Post weld heat treatment

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Post weld heat treatment (PWHT) is a controlled process in which a material that has been welded is reheated to a temperature below its lower critical transformation temperature, and then it is held at that temperature for a specified amount of time. [1] It is often referred to as being any heat treatment performed after welding; however, within the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries, it has a specific meaning. Industry codes, such as the ASME Pressure Vessel and Piping Codes, often require mandatory performance of PWHT on certain materials to ensure a safe design with optimal mechanical and metallurgical properties. [2] [3]

Welding fabrication or sculptural process for joining materials

Welding is a fabrication or sculptural process that joins materials, usually metals or thermoplastics, by using high heat to melt the parts together and allowing them to cool causing fusion. Welding is distinct from lower temperature metal-joining techniques such as brazing and soldering, which do not melt the base metal.

Petrochemical chemical product derived from petroleum

Petrochemicals are chemical products derived from petroleum. Some chemical compounds made from petroleum are also obtained from other fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, or renewable sources such as corn, palm fruit or sugar cane.

ASME professional association

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) is an American professional association that, in its own words, "promotes the art, science, and practice of multidisciplinary engineering and allied sciences around the globe" via "continuing education, training and professional development, codes and standards, research, conferences and publications, government relations, and other forms of outreach." ASME is thus an engineering society, a standards organization, a research and development organization, an advocacy organization, a provider of training and education, and a nonprofit organization. Founded as an engineering society focused on mechanical engineering in North America, ASME is today multidisciplinary and global.


The need for PWHT is mostly due to the residual stresses and micro-structural changes that occur after welding has been completed. [2] During the welding process, a high temperature gradient is experienced between the weld metal and the parent material. As the weld cools, residual stress is formed. [2] For thicker materials, these stresses can reach an unacceptable level and exceed design stresses. Therefore, the part is heated to a specified temperature for a given amount of time to reduce these stresses to an acceptable level. [1] In addition to residual stresses, microstructural changes occur due to the high temperatures induced by the welding process. [1] These changes can increase hardness of the material and reduce toughness and ductility. The use of PWHT can help reduce any increased hardness levels and improve toughness and ductility to levels acceptable for design. [1]

Residual stress

Residual stresses are stresses that remain in a solid material after the original cause of the stresses has been removed. Residual stress may be desirable or undesirable. For example, laser peening imparts deep beneficial compressive residual stresses into metal components such as turbine engine fan blades, and it is used in toughened glass to allow for large, thin, crack- and scratch-resistant glass displays on smartphones. However, unintended residual stress in a designed structure may cause it to fail prematurely.

Ductility The most ductile material is platinum.

Ductility is a measure of a material's ability to undergo significant plastic deformation before rupture, which may be expressed as percent elongation or percent area reduction from a tensile test. According to Shigley's Mechanical Engineering Design significant denotes about 5.0 percent elongation. See also Eq. 2–12, p. 50 for definitions of percent elongation and percent area reduction. Ductility is often characterized by a material's ability to be stretched into a wire.

The requirements specified within various pressure vessels and piping codes are mostly due to the chemical makeup and thickness of the material. [1] Codes such as ASME Section VIII and ASME B31.3 will require that a specified material be post weld heat treated if it is over a given thickness. [1] Codes also require PWHT based solely on the micro-structural make-up of the material. [1] A final consideration in deciding the need for PWHT is based on the components' intended service, such as one with a susceptibility to stress corrosion cracking. In such cases, PWHT is mandatory regardless of thickness. [4]

Stress corrosion cracking

Stress corrosion cracking (SCC) is the growth of crack formation in a corrosive environment. It can lead to unexpected sudden failure of normally ductile metals subjected to a tensile stress, especially at elevated temperature. SCC is highly chemically specific in that certain alloys are likely to undergo SCC only when exposed to a small number of chemical environments. The chemical environment that causes SCC for a given alloy is often one which is only mildly corrosive to the metal. Hence, metal parts with severe SCC can appear bright and shiny, while being filled with microscopic cracks. This factor makes it common for SCC to go undetected prior to failure. SCC often progresses rapidly, and is more common among alloys than pure metals. The specific environment is of crucial importance, and only very small concentrations of certain highly active chemicals are needed to produce catastrophic cracking, often leading to devastating and unexpected failure.


Rate of heating, hold times and temperatures, and rate of cooling are all important variables that need to be controlled and monitored precisely, or the desired effects may not be achieved. [3] When PWHT is mandatory by a given industry code, requirements for these variables will be specified. [3] [4] [5]


The rate of heating when PWHT is performed is typically based on the component’s thickness and is specified by the governing codes. [1] [6] If the rate of heating is not performed properly, either by heating too quickly or unevenly, temperature gradients within the component can become detrimental to the component. As a result, stress cracks may occur and residual stresses not previously created can form when the component is cooled to ambient temperatures. [4]

A temperature gradient is a physical quantity that describes in which direction and at what rate the temperature changes the most rapidly around a particular location. The temperature gradient is a dimensional quantity expressed in units of degrees per unit length. The SI unit is kelvin per meter (K/m). It can be found in the formula for dQ/dt, the rate of heat transfer per second.

Holding temperature and time

Holding temperature and time are governed by the material and thickness respectively. [4] [6] Regarding material thickness, longer holding times are needed for thicker materials. [4] This is to allow the material to reach a stable condition where the distribution and levels of stresses become more uniform and decrease. [2] [6] The specified holding temperature is one that is at a high enough temperature to relieve high residual stress levels, yet is still below the lower transformation temperature. [1] [2] In addition to the reduction of stress, high hold temperatures below the transformation temperature allow for microstructural transformations, therein reducing hardness and improving ductility. [6] Great care should be taken as to not heat the component above the lower transformation temperature, as detrimental metallurgical effects and impaired mechanical properties can result. [6] In addition, the holding temperature should not be greater than the original tempering temperature unless later mechanical testing is performed. Holding above the original tempering temperature can reduce the strength of the material to below ASME required minimums. [4]


As with the heating rate, the cooling rate must be controlled, as to avoid any detrimental temperature gradients that could cause cracking or introduce new stresses during cooling. [4] In addition to this, rapid cooling rates can increase hardness, which may increase the susceptibility of a brittle fracture. [7] .

Monitoring technique

Thermocouples are typically attached to the component undergoing PWHT to check and ensure that heating rates, hold temperatures, and cooling rates meet code specification. Computer software is typically used in conjunction with the thermocouples to monitor the fore-mentioned variables and provide documentation that the PWHT was performed properly. [5]

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Heat treating process of heating something to alter it

Heat treating is a group of industrial and metalworking processes used to alter the physical, and sometimes chemical, properties of a material. The most common application is metallurgical. Heat treatments are also used in the manufacture of many other materials, such as glass. Heat treatment involves the use of heating or chilling, normally to extreme temperatures, to achieve a desired result such as hardening or softening of a material. Heat treatment techniques include annealing, case hardening, precipitation strengthening, tempering, carburizing, normalizing and quenching. It is noteworthy that while the term heat treatment applies only to processes where the heating and cooling are done for the specific purpose of altering properties intentionally, heating and cooling often occur incidentally during other manufacturing processes such as hot forming or welding.

Cupronickel or copper-nickel (CuNi) is an alloy of copper that contains nickel and strengthening elements, such as iron and manganese. The copper contents typically varies from 60 to 90 percent.

Austenite metallic, non-magnetic allotrope of iron or a solid solution of iron, with an alloying element

Austenite, also known as gamma-phase iron (γ-Fe), is a metallic, non-magnetic allotrope of iron or a solid solution of iron, with an alloying element. In plain-carbon steel, austenite exists above the critical eutectoid temperature of 1000 K (727 °C); other alloys of steel have different eutectoid temperatures. The austenite allotrope is named after Sir William Chandler Roberts-Austen (1843–1902); it exists at room temperature in stainless steel.

Carbon steel steel in which the main interstitial alloying constituent is carbon

Carbon steel is a steel with carbon content up to 2.1% by weight. The definition of carbon steel from the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) states:

Piping system of pipes used to transport fluids (gases, liquids or pourable or pumpable solids) from one location to another;high-performance (high-pressure, high-flow, high-temperature or hazardous-material) conveyance of fluids in specialized applications

Within industry, piping is a system of pipes used to convey fluids from one location to another. The engineering discipline of piping design studies the efficient transport of fluid.

Tempering (metallurgy) metallurgy

Tempering is a process of heat treating, which is used to increase the toughness of iron-based alloys. Tempering is usually performed after hardening, to reduce some of the excess hardness, and is done by heating the metal to some temperature below the critical point for a certain period of time, then allowing it to cool in still air. The exact temperature determines the amount of hardness removed, and depends on both the specific composition of the alloy and on the desired properties in the finished product. For instance, very hard tools are often tempered at low temperatures, while springs are tempered at much higher temperatures.

Dendrite (metal)

A dendrite in metallurgy is a characteristic tree-like structure of crystals growing as molten metal solidifies, the shape produced by faster growth along energetically favourable crystallographic directions. This dendritic growth has large consequences in regard to material properties.

In metallurgy and materials science, annealing is a heat treatment that alters the physical and sometimes chemical properties of a material to increase its ductility and reduce its hardness, making it more workable. It involves heating a material above its recrystallization temperature, maintaining a suitable temperature for a suitable amount of time, and then cooling.

Pipe (fluid conveyance) tubular section or hollow cylinder

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A welding defect is any flaw that compromises the usefulness of a weldment. There is a great variety of welding defects. Welding imperfections are classified according to ISO 6520 while their acceptable limits are specified in ISO 5817 and ISO 10042.

Friction stir processing

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The ASME Boiler & Pressure Vessel Code (BPVC) is an American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) standard that regulates the design and construction of boilers and pressure vessels. The document is written and maintained by volunteers chosen for their technical expertise. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers works as an Accreditation Body and entitles independent third parties such as verification, testing and certification agencies to inspect and ensure compliance to the BPVC.


HY-80 is a high-tensile, high yield strength, low alloy steel. It was developed for use in naval applications, specifically the development of pressure hulls for the US nuclear submarine program and is still currently used in many naval applications. It is valued for its strength to weight ratio.


Peening is the process of working a metal's surface to improve its material properties, usually by mechanical means, such as hammer blows, by blasting with shot or blasts of light beams with laser peening. Peening is normally a cold work process, with laser peening being a notable exception. It tends to expand the surface of the cold metal, thereby inducing compressive stresses or relieving tensile stresses already present. Peening can also encourage strain hardening of the surface metal.

Thermal stress is stress created by any change in temperature to a material. These stresses can lead to fracture or plastic deformation depending on the other variables of heating, which include material types and constraints. Temperature gradients, thermal expansion or contraction and thermal shocks are things that can lead to thermal stress. This type of stress is highly dependent on the thermal expansion coefficient which varies from material to material. In general the larger the temperature change, the higher the level of stress that can occur.

Friction hydro-pillar processing is a solid-state joining technology which can be used for filling of surface and sub-surface cracks in thick metals. For example, FHPP was attempted for the first time to repair cracks in space shuttle external components of high-strength aluminum alloys. FHPP is also considered in repairing surface cracks in steam turbine rotors of a high-strength, high-temperature-resistant steel (Ref). Alternative methods such as fusion welding processes for in-service repairing of cracks in components of these high-strength steels remained difficult because of their high hardenability and mandatory need of pre-heating and post-weld heat treatment. In contrast, initial FHPP trials could achieve joint strengths up to 90% of the base materials in high-strength steel components, especially those used for petrochemical and thermal power plants. In particular, pressurized pipes and vessels of AISI 4140 steel are widely used in the power generation, oil and gas, and petrochemical industries. Initial studies on FHPP of this alloy have showed promising results.


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  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Heat Treatment of Welded Joints - Part 1".
  3. 1 2 3 Welding Inspection. Miami, FL: American Welding Society. 1980. pp. 38–39. ISBN   978-0-87171-177-9.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Heat treatment of welded joints - Part 2".
  5. 1 2 "Heat Treatment Part 3".
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Croft, D (1996). Heat Treatment of Welded Steel Structures. Cambridge England: Woodhead Publishing Ltd. pp. 16–18. ISBN   1 85573 016 2.
  7. Thielsch, Helmut (1977). Defects and Failures in Pressure Vessels and Piping. Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company. p. 305. ISBN   978-0-88275-308-9.