Re-austenitisation of chromium-bearing pressure vessel steels during the weld thermal cycle
Steels with chromium contents between 0.5 and 12 wt% are commonly used for fabrication of creep resistant pressure vessels (PV) for the power generation industry. Most of these steels are susceptible to Type IV creep failure in the intercritical and/ or grain refined regions of the heat affected zone (HAZ) of the parent metal. The re-austenitisation process plays a central role in establishing the transformed microstructures and the creep resistance of the various sub-zones of the HAZ. The high alloy content and the presence of alloy-rich carbides in the as-supplied parent plate can significantly retard the kinetics of transformation to austenite, resulting in both incomplete austenitisation and inhomogeneous austenite. Overlapping weld thermal cycles in multi-pass welds add further complexity to the progressive development of microstructure over the course of the welding process. In order to clarify structural evolution, thermal simulation has been used to study the effects of successive thermal cycles on the structures and properties of the HAZ of 2.25Cr-1Mo steel. The results showed that, before post-weld heat treatment (PWHT), the HAZ microstructures and properties, particularly in doubly reheated sub-zones, were highly heterogeneous and differed markedly from those of the base steel. It is concluded that close control of the thermal cycle by pre-heat, weld heat input and post-heat is necessary to obtain a heat affected zone with microstructures and properties compatible with those of the base plate.