P91 is a creep resistant steel – welding performance is dependent on chemical composition

We provided an assessment of weld procedures and metallurgy for attaching appendages to P91 heavy wall pipe.
Failures in times as short as 1500 hours after start up were found. Causation issues are related to heat treatment by the original supplier of the P91, subsequent hot forming, an improper post weld heat treatment.

This is a specially modified and heat treated steel that performs quite well at elevated temperature – usually 1,00 F and higher. Since it is a highly hardenable alloy, it is subject to hydrogen cracking. The performance of Grade 91 welds depends entirely on having the correct chemical analysis in the weld metal.

Appendages such as lifting lugs and alignment fixtures are welded to heavy wall pipe to facilitate installation of piping in a power plant. After these appendages have served their purpose, they are removed. These appendages are generally located adjacent to circumferential welds that are subjected to post weld heat treatment (PWHT) as required for the P91 steel.

P91 is a creep resistant martensitic steel used extensively in the generation of electric power. It is nominally a 9%Cr-1%Mo-I/4%V plus other small additions. The martensite structure is developed by heating the steel to a high temperature (austenitizing temperature) and then rapidly cooling to a temperature where the austenite transforms to martensite; the second step tempers the martensite to soften the microstructure.

The optimum properties for P91 steels are achieved in the quenched and tempered condition. To achieve the fully martensitic structure in weldments, the steel must be cooled to a temperature where the entire parent structure, austenite, has transformed.

This martensite finish temperature is about 200 F. In addition, the interpass temperature must be kept below about 600 F to prevent the austenite from being stabilized; a condition that prevents full transformation to martensite. Because martensite formed during welding is very hard and prone to cracking, the weldment must be subjected to a PWHT following any welding. The PWHT provides tempering of the newly formed martensite. Another characteristic of P91 is that it’s prone to hydrogen induced cracking. Prevention of this cracking requires high preheat temperatures and the use of low hydrogen electrodes. The combinations of high preheat temperatures and a low interpass temperatures makes the weldability “window” small.

The control of the welding process is through the implementation of well conceived and controlled welding procedures, and controls that assure that these practices are carried out.


We perform Weld Troubleshooting/ Consulting for clients in industries including energy, mining and petrochemical.

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Tom O’Donnell, PE
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(412) 835-5007

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