Experimental and computational failure analysis of hydrogen embrittled steel cords in a reinforced thermoplastic composite pipe

M. Elkhodbia, G. Mubarak, I. Gadala, I. Barsoum, A. AlFantazi, A. Al Tamimi

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    Reinforced thermoplastic pipes (RTPs) have attracted considerable attention lately in the oil and gas sector as potential alternative to carbon steel pipes. However, some RTP systems have been experiencing failures as a result of deficient design and inadequate operation practices. This study presents a comprehensive assessment of the failure of a steel-reinforced flexible thermoplastic composite layered pipe in a sour environment characterized by hydrogen sulfide (H2S) exposure. Utilizing scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and electron dispersive spectroscopy (EDS), the investigation conclusively attributes the failure of the RTP to hydrogen embrittlement of the carbon steel cords and wires in the reinforcement layer. Finite element models at both meso-scale and full RTP scale were developed, incorporating a novel damage initiation and propagation criterion for failure prediction of embrittled and non-embrittled (e.g. ductile) reinforcement steel cords. The numerical models consistently predicted a reduced burst pressures of the hydrogen embrittled case of the RTP, with a close match with field observations. They also predicted failure modes that closely matched the SEM findings, hence highlighting the unsuitability of the existing steel cords in RTPs for use in sour service environments. Additionally, the presence of moisture in the annular space was identified as an exacerbating factor. This investigation provides important insights for the future design and operation of RTPs susceptible to hydrogen embrittlement, paving the way for improved structural integrity and safety measures. Further research avenues may involve modeling hydrogen diffusion in the thermoplastic layers, simulating the movement of moisture in the annulus through the capillary effect, and incorporating fracture toughness degradation for a more thorough understanding of the interplay between mechanical and environmental factors in the hydrogen embrittlement of steel-reinforced RTP composite pipes.

    Original languageBritish English
    Article number107962
    JournalEngineering Failure Analysis
    StatePublished - Mar 2024


    • Corrosion
    • Ductile damage
    • Failure analysis
    • Finite element analysis
    • Hydrogen embrittlement


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