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Prediction of Step Wise Cracking due to Hydrogen attack in steel vessels using finite element stress analysis and acoustic emission - funded by Lloyd’s Register Foundation (NSIRC229 PhD Studentship)


Applications accepted all year round Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


Corrosion has been prevalent in our lives since ancient times. It can be caused by many chemicals and substances such as hydrogen. In particular, process plants and pipelines are equipped with steel assets constituting a large portion of the entire plant infrastructure. These structures are exposed to various fluids providing conducive environments where free corrosive hydrogen atoms are released to the surfaces of the steel structure. Hydrogen Induced Cracking (HIC) is one form of Hydrogen damage that is omnipresent in sour production and has been the subject of a lot of research for decades.
The objective of the present project is to study the HIC progress in vessel steels used in the oil and gas industry. A Finite Element (FE) model will be developed to predict the stepwise cracking behaviour in these materials. An experimental program, involving Acoustic Emission (AE) monitoring and metallographic examination, will be specified and performed for validation of the FE model. The objective is to predict the Step Wise Cracking (SWHIC) growth based on the structural and material properties of the affected vessel using the FE model and the AE data.

Project Outline

This research program will aim to the model SWHIC within a finite element model in addition to the AE emitted from cracking for Gas-oil separation plant components. The candidate will be expected to gain an understanding of fracture mechanics of steels and apply this knowledge in a numerical modelling environment. The candidate will build FE models of different scenarios under different loading conditions and constraints. Additionally, the candidate will gain knowledge of modelling AE waves emitted from crack growth and will push the boundaries of current understanding of the relationships between AE and SWHIC.
To validate the models constructed, representative experimental studies will be conducted under laboratory conditions where the performance of the developed modelling approach will be assessed and evaluated. This will require the candidate to plan, conduct and execute mechanical testing (with support from technical staff) and conduct AE monitoring of the specimens under test.
This will improve knowledge and understanding of the relationship between SWHIC and AE. This is motivated by the requirement to enhance Fullagar’s (a joint venture between TWI and Lloyd’s Register) offering in regards to supplying technologies that improve safety and operation of critical structures. The project will be supported by the Monitoring and Inspection Research (MIR) section at TWI. This project will work towards producing a common software platform where both tools (FE and AE) can be used.
Fullagar is interested in the commercialization of their SWHIC-Kit. Work conducted by this project and others will work towards producing a commercial technology capable of early detection and location of the SWHIC. The integration of the real-time monitoring results into the SWHIC Appsoftware will add further paybacks to the maintenance and prediction program serving as the industry-led motivation.

Fullagar Technologies is a joint venture between TWI and Lloyds Register that was launched in 2018. The joint venture delivers innovative inspection systems, products and services using the very latest industry research from the National Structural Integrity Research Center (NSIRC). In a world of rapidly advancing digital developments, Fullagar Technologies provides the industry with trustworthy advanced inspection systems assurance and expertise in the areas of remote inspection, additive manufacturing and digital and data driven fabrication-Industry 4.0.


NSIRC is a state-of-the-art postgraduate engineering facility established and managed by structural integrity specialist TWI, working closely with lead academic partner Brunel University, the universities of Cambridge, Manchester, Loughborough, Birmingham, Leicester and a number of leading industrial partners. NSIRC aims to deliver cutting edge research and highly qualified personnel to its key industrial partners.

Funding Notes

This project is funded by Lloyds Foundation and Brunel University. The studentship will provide successful Home/EU students with a minimum stipend of £16k/year and will cover the cost of tuition fees. Overseas applicants are welcome to apply, with total funding capped at £24k per year.

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