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September 18-22, 2006

Lecture on Welding, NDE and Integrity Assessment Lecture number 19 b, 1 of 15


1. INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................ 3

2. BS 7910 .................................................................................................................................. 7

3. ASSESSMENT FOR FRACTURE RESISTANCE ................................................................................. 9

4. REFERENCES.......................................................................................................................... 14

Lecture on Welding, NDE and Integrity Assessment Lecture number 19 b, 2 of 15

An Introduction to BS 7910: The UK Guide on Methods for
Assessing the Acceptability of Flaws in Metallic Structures

1. Introduction

Defects in pressure vessels and piping components can be introduced during manufacturing
(e.g. laminations), transportation (e.g. fatigue cracking), fabrication (e.g. weld defects) and
installation (e.g. dents), and can occur both due to deterioration (e.g. corrosion) and due to
external interference (e.g. gouges and dents). To ensure the integrity of these components,
operators must be able to both detect and assess the significance of pipeline defects. The past
45 years has seen the development of ’fitness-for-purpose’ methods for assessing the
significance of these defects.

A pressure retaining system must be operated safely and efficiently. There are four key issues
in the operation of these systems:

1. Safety - the system must pose an acceptably low risk to the surrounding population.

2. Security of Supply - the system must deliver its product in a continuous manner, to satisfy
the owners of the product (the ’shippers’) and the shippers’ customers (the ’end users’), and
have low risk of supply failure.

3. Cost Effectiveness - the system must deliver the product at an attractive market price, and
generate an acceptable rate of return on the investment.

4. Regulations - the operation of the system must satisfy all legislation and regulations.

An operator must ensure that all risks associated with the pipeline are as low as is reasonably
practicable. Occasionally an operator will detect, or become aware, of defects in their
pipeline. In the past, this may have led to expensive shutdowns and repairs. However, recent
years have seen the increasing use of fitness-for-purpose methods to assess these pipeline

Detailed procedures for assessing the significance of defects in structures are given in
documents such as BS 7910: 1999 [1], API 579 [2], SINTAP [3], R6 [4], ASME [5] and
others. For many engineers, the decision of whether to use fitness-for-service assessment
procedures and which procedures to use can be difficult. While users and regulators across
industry now increasingly accept defects and damage in equipment assessed as fit-for-service,
the differences between the available procedures and the implied safety margins are not so
well understood. There can be uncertainty about the data and technical skills required to
make good assessments. As a result, the benefits from fitness-for-service assessment may not
have been as widespread as might have been expected.

Lecture on Welding, NDE and Integrity Assessment Lecture number 19 b, 3 of 15

Cosham and Kirkwood [6] have arranged the dilemma faced by an operator on
detecting a flaw in his piping component.


Any engineer with a potential defect problem should question the need for a fitness-
for-purpose assessment as follows:

PHASE 1 – Appraisal

• Is it really there, and can I readily dismiss it?

o Is it really a defect, or is it some feature of the inspection method?

o Are the operating conditions able to create such a defect and can
operational conditions be controlled to prevent growth (e.g. corrosion
inhibition, re-coating)?

o Is the defect within design and fabrication acceptance levels?

o What is industry experience of similar defects? For example, have

other companies faced this problem, and produced a solution that
concludes that the defect is acceptable?

• Is it a defect?

o Do I know how the defect was formed, and how it may develop in the

o Is the defect indicative of poor practice during construction or

operation, and as such can be controlled by other methods?

• Who is competent to assess the defect?

o What are the legal ramifications (e.g. professional liability), what are
the views of the regulatory body, and who would be responsible for the
structure, and any defect assessment relating to it?

o Is current staff capable and experienced enough to apply fitness-for-

purpose methods?

• Is it worth the effort?

o Is it cheaper to repair than assess?

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PHASE 2 - Assessment

• Can fitness-for-purpose methods provide an answer?

o Can fitness-for-purpose methods solve the problem? For example, are
the methods robust for the particular defect and loading?

o What data exists, and how reliable is it? If the data is sparse, what
confidence is there in any engineering judgment, or are special tests

PHASE 3 - Safety Factors and Probabilistic Aspects

• What safety margins should be used?

o If fitness-for-purpose methods are applied, what safety factors should

be used?

o How should the safety factors be set, and would it be better to conduct
a probabilistic analysis?

PHASE 4 - Consequence

• What are the consequences of getting it wrong?

o Is a risk analysis required?

Having decided that a defect assessment can be conducted, it is now necessary to

determine the level of detail and complexity that is required.

Different levels of defect assessment, ranging from simple screening methods to

very sophisticated three-dimensional elastic-plastic finite element stress analyses,
are available. The method used depends upon the type of defect detected, the
loading conditions, the objective of the assessment, and the type and quality of data
that is available. Figure 1 summarizes the differing levels of defect assessments, and
the required data.

Generally, defect assessments are conducted up to stage 3. If defects still remained

‘unacceptable’ at this stage, a higher-level assessment, or repair would be
necessary. A sensible approach to adopt in any fitness for purpose assessment is to
use the most conservative data and assessment method to demonstrate that the
defect is acceptable, and apply more accurate (less conservative) methods only as
required. More accurate assessment methods generally require more data, and are
more difficult to apply.

The higher levels may require risk analyses. Risk is a function of the probability of
failure and the consequences of failure. Such analyses are becoming increasingly
popular, but are also very complicated.

Lecture on Welding, NDE and Integrity Assessment Lecture number 19 b, 5 of 15

A fitness-for-purpose analysis of defects does not entail a risk analysis, although due
account of the consequences of failure will be taken in a qualitative manner, and the
recommended safety factor will reflect this.

Figure 1: Stages in Defect Assessment

A fitness-for-purpose assessment will usually involve a deterministic assessment of

the defects, to determine whether or not the defect is acceptable. Probabilistic
methods are useful when dealing with uncertainty over the data used in the
assessment or future conditions, such as corrosion rates. These methods can be
used as an aid to deciding future inspection and maintenance requirements.
Underlying such probabilistic analyses are fitness-for-purpose methods for assessing
defects (i.e. the limit states). This document talks about fracture assessment using
BS 7910.

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2. BS 7910

The fracture mechanics based fitness-for-purpose (FFP) approach, also referred to

as Engineering Critical Analysis (ECA), enables the significance of flaws to be
assessed in terms of structural integrity. The ECA concept has undergone extensive
developments in the past 30 years or so and the widely used PD6493 [7] procedure
has been produced in the UK. The document has recently been revised and is now
published as BS 7910 “Guide on methods for assessing the acceptability of flaws in
metallic structures” [1].

BS 7910 comprises 10 sections and 15 annexes. Sections 1 to 6 describe the

information required for assessment in terms of defect characteristics and
dimensions, stresses and material properties. Section 7 to 10 gives the procedures
for assessment of fracture, fatigue, flaws under creep conditions and other modes of
failure. The annexes contain normative procedures for dealing with certain situations
(e.g. combined direct and shear stresses, determination of fracture toughness from
variable materials data) and informative data (e.g. residual stress distributions for as-
welded joints, weld strength mismatch, and proof testing and warm pre-stressing).
This information is maintained at a state of the art level and is one of the most useful
features of BS 7910

BS 7910 gives procedures for assessing fatigue crack growth based on quality
factors and crack growth calculation. A single procedure is given for assessing flaws
at high temperature and corrosion, with advice given on further assessment if initial
results are not favorable. There are three levels for the assessment of fracture based
around the failure assessment diagram concept.

o Level 1 is a screening procedure and the most conservative.

o Level 2 is material specific and estimates the interaction between
fracture and plasticity.
o Level 3 involves a direct calculation of plasticity effects.

In general, qualified engineers trained in fracture mechanics intend BS 7910 for use,
and significant computation of stresses and fracture parameters is often necessary.
Because BS 7910 is intended to apply to equipment manufactured to different design
codes and materials, (unlike API 579 which is based around ASME design and
materials), specific stress and materials data is required even for level 1 fracture
assessment. As a result, use of BS 7910 generally requires personnel experienced
in FFS assessment with access to appropriate data and/or testing facilities.

The code outlines methods for assessing the acceptability of flaws in all types of
structures and components. The types of flaws, which can be assessed by this
document, are:

o Planar flaws
o Non-Planar flaws
o Shape imperfections

The modes of failure considered are

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o Failure by fracture and plastic collapse
o Damage by fatigue
o Damage by creep and creep fatigue
o Damage by leakage of containment vessels
o Damage by erosion/corrosion
o Damage by environment assisted cracking
o Failure by instability

The recommended sequence of operations for carrying out an assessment for a

known flaw is given as:

1. Identify the flaw type

2. Establish the essential data
3. Determine the size of the flaw
4. Assess possible material damage mechanisms and damage rate
5. Determine limiting size of the flaw
6. Based on the damage rate, assess whether the flaw will grow to this final size
within the remaining life of the structure or in-service inspection interval, by
sub-critical flaw growth
7. Assess the consequence of failure
8. Carry out sensitivity analysis
9. If the flaw could not grow to the limiting size, including appropriate factor of
safety, it is acceptable. Ideally, the safety factors should take account of both
the confidence in the assessment and the consequence of failure

Essential data

Relevant data from the following list may be required.

1. Nature, position of the flaw

2. Structural and weld geometry, fabrication procedure
3. Stresses (pressure, thermal, residual, transients)
4. Tensile properties
5. Fatigue and corrosion data
6. Fracture toughness
7. Creep data
8. Stress corrosion cracking data

Non-destructive testing

The information desired from NDE is

o Flaw length
o Flaw height
o Flaw position
o Flaw orientation
o Planar or non-planar cross-section

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3. Assessment for fracture resistance

There are three levels of fracture assessment in this code. Similar methods are used
in each of the levels. The three levels are as follows

Level 1: Simple, used when limited information is available on material properties

Level 2: Normal assessment route

Level 3: Tearing analysis permitted for ductile materials

In general, the analysis is first performed using the Level 1 analysis. If the flaw is
unacceptable then the analysis is done using higher levels. The complexity of the
analysis increases with each level and the analysis progressively becomes more
realistic and less conservative.

Assessment is done using a failure assessment diagram (FAD) (figure 2). The
vertical axis of the FAD represents nearness to the brittle fracture. The horizontal
axis is a measure of nearness to the plastic collapse. The FAD defines a safe zone
enclosed by a failure assessment line (FAL). The fracture assessment is done using
this diagram.

Figure 2: Failure Assessment Diagram

The FAD based assessment is valid for planar flaws. For non-planar flaws different
methodology is suggested.

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The basic methodology for assessment in each of the levels can be given as:

1. Define stresses: the stresses need to be distinguished between primary and

secondary stresses. Guidance has been provided for treatment of the residual
stresses due to welding.

Level 1 Analysis:

In the case of components where post weld heat treatment (PWHT) has not
been done, secondary stress of the magnitude of the yield stress of the
material at room temperature must be considered.
For components, which have been subjected to PWHT, the residual stresses
should be taken equal to

30% room temperature yield strength, parallel to the weld

20% room temperature yield strength, transverse to the weld

Level 2 and 3 analysis:

Annex Q of BS 7910 gives residual stress profiles for common welds. One
such profile is presented in figure 3.

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Figure 3: Residual Stress Profiles

2. Evaluate fracture toughness data: For Level 1 and 2 fracture toughness “Kmat”
is required. It can be conservatively estimated from Charpy energy. For Level
3, ductile tearing curve is necessary.

3. Obtain material tensile properties: For Level 1 and 2, yield stress is only
required. In Level 2 and 3, a detailed analysis using stress strain curve can be

4. Characterize flaw: the flaw obtained from the inspection data needs to be
characterize into a semi-elliptical (surface flaw), elliptical (embedded flaw) or
rectangular (through thickness flaw). The flaw should be considered in planes
normal to principal stresses. The worst combination needs to be considered
for analysis.

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5. Calculate nearness to plastic collapse: this measure in Level 1 is given as Sr.
It is defined as the ratio of the reference stress σref to the flow stress of the
material σflow.
S r = ref
σ flow
σref is the stress at the cracked section that will lead to plastic collapse of the
component. Formulations for a variety of cracked configurations are listed in
the Annexure P of the code.

In Level 2 and 3 the nearness to collapse is described by a parameter Lr. It is

defined as the ratio of the reference stress σref to the yield stress of the
material σys.
Lr = ref
σ ys
The secondary stresses are not considered for the calculation of Sr.

6. Calculate the nearness to brittle fracture: This measure in all levels is given as
Kr. It is defined as the ratio of the applied stress intensity factor KI to the
fracture toughness Kmat of the material.
Kr = I
K mat
The secondary stresses are also considered while calculating this ratio.

7. Construct the FAD: The points Lr and Kr (assessed points) are plotted on a
failure assessment diagram (FAD). The FAD is safe and unsafe regions
defined. Here mode of failure is crack initiation. The basic difference between
the Levels of analysis lies in the definition of FAD.

Level 1 FAD

The assessed flaw is acceptable if Kr < 0.707 and Sr < 0.8. This FAD (Figure
4) contains an in-built safety factor (approximately 2 on flaw size)

Level 2 FAD

There are 2 FAD definitions given in Level 2. Level 2A is given for the cases
in which full stress strain curve is not known. Level 2B is given for cases
where full stress strain curve is known (Figure 5).

Level 2A FAD:
( )
K r = (1 − 0.14 L2r ) 0.3 + 0.7 exp  −0.65 L6r  for Lr ≤ Lr (max)
=0 for Lr > Lr (max)

−1 2
 Eε ref L3rσ ys 
Kr =  +  for 0.0 < Lr ≤ Lr (max)
Level 2B FAD:  r ys 2 Eε ref 
=0 for Lr > Lr (max)

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In the curve for Level 2B FAD, εref is the true strain corresponding to true
stress Lr.σys. E is the Young’s modulus. The Lr(max) is defined as

Lr (max) =
(σ ys + σ uts )
2σ ys

Level 1 FAD
0.4 SAFE

0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1

Figure 4: Level 1 FAD

Figure 5: Level 2 FADS

The Level 3 definition for FAD is similar to Level 2 FAD, but it permits
increased margins by using unstable crack growth as failure mode.

Factor of safety in Level 2 and 3 analysis

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The data (crack size, material properties, load) used for the assessment
exhibit considerable uncertainty or scatter. One way to address this scatter is
by taking very conservative values. An alternative approach is to use
structural reliability methods to estimate probability of failure of the structures.
This approach is finding increasing usage nowadays. The reliability analysis
of cracked components is an involved exercise. Use of partial safety factors
(PSF) is an easy way to assess the safety of cracked components.

In this approach factor of safety is applied individually to each of the

parameters exhibiting scatter such that the assessment results in a targeted
probability of failure. Higher is the uncertainty in a particular variable, higher is
the PSF applied to that parameter. The PSF are generated by a reliability
assessment for a target probability of failure. The acceptable probability of
failure is a function of the severity of the consequence of failure.

BS 7910 has listed partial safety factors in Annex K, for the following input

o Applied stress
o Flaw size
o Toughness
o Yield stress

These have been generated for different levels of uncertainty in these

variables measured in terms of coefficient of variation ‘cov’ (standard
The PSF have been generated for target probability of failures ‘p(F)’ of 0.23,
10-3, 7X10-5 and 10-5.

Thus these variables are modified based on the selected cov and target p(F)
before the are used for calculating Kr and Lr in the analysis.

8. Assess the significance of results: If the assessed point is in the safe region
the flaw is acceptable. The code recommends a sensitivity analysis on the
results with respect to the flaw sizes, loads and material properties before the
decision is made.

4. References

1. BS. “Guide on methods for assessing the acceptability of flaws in fusion welded
structures”. BS 7910 : 1999, British Standards Institute, London, UK, 1999.

2. API. “Recommended practice for fitness-for-service”. API 579. Washington, DC:

American Petroleum Institute, 2000.

3. SINTAP. “Structural integrity assessment procedure for European industry”. Final

Procedure, 1999. Brite-Euram Project No. BE95- 1426, British Steel.

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4. Milne I, Ainsworth RA, Dowling AR, Stewart AT. “Assessment of the integrity of
structures containing defects”. CEGB Report R/H/R6-Revision 3. Latest ed. 1986;
latest ed. British Energy, 1999.

5. ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code, 1998 Edition. Section XI – Rules for In-
service Inspection of Nuclear Power Plant Components

6. Andrew Cosham and Mike Kirkwood, “Best practice in pipeline defect

assessment”, Proceedings of IPC 2000: International Pipeline Conference October
2000; Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Also,

7. BS. “Guidance on methods for assessing the acceptability of flaws in fusion

welded structures”. PD6493: 1991: British Standards Institution, London, 1991.

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