While the general fracture mechanics principles and methodologies for calculating fatigue lives are well documented and validated, their application in the prediction of pipeline system fatigue lives differed from field experience. The source and magnitude of the conservatism inherent in the calculated fatigue life estimates are an important element when establishing integrity management programs. Of particular interest are the fatigue life estimates used in integrity management programs for electric resistance welded (ERW) pipeline systems that may have pipe seam anomalies oriented along the pipe axis. BMT Canada Ltd (BMT) was contracted by Pipeline Research Council International (PRCI) to develop a pipeline material fatigue crack growth database and conduct full scale cyclic pressure fatigue tests to develop improved crack growth rate parameters.

A pipeline material fatigue crack growth database was developed using 185 fatigue crack growth rate tests on 45 pipeline materials ranging in grade from X46 to X70 and in vintage from 1937 to 2014. The database included fatigue crack growth rate tests on 18 pipe body base materials (BM) and 27 ERW weld seam materials at two different, stress ratios (R), of R-ratio = 0.1 and R-ratio = 0.6. The sampled crack growth rates observed in the pipeline steels, tested in the project were 2 to 3 times lower than the crack growth rates recommended in BS 7910. This paper presents the proposed power (Paris) law fatigue crack growth equation parameters, C and m, developed in the study.

Two full-scale cyclic pressure tests were carried out to validate the use of recommended crack growth rate parameters. Axial flaws were machined in the pipe body and weld center line (WCL). Fifty-one (51) flaws of different lengths and depths were machined. The crack growth rates were monitored during the cyclic pressure tests by recording crack mouth opening displacement (CMOD). The calibration curves for correlating CMODs with crack depths were developed and validated against finite element (FE) analysis. The fatigue crack growth rates observed in the full-scale tests were then compared with existing BS 7910 and API 579 formulations.

The comparison confirmed that the BS 7910 approach results in very conservative estimates of fatigue crack growth rates for axial flaws. The BS 7910 stress intensity factor formulation overestimated the bulging correction for axially oriented flaws. The API 579 fracture mechanics-based fatigue crack growth formulation combined with crack growth rate parameters developed in this program provided improved estimates for fatigue life. The fatigue crack growth rates for line pipe and ERW weld seams developed in this project were shown to be less conservative and better predictors for fatigue crack growth and represent a valuable tool for pipeline integrity management. The use of this information will enable pipeline operators to focus remedial actions on features that have the lowest estimated fatigue lives.

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