substituted.
1990 Development of deepwater oil and gas reserves Very heavy wall thickness (44 mm)
and design of Oman-India and Black Sea pipeline. collapse-resistant DSAW linepipe
developed for pipelines and TLP tendons
as well as high strength (80 ksi)
seamless risers.
1997 Need for very high pressure systems for Arctic Ultra high strength (135 ksi UTS) steels
developments in remote areas. considered and composite reinforcement
of conventional steels introduced.

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.

3.0 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
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.

3.1 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:

(a) Design Premise

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

(b) Specifications

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.

(c) 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

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:

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

(ii) 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.

(d) 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

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.

(e) 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.

(f) 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.

(g) 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.

(h) Inspection

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.

(i) 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.

3.3 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.

4.0 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.

5.0 Risk Factors

5.1 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.

Linepipe Non-Conformances

Technical Problem Background & Manifestation Corrective Action

(A) When using Microalloying Intl. or similar methodology.
Low Pipe Yield Strength 10 percent of heats <70 ksi found during hydrotest @ 100% SMYS. Require all ( even minor) changes to agreed MPS to be approved by client.
(circa 2000) Steel composition and rolling practices changed without client
Excessive Centerline Segregation (a) Malaysian Project circa 1988 Introduced proper macro etch procedure (no sulfur prints), increase surveillance at
(b) Australian Project circa 1999 the slab stage. Improve concast parameters such as speed and superheat.
(c) Korean Production circa 1997
(d) German Pipe Mill circa 2000
Toe cracks in I.D. weld area created during X-70 linepipe with yield strengths up to 108 ksi produced poor shape Use PSL-2 maximum yield strength limits and check dimensions (shape or
expansion due to peaking. before expansion. Seven additional cracks found during receiving peaking) before expansion. Improve final weld seam U.T.
Non-complying Hydrotest Initial hydrotest aborted due to pipe distortion but not recorded in the mill Automatic recording of final hydrotest pressure and computerized accept/reject
tracking system. About 49 pipes found on the right of way. procedure. Audit of hydrotest charts introduced.
Oil Contamination Pipe received at destination with either OD or ID oil contamination, Intensified or focused pipe mill inspection and updated (improved) pipe mill
required expensive detergent wash. housekeeping and inspection.
Tungsten carbide contamination of seam Large particles of tungsten carbide found in weld metal traced to flux Prohibit flux crushing and refurbishment, audit plate mills to identify potential
weld (DSAW) reprocessing facility or maintenance tools which fell onto the plate problems.
Non-conforming pipe with missed end x-ray Bar code system overridden by shipping supervisor. Bar code system updated and working instructions mandate reliance on computer
or improper hydrotest pressure arrived at database.
customers site.
(B) Other Projects
End cracks in DSAW weld 28 defective pipes identified after installation (during audit of end x-rays) Improve radiographic film contrast, improve film viewers and audit or duplicate
required internal crawler to locate affected pipe. Two others found during mill inspection.
offshore lay in girth weld X-ray took $3 million to locate and repair.
Weld metal Chevron (hydrogen) cracking (I) Chevron cracking found during transit from Europe to Middle East. Ban on moisture prone titaniferrous agglomerated fluxes. Check storage and
rebaking procedures for other fluxes.
Weld metal delayed cracking (II) Hydrogen assisted cracking found during UT traced to oil bevels and Cleaned bevels with detergent and followed flux vendors recommendations.
moisture prone flux
Failed stepwise cracking (HIC) tests Pipe shipped prematurely before completion of HIC (NACE TM0284) Review proposed steel chemistry and reject high calcium levels and inappropriate
tests. Poor CLR results. Ca:S ratios.
Cracks in weld area caused by transit fatigue Poor loading, procedures for lasch barges allowed pipe-to-pipe contact Enforced API RP5LW ship loading recommended practices and intensify
and excessive pipe movement. inspection.
Hot bends having low yield strength and/or Failed test bends due to inappropriate bending parameters and wrong Required vendor to qualify MPS on actual pipe to be used. Witness bending esp.
poor toughness assumptions about material and procedure. bending temperature and speed.
Poor weld seam toughness in HFI linepipe Normalizing (seam annealing) temperature excessive Establish proper <1000C peak normalizing temperature.

5.2 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 Mitigation Residual Technical Risk

I. Low Yield Strength Integrate efforts of skelp and pipe Poor pipe dimensions caused by 100%
manufacturer. Require demonstrated SMYS hydrotest.
competence. Utilize 100% SMYS mill
hydrotest. Avoid thin slab cast skelp.
II. Excessive Centerline Require rigorous monitoring of macro, Centerline condition may cause
Segregation etc. results and caster parameters. cracking during girth welding if
Utilize medium manganese Nb-Mo supplier is not conscientious.
formulations rather than high
manganese alloy designs. Restrict
phosphorus to 0.010%.
III. Non-Complying Deny request for <100% SMYS and Minimal same as Item I above.
Hydrotest require automated recording of
hydrotest pressure with go-no go
shipping release.
IV. Poor Weld Seam Use milled edge skelp. Prevent use of Occasional low toughness values may
Toughness 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.
V. Transit Fatigue Witness loading operation and provide Inconsequential. Missed defects will
for reinspection on unloading. be found during field hydrotest.

6.0 Conclusions

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.


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Pipeline and Gas Journal, p. 50, December, 1972.

2. H. Engelmann, A. Engel, P.A. Peters, C. Duren and H. Musch. First Use of Large-
Diameter Pipes of the Steel GRS 550 TM (X-80) in a High Pressure Gas Pipelines.
3R International, Issue 5, 1986.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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/NG-
18, 8th Biennial Joint Technical Meeting on Linepipe Research. Paris, France, May

6. 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.