This paper examines the influence of traces of oxygen on corrosion and hydrogen charging of steel in an H2S containing environment. It is well known that H2S promotes hydrogen entry into steels, that may result in many types of steel failures such as Hydrogen Induced Cracking (HIC), Sulfide Stress Cracking (SSC), and Stress-Oriented Hydrogen Induced Cracking (SOHIC). Since it is a huge concern for oil and gas industries, standard test methods have been developed and published as NACE technical methods (e.g. NACE TM0284 and NACE TM0177). Though it is recognized that oxygen pollution should be avoided during H2S cracking tests, there is still a lack of experimental data to illustrate the potential impacts of a small oxygen pollution.
The aim of the present study is to check if oxygen traces can modify the mechanisms of corrosion and hydrogen charging of steel in H2S containing medium. Experiments consisted of hydrogen permeation measurements through a thin pure iron membrane. They were performed at free potential circuit in order to ensure more realistic environmental conditions. The corrosion rate was also evaluated and test solutions analyzed.
Materials used in oil and gas industries can be exposed to sour environments containing hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which is corrosive and known to promote hydrogen entry into steels. This may lead to several types of steel failures such as Hydrogen Induced Cracking (HIC), Sulfide Stress Cracking (SSC), and Stress-Oriented Hydrogen Induced Cracking (SOHIC).
Corrosion and hydrogen embrittlement of steels in H2S containing environments has been studied for several decades. Standard test methods have been developed for the selection and the qualification of steels for use in H2S containing environments, such as NACE TM 0177 and TM 0284.1,2 These standards strongly recommend to avoid oxygen infiltration in test environments. For instance, it is stated that ‘obtaining and maintaining an environment with minimum dissolved O2 contamination is considered very important’. It is also mentioned that O2 contamination may induce an increase of the corrosion rate and reduce hydrogen evolution and hydrogen entry into the steel. However, it is also recognized that ‘systematic studies of the parameters affecting these phenomena have not been reported in the literature’.