High strength, butt-welded pipeline fittings are critical components for the construction of reliable and safe pipeline systems to extract, gather and transmit oil and gas products. Due to stringent safety and environmental requirements, fittings manufacturers are obliged to adhere to commonly accepted industry standards (e.g. CSA Z245.11, MSS-SP-75) and adopt supplementary operators’ specifications. Nevertheless, there have been several recent cases where fittings delivered by qualified manufacturers and available through local stock suppliers have not met the specified tensile properties, such that they failed during hydrostatic pressure tests or in-service operations. The issue has triggered concerns of operators and regulators (e.g. NEB SA 2016-01) warning about the use of substandard fittings. Although deficiencies in engineering design or operation beyond permissible conditions could be contributing factors, the root cause of the recent fittings failures was mainly associated with the underlying metallurgy and processing resulting in critically low yield strength and/or toughness levels. Further, existing standards and specifications are not stringent enough to screen out fittings with inadequate steel composition or improper manufacturing parameters. As such, a comprehensive modelling and experimental study has been launched to understand the interplay between the composition, grade, geometry and plant-specific processing parameters of quenched and tempered pipeline components. The experiment entailed plant trials using an instrumented NPS 36″ 3D elbow to measure the actual thermal response of the fitting during reheating, quenching and tempering cycles. Data was acquired from 36 different positions on the part in order to monitor any deviations from intended production parameters. Further, the metallurgical behaviour of the base steel plate, in terms of austenite grain growth, continuous cooling transformations (CCT) and temper softening of the as-quenched microstructure, has been established by dilatometric tests and microstructural characterization. The analysis and coupling of these diverse data sets is not trivial and requires scientific-based computational modelling. An integrated thermal-structure-properties finite element model was developed to predict the temporal and spatial evolution of the microstructure and provide a 3D strength map for any as-quenched and as-tempered fitting. This predictive engineering tool aids the selection of adequate steels and suitable heat treatment parameters such that target gauges and grades can be manufactured by a given plant to meet the specified requirements and standards. This paper describes the aforementioned methodology and highlights the challenges associated with the manufacture of fittings; in particular thick-wall pipeline components. Further, guidelines and existing knowledge gaps for improved specifications and standards will be discussed.

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