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A natural gas pipeline explosion and subsequent fire significantly altered the pipeline steel microstructure, obscuring in part the primary cause of failure, namely, coating breakdown at a local hard spot in the steel. Chemical analysis was made on pieces cut from the portion of the pipe that did not fracture during the explosion and from piece 5-1 which contained the fracture origin site. Both pieces were found to have 0.30% carbon and 1.2% Mn with sulfur and phosphorus impurities acceptably low. Fracture mechanics analysis used in conjunction with fractographic results confirmed the existence of a very hard spot in the steel prior to the explosion, which was softened significantly in the ensuing fire. This finding allowed the micromechanism leading to fracture to be identified as hydrogen embrittlement resulting from cathodic charging.

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Walter L. Bradley, Application of Fracture Mechanics to Pipeline Failure Analysis, ASM Failure Analysis Case Histories: Oil and Gas Production Equipment, ASM International, 2019,

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