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Hydrogen Induced Cracking (HIC)

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Hydrogen Induced Cracking (HIC) is a common form of wet H2S cracking caused by the blistering of a metal due to a high concentration of hydrogen. The blistering damage tends to form parallel to the surface and to the direction of hoop stress.

HIC usually occurs due to the effects of aqueous hydrogen charging of steel in wet H2S refinery process environments. It can occur at relatively low temperatures, largely as a result of atomic hydrogen from wet H2S corrosion reactions which enter the steel and collect at inclusions or impurities within the steel. The H2S prevents the hydrogen recombination reaction that would normally occur so, rather than bubbling off from the corroding surface, the hydrogen atoms are forced into the metal structure causing corrosion and weakness.

The damage occurs when the hydrogen collects at inclusions or impurities in the steel. It tends primarily occur in steels that have a hardness of 22 or more on the Rockwell C scale.

As far as damage mechanisms go HIC is usually, but not always, fairly innocuous. It usually isn’t damaging until it becomes extensive and begins to affect the material properties. Once the ductility of the metal has reduced to a significant amount, the metal will form stepwise internal cracks connecting adjacent hydrogen blisters. These can become dangerous should they propagate into a weld.

On the surface, HIC is often horseshoe shaped and no bigger than the cuticle of your small finger. Regular inspection and testing should be performed in order to eliminate the chances of hydrogen corrosion. The conventional method for detecting wet H2S cracking is Wet Fluorescent Magnetic Particle Inspection (WFMPI) which is able to detect sub-surface cracks in the steel caused by HIC. When it comes to cracked piping and other components which cannot be inspected using WFMPI, Phased Array Ultrasonic Testing (PAUT) is the most convenient and reliable non-destructive method available.

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Articles about Hydrogen Induced Cracking (HIC)
January/February 2022 Inspectioneering Journal

Within one unit, TriLat combines the power of two probes containing three angle beam sets to identify and quantify cracking at early stages. The result is inspection speeds up to ten times faster than traditional AUT systems, depending on probe size.

January/February 2022 Inspectioneering Journal

This edition of Damage Control will offer practical steps to mitigate different forms of wet H2S damage and help to minimize long-term inspection and maintenance costs related to wet H2S damage.

November/December 2021 Inspectioneering Journal

This issue of Damage Control offers a perspective on how to assess the different forms of wet H2S damage using modern FFS and computational analysis techniques with the safe operation of damaged pressure vessels, piping, and associated components.

September/October 2021 Inspectioneering Journal

This article summarizes the fundamentals of wet H2S-related damage mechanisms, offers some practical inspection guidance, and reviews a notable industry failure caused by different forms of wet H2S damage.

January/February 2020 Inspectioneering Journal

The author will discuss the failure of a dissimilar joint while examining the root causes of the failure along with potential solutions and preventive actions that would not compromise the welding production rate.

Authors: Samer E. Ibrahim
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InVista is a lightweight, hand-held ultrasonic in-line inspection tool (intelligent pig) capable of detecting pipeline wall loss and corrosion in unpiggable or difficult-to-inspect pipelines. The pipeline geometry inspection data captured by the...

January/February 2017 Inspectioneering Journal

This article summarizes a comprehensive survey conducted by the Research & Development Center (R&DC) of Saudi Aramco to understand top corrosion damage mechanisms experienced by its operating onshore surface facilities.

November/December 2015 Inspectioneering Journal

Understanding the common factors that promote corrosion threats in the oil and gas value chain helps operators create effective inspection strategies.

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AE monitoring has been done for HIC affected vessels, with limited success. The limitation, which greatly affects the confidence level of results, is that traditional AE testing stresses, i.e. Kaiser affect overpressure and felicity effect types of...

Authors: Greg Alvarado
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A question was posed to me regarding guidelines for routine external inspection of spheres, including procedural approaches along with any nondestructive examination (NDE). Here are two approaches to inspection of spheres, and a mixture of the two,...

Authors: Greg Alvarado
May/June 2013 Inspectioneering Journal

With 30 years of refinery experience, I have been through many turnarounds and been involved with a lot of repairs. When I started in the business, we would have inspectors that “owned” their specific pieces of equipment.

Partner Content

Tri-Lateral Phased Array is a novel robotic phased array ultrasonic testing technique for the on-stream inspection of fixed equipment in wet hydrogen sulfide (H2S) service. TriLat identifies and quantifies wet H2S damage in the base metal of...

May/June 2006 Inspectioneering Journal

As noted in the discussion on delayed cracking, when the steel contains hydrogen as a result of service exposure (or corrosion, or high temperature - high pressure hydrogen processing) then a hydrogen bake out may be needed to avoid cracking...

Authors: John Reynolds
November/December 2003 Inspectioneering Journal

There are a variety of forms of wet H2S cracking. In this short article I will focus on two of the most common forms: hydrogen induced cracking and stress-oriented hydrogen induced cracking (HIC/ SOHIC). HIC is often fairly innocuous (but not...

Authors: John Reynolds
September/October 2001 Inspectioneering Journal

Hydrogen-induced cracking is a damage mechanism commonly observed in the petroleum refining industry [1, 2]. The damage appears as laminar cracks and blisters, which can link up in the through-wall direction to form stepwise cracking.

Authors: W. David Wang
May/June 1995 Inspectioneering Journal

Exposure of carbon steel equipment to wet H2S service environments can lead to various forms of attack, e.g. hydrogen blistering and hydrogen induced cracking (HIC), stress oriented hydrogen induced cracking (SOHIC) and sulfide stress cracking...

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