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UNDERWATER WELDING AND CUTTING

Doc.dr.sc. Ivica Garai


Prof.dr.sc. Zoran Kouh
Authorized materials for elective course Underwater welding and cutting
Module of doctoral study: Advanced production technologies
Academic year: 2014/2015
Reviewed by: Prof.dr.sc. Slobodan Kralj

Contents
1. Introduction
2. Classification of underwater welding
3. Underwater wet welding
3.1. Physical fundamentals, weldability and metallurgical issues
3.2. Welding process and consumables
3.3. Equipment for underwater wet welding
4. Underwater dry welding
4.1. Underwater dry welding alternatives
5. Weld quality evaluation
5.1. Weld classes
6. Research on determination of diffusible hydrogen

7. Safety and diving issues


7.1. Defining the safety instructions necessary for underwater welding
8. Conclusion
Bibliography

Summary

Underwater technologies take special role in modern offshore facilities, pipelines, ships and floating
objects repair and maintenance. Huge amount of underwater structures which are used in oil and gas
production, as well as increasing intensity of naval transport presents the technological cornerstone of
the economical development and strategic issues. On the other hand, almost daily we are witnessing
various cases of environmental pollution that are caused by means of improper usage of these
installations or inadequate maintenance. Maintenance of structures or eventual repairs under the water
line demand application of sophisticated technologies such is underwater welding, in wet or dry
environment. Underwater welding is unique process which integrates several, on the first sight,
contradictory phenomena as water or gas at high hydrostatic pressure, electricity and electric arc as a
heat source and metallurgical transformations during solidification of weld metal, everything constricted
in a small space and short time. Interactions of mentioned physical phenomena in, what is considered
normal conditions, presents not only the huge risk for the weld quality but life threatening safety risk for
the welder. So, the question arise, how it is possible to weld underwater and achieve good and solid
weld joint, able to perform all the tasks in harsh environment?

Due to high safety risks, great

importance and responsibility in performing of these activities is on the highly trained and educated
human resources, including divers and organization team on the surface. Specially designed equipment is
necessary for successful accomplishing of practical tasks. In global aspects investigations for
improvement and application of underwater welding and NDT techniques have been highly intense
through recent decade. In this article main issues about underwater wet and dry welding are described
giving basic knowledge and understanding of these, very often misunderstood, sophisticated
technologies. Technological variations, consumables and weldability problems are presented through
analysis of basic physical and chemical processes. Besides, brief scope of underwater NDT techniques is
given in order to help understand how difficult and important quality evaluation of welds on underwater
structures is.

1. Introduction

The concept of conducting underwater welding involves welding performed below the water surface at a
certain depth, in a dry or wet environment. Wet underwater welding implies that the welding process is
carried out directly in the water without any kind of insulation barrier to prevent the contact of the
ambient water with the place of work, the weld pool, the electric arc, the filler material and the welder.
It is clear that in such conditions there are a number of parameters that considerably hamper the actual
welding process and also affect the quality of welded joints. In case of dry underwater welding there is
no direct contact of surrounding water on electric arc and weld pool as it is divided by mechanical
barrier which ensure dry environment under atmospheric or hyperbaric pressure, depending on water
depth and object shape or type involved. The search for offshore hydrocarbons has taken the oil industry
into increasingly deep water. Over the past decade activities have gone beyond the continental shelf in
the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, West Africa, northwest Europe and the Mediterranean Sea. Oil is now being
produced from fields far above 1000 m water depth, with field developments in progress to double
these depths. Importance of the underwater welding and inspection technology is well proven in
numerous cases of installation, repair and maintenance of naval objects. Moreover, as exploitation of oil
and gas seems to move in deep waters, technical level of those techniques demands further investments
and development. Although it is clear that automation is unavoidable, conventional diving is
irreplaceable in certain activities and following that, great importance is on the field of education and
training of human resources. Also, it is obvious that development level reached the point where
application of these technologies is possible and applicable in different situations. It is well known that in
last 30 years, number of projects was profiled in order to develop underwater technology in fit-forservice level. Some of that projects gave good results, but number of projects collapsed due to large
cost and poor flexibility. Underwater wet welding technique was misunderstood for a long time, and it
was a synonym for low quality weld full of porosity and cracks with poor mechanical properties like low
ductility and due to micro structural issues prone to cracking. This lack of experience and knowledge
was present in companies which did not understood all underwater welding issues which caused
development of

inadequate welding procedures, poor welder technique

and inappropriate filler

materials. Through time, that status has been changed, and today underwater welding projects, both dry
and wet, are used in most complex and difficult objects with a high level of quality assurance.

2. Classification of underwater welding

Underwater welding can be divided in two main types with sub classification as follows:
1. Wet underwater welding is considered as welding at the ambient pressure where there is no
mechanical barrier between welder-diver and surrounding water.
2. Dry underwater welding is considered as welding in dry ambient atmosphere under atmospheric
or hyperbaric pressure where welder-diver is divided from surrounding water by means of
mechanical barrier which could be designed according AWS D3.6 in several alternatives as
follows:
Dry welding at one atmosphere; welding in a pressure vessel in which
the pressure is reduced to one atmosphere independent of water depth.
Dry welding in a habitat; welding at ambient pressure in a large chamber
from which water was displaced and where such atmosphere is
achieved that welder has no need to use diving equipment.
Dry chamber welding; welding at ambient pressure in a simple open
bottomed dry chamber that at least accomodates the head and
shoulders of a diver-welder in full diving equipment.
Dry spot welding; welding at ambient pressure in a small, transparent,
gas filled enclosure with the diver-welder outside in the water.

While in underwater wet welding MMAW-manual metal arc welding process is common and widely
used in dry underwater welding there is greater flexibility over the welding process selection where
MMAW, TIG-tungsten inert gas, FCAW- flux cored arc welding and MAG-metal active gas are
possible to engage depending on water depth, material type and thickness and other object requirements.

3. Underwater wet welding

Underwater wet welding is flexible and applicable on various types and shapes of underwater structures.
Diver-welder and electric arc are in direct water environment which causes number of negative impact
factors not only for weld quality but also for welder safety. These problems appear proportionally with
depth and therefore the depth is a limiting factor when taking in account wet welding procedures
operational accessibility. On the other hand, equipment and other technical facilities are far more
complex and cheaper comparing to underwater dry welding procedures so very often underwater wet
welding is proper technology to use for maintenance of underwater structures and repair of ships.

3.1. Physical fundamentals, weldability and metallurgical issues


Wet underwater shielded electrode manual arc welding is characterised by the following:
Electric arc instability, which causes irregular geometry in the welded joint, slag inclusions, porosity
and insufficient penetration. Ambient pressure has a significant influence on the behaviour of a
welding arc, the performance of the welding process and the resultant weld properties. Increasing
pressure leads to destabilisation of the arc plasma resulting from escalating turbulence in the
arc column.
The rapid cooling leads to great hardness in the heat-affected zone, low toughness in the welded joint
and the appearance of porosity due to the capture of gas bubbles.
The high content of hydrogen in the column of the electric arc, molten metal in the transfer and in
weld pool, which results in hydrogen capture in the metal of the weld and in the heat-affected zone.
This increases the susceptibility to the appearance of cold cracks, brings about porosity and
degrades the mechanical properties of the joint.
The high oxygen content in the electric arc column, molten metal in the transfer and weld pool, which
leads to oxidation, reduction of the proportion of alloy elements and the degradation of mechanical
properties.

The disintegration and solving of the coating of the electrodes, which results in electric arc instability
and the appearance of porosity.
The inferior mechanical properties of underwater wet welds are a direct consequence of the aquatic
ambient. When conditions for the formation of an electric welding circuit and the establishment of an
electric arc are met, it is possible to start the welding process. The active parts of the electric arc, the
column and the cathode and anode spot are not in direct contact with the fluid. In the case of wet
underwater welding with a coated electrode, the energy of the arc is so great that all the water around
the electric arc evaporates in an instant, and relatively stable bubble is created around the tip of the
electrode. The bubble is retained until the moment the electric arc is interrupted. The dissociation of
water in the case of wet underwater welding is carried out according to reaction (1) and the partial
pressures of hydrogen and oxygen in the electric arc increase:
2H 2O 2H 2 + O2

(1)

In addition, the carbon which partially emerges from the combustion of the electrode coating and
oxygen create carbon dioxide, which also dissociates, according to reaction (2):
2CO 2 2CO + O 2

(2)

According to these reactions, through the evaporation and dissociation of water and the combustion of
the coating, the following gases are created:
62-82% H2 (hydrogen)
11-24% CO (carbon monoxide)
4-6% CO2 (carbon dioxide)
O2 (oxygen)
N2 (nitrogen)

Because of the rapid cooling, locally quenched structures of great hardness are formed in the welded
joint. Their hardness reading sometimes exceeds 350 HV10 in the heat affected zone. In addition, the

high proportion of diffusible hydrogen, which ranges from 30 to 80 ml H2/100g of the weld metal,
makes such a structure susceptible to the appearance of hydrogen brittleness, i.e. it leads to the
incidence of cold cracks caused by hydrogen. The number of micro pores that appear because of rapid
solidification and the impossibility of degassing the metal of the welded joint also contribute to the
occurrence of cold cracks. The hydrogen content in the material also rises because of the employment of
cathodic protection (CP), where hydrogen is created on the surface of the metal. The created hydrogen
subsequently diffuses rapidly into the lattice of the metal. The increased proportion of hydrogen in the
joint is the consequence of the raised partial pressure of hydrogen in the electric arc. The main source of
this hydrogen is water vapour, which dissociates at high temperatures into hydrogen and oxygen.
Hydrogen can also penetrate into the weld from the coating of the electrode, particularly if the coating is
contaminated with moisture during production or handling. Cooling times from 800 to 500C,
depending on the welding conditions and parameters, are between 2 and 4 seconds, as shown on figure
1. Numerous investigations into how to extend these times have been carried out. Special insulation
materials or welding procedures have been used in such approaches which impose increasing demands
during the execution in realistic conditions and are not applicable for all forms of construction.

Figure 1: Dependence of cooling time t8/5 on the heat input in normal conditions and in wet underwater
MMA welding; base material St 37-2, thickness 20mm; underwater wet welding of - rutile-celulose
coating, rutile coating ; x-welding in normal conditions, rutile coating [5]

Apart from this, rapid cooling in wet underwater welding increases the deformation of the crystal lattice
in the heat-affected zone and causes the appearance of brittleness due to the increased amount of
hydrogen coming from the metal of the weld. Rapid cooling is the cause of the creation of brittle,
quenched structures that increase the risk of the incidence of cracks. In almost all underwater welds it
has been noted that martensite structures are locally formed right along the fusion line. The width of this
intermediate belt does not usually exceed 0.5 mm. This intermediate layer in the welded joint greatly
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increases the danger of the incidence of cold cracks due to the structural brittleness of this layer and the
maximum hydrogen concentration in this area after welding. Since the diffusion coefficient of hydrogen
in martensite is low, the diffusion of hydrogen from the weld metal is considerably higher than the
diffusion of hydrogen further into the base material. Martensite thus acts as a barrier preventing the
diffusion of hydrogen. Typical underwater wet welding steel microstructure is presented in figure 2. It
presents fusion line with coarse grained high temperature heat affected zone with visible martnsite and
bainite constituents.

Figure 2: Typical coarse grained martnsite and bainite microstructure in MMAW underwater wet weld
[18]

The acceptability of the base material for wet underwater welding is defined on the basis of determining
the CE- carbon equivalents, according to the standard AWS D3.6M:1999: Specification for
underwater welding according to the following expression:

CE = C +

Mn Cr + Mo + V Ni + Cu
+
+
(3)
6
5
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Engineering steels with less than 0,1% C and steels with carbon equivalent smaller than 0,4% are
suitable for wet underwater welding. Steels with carbon equivalent greater than 0,4% have high
sensitivity to hydrogen induced cold cracking (HICC) and can be wet underwater welded only if special
welding filler material and welding techniques are used. The sensitivity to the occurrence of hydrogeninduced cracks can be reduced by applying electrode oscillation or by applying runs with heat processing
of the metal weld. If heat treatment by means of additional runs is applied, then it is necessary to keep an
interval between the applications of two layers shorter than 1 minute. In combination with multi-run
welding, this is the most cost-efficient technology which significantly improves the properties of the
welded joint.
When welding involves steels with carbon equivalent CE greater than 0,4%, the heat affected zone of
the base material is sensitive to hydrogen-induced cold cracking and to undesired high hardness. In
underwater dry welding, it is possible to implement pre-heating and maintenance of inter-layer
temperature in order to reduce the humidity volume. Sometimes special regimes of heat treatment may
be required in order to improve toughness and reduce hardness in the heat affected zone.
In wet underwater welding, it has been proven that electrode oscillation and multi-run welding can
substantially improve the mechanical properties by reducing hardness and increasing toughness. The risk
of hydrogen-induced cold cracking is also reduced, since every subsequent run treats thermally the
previous layer, but this also enables diffusion of the hydrogen in the weld metal. In that case it is better
to use smaller diameter electrodes, for better control of weld pool and operative properties. It is possible
to implement subsequent heat treatment, but this procedure is expensive and not cost-efficient.
With higher cooling rates, which increases hardness and reduces toughness of the welded joint, the
porosity represents also a big problem in wet underwater welding.
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Gas absorption of the molten metal depends directly on the ambient pressure and temperature. The
higher the pressure and the temperature are, the more gas is absorbed into the weld metal. This is a
reversible process. High cooling rates cause capturing of gas in the solidified material since solid metal
features lower solubility of certain gases. During solidification, the captured gas from the warmer central
part cannot diffuse through the solid metal. This leads to the creation of pores in the weld metal. The
greater the depth is, the higher the probability of pore occurrence. Therefore, the depth in underwater
welding has crucial impact on weld metal integrity.
It should be mentioned that the underwater wet welding procedure needs to be checked on a material
whos CE and carbon share do not exceed CE and carbon share of the base material to be welded.

3.2. Welding process and consumables

Underwater manual metal arc wet welding is the oldest technique for joining metals underwater. It is
applicable for the repair of both ship hulls and underwater structures but is considered a second-rate
technology because of the poor mechanical characteristics of the welded joint. Today, wet underwater
welding has an important industrial, commercial and economic potential in the development and
maintenance of underwater structures and because of the much lower costs and better flexibility has an
advantage over dry underwater welding techniques, high quality welds also being achieved. However,
further development of the steels used in underwater structures, the large number of installed and
planned pipelines and increasing depth require further development of the procedure of underwater wet
welding. Clearly in this the MMAW technology is facing the major barrier of automation solutions,
which restricts it to use at lower depths, down to 60 m, while other welding techniques like FCAW are
becoming of primary importance for further research.
Manual metal arc wet welding is most flexible and cost efficient technology for repair and maintenance.
Although, it is limited by depth and harsh environment, with good and skilled welders it is possible to
produce acceptable weld quality. Due to good applicability and flexibility MMA is the most used
welding technique for underwater repairs.

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Figure 3: Underwater wet welding on the pipeline [20]

To achieve acceptable quality of underwater welds, several main components are necessary in
underwater wet welding.
Professionally skilled and educated diver-welders are cornerstone of underwater welding activities.
During the diver-welder training, welding technique is especially emphasized. It is noticed that incorrect
working technique increase hydrogen level in weld metal, as well as quantity of porosity. Also, bad
electrode angle and higher welding speed are influencing significantly on slag inclusion, what is well
known problem in underwater wet welding. Measuring of weld hydrogen content showed that appart
from welding position, type of electrode coating etc., welding technique is very important tool in
deacreasing diffused hydrogen amount. Diver-welders must perform supreme welding skill in real
environment and on the different practical tasks. It is also important that underwater wet welders must
have good welding and diving skills, what is very tough to achieve.
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Further, good quality stick electrodes are needed to establish and maintain electric arc and to deposit
weld metal. So far, developed coated electrodes are very good in their operational characteristics.
Especially, it is of crucial impact that coating provides easy slag removal and low level of hydrogen as
possible. Best results were obtained with rutile type electrodes. Also, it is necessary that electrode
waterproof sheathing is keeping pace with electrode burning rate, so no part of electrode remains
unprotected from water ingress during the welding process. It should be noted that, apart from actually
reducing the current amperage, possible chemical aggressiveness of water could damage the
compactness of coating causing it to degrade and reduce arc stability or even extinguish the arc. The
great role in manufacturing high-quality electrodes for underwater wet welding lies in the watertight
coating. Watertight coating has to protect the electrode from the outside from the influence of water
also in case of chemical constituents, and remain insensitive to high temperature of the electric arc and
the electrode core. There are a significant number of companies and institutes involved in development
and production of underwater wet welding stick electrodes. Sometimes, it is noticed that electrodes for
welding in dry environment are dipped in waterproof sheathing. It is proven that this approach may
produce bad operating characteristics and poor quality of the weld. Formulation of the coating is
especially important. Increased weld joint properties can be achieved by coating modifications with
additives for the improvement of arc stability or to reduce hydrogen content. For decreasing of
hydrogen, special welding procedures are needed to extend the cooling time and to perform heat
treatment on the previous deposited bead. For higher strength steels, investigations are conducted with
stainless steel and Ni-based electrodes. Electrodes with double coating have proven very good,
especially because of high-quality coatings that prevent penetration of water and degrading of the
coating, thus maintaining the quality of the weld, figure 4.

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Figure 4: Tip of rutile underwater wet welding electrodes with double waterproof coating [22]

Figure 5: Macrograph of the B class fillet weld according AWS D3.6 [22]

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Because of the fact that it is very hard to find high quality underwater welder and other problematical
wet welding issues, some alternatives appeared in shape of underwater spot-welding. These new
welding consumables and a control device remove all the traditional welding skills usually necessary for
underwater wet welding. The design of the welding electrode will penetrate the two materials required
to be joined and then through the control unit the currents necessary to pierce and then fill the hole
results in a spot/plug weld being formed, which has sufficiently penetrated both sets of material to form
a sound joint, similar in principle to a rivet. For this process special designed parameter control unit is
necessary, figure 6. By removing the actual welding skills from the operation, theres no need for the
diver-welder to control parameters like travel speed, electrode angles, arc length, etc, as associated with
conventional welding skills. Theres even no need to have good visibility as the diver doesnt need to see
or control an arc in the conventional sense. Even when visibility is poor high quality welds are produced
time after time. However, this process is limited in its application and cannot completely substitute
conventional underwater MMA welding.

Figure 6: Control system for underwater spot welding [21]


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Figure 7: Underwater joint made with arc spot welding[21]

Good coordination between divers and surface team is the essence of underwater activities generally. In
underwater welding and cutting there is great electric shock and explosion risk. Therefore, reliable
communication devices are necessary to ensure safety and efficiency. Considering weld preparation, it is
necessary to provide satisfactory high quality preparation by underwater hydraulic grinders and
appropriate tools.
When all of this aspects are on satisfactory level, it may be possible to deliver AWS D3.6:M 1999 class
A underwater wet weld on carbon steel. It must be mentioned that several companies reported class A
quality achievement in laboratory and real environment. However, development of electrodes and proper
welding techniques took great amount of time and effort. Beside, in many countries facilities for
underwater welding training centers are installed, and various educational programs are being conducted
for training of underwater wet welders.
Wet underwater MMA welding has now been widely used for many years in the repair of off-shore
platforms, including those which have suffered hurricane or war damage. Future needs will include the
requirement to repair structures in deep waters fabricated from higher carbon equivalent steels. Because
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of high weld metal diffusible hydrogen levels generated in underwater welding there is a risk of
hydrogen assisted cracking which increases with increasing carbon equivalent. Due this reason, some
alternative electrode coating should be developed as well as sophisticated power source technology.
Beside manual metal arc welding, flux cored arc welding is also used in underwater wet welding.
Underwater self shielding flux cored wire welding is being applied and researched for pipeline and hull
repair. Formulation of the flux is very important for weld quality. This process is semi-automatic, and it
could be fully mechanized if application is suitable. The advantage of welding with FCAW relates
primarily to an increase in productivity, better mechanical properties in the weld, together with the
possibility of automation and with a reduced share of hydrogen in the weld.

Todays systems can be

applied for welding with self-shielding flux cored wire. In addition, wire feeders that are completely
immersed in the water and can be used down to 40 m have been developed. The power source and the
control panel are situated on the surface. For the sake of the elimination of the influence of hydrostatic
pressure the feeder is filled with water, with only the housing of the electric motor for the drive of the
wire being sealed and filled with a dielectric current for the sake of insulation. Coils of wire of a weight
of 3.5 kg are used, and can be changed underwater. Welding power source of electricity with a constant
voltage CV characteristic of 400A capacity at 60% intermittence is used. The welding parameters are
measured and adjusted on the surface on control panel. A comparative investigation of the MMAW and
the FCAW procedures has shown that in the welding of plates 14 mm thick it is possible to achieve a
cost reduction of about 40%. The employment of flux cored wire in wet underwater welding
significantly raises demands for equipment and electricity sources for the welding, which implies the
need for further research. Along with systems for automatic underwater welding already developed,
which nevertheless require considerable financial investment it is apparent that there is a need for the
optimization of parameters, filler materials and shielding gases, so as to be able to make full use of these
actually highly productive systems. The problem of optimizing parameters is more complex if it is a
matter of high strength steels that are much more sensitive to weld parameters.
Research carried out with a double metal coating showed that with flux cored wire quantities of
diffusible hydrogen up to 50% lower were achieved. In addition, the area of parameter regulation for a
certain diameter of flux cored wire is much wider with respect to a certain electrode diameter, which
improves the operational area of the work. Also, it has been stated that a combined application of
shielding gas and electrode does not provide the best conditions in the shielding of the process, which is
explained by the collision of shielding mechanisms, during which they cancel each other out.
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Welding with flux cored wire enables the application of sophisticated power sources, which can have a
considerable influence on the weld metal transfer and the stability of the process.
Beside underwater wet MMA welding, underwater friction stud welding is well researched and
investigated. Until now, application of friction stud welding was limited on shallow water applications
such as anode attachments, external blanking etc. Disaster of Kursk submarine on 106m depth, showed
that friction stud welding have a meaningful application on the depths where MMA underwater welding
cannot obtain sound welds. Also, some underwater friction stud welding programs are evaluated for use
in submarine rescue situations, and are rated to 606m depth. Some special equipment was designed,
including special atmospheric diving suit which is robotized and enables diver better work efficiency and
safety. Main parameters of underwater friction stud welding are rotation, duration and forging pressure,
figure 8. Friction welding is considered a solid-state process, as no melting of material occurs. Fusion
line and heat affected zone are relatively smaller then with arc welding process. The weld strength is
equal or greater than the base material and problems like inclusions and porosity are eliminated.
However, the process is sensitive to carbon equivalent, with the increase of hardness resulting from an
increase in carbon equivalent.

Figure 8: Underwater friction stud welding [25]

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3.3. Equipment for underwater wet welding


The equipment used for underwater wet welding has been combined with certain modifications, from the
diving and welding equipment. The underwater wet welding equipment has to meet all the safety
aspects, and at the same time the diver-welder has to be provided with satisfactory operating conditions
because of the limited time spent under water and the efficiency of the very process, and it has to be
regularly maintained according to stipulated regulations in order to prolong its life-cycle and insure its
proper functioning in working conditions.
Depending on the requirements set by the task it is possible to use also additional equipment such as
special devices for holding and centering the work pieces or e.g. heated suits in case of colder climates.
It should be noted that apart from the diver-welder in the water, there is the supporting team on the
surface, in constant communication with the diver. The supporting team takes care of providing entrance
into the water, communication, air supply, tools and electrodes supply, regulation of welding parameters
as well as of other safety elements. It can be clearly seen that the installation of the equipment requires
provision of adequate operating areas for organizing underwater activities.
The organization of work plays a big role in implementing the working activities, and everything is
carried out according to a pre-arranged plan and protocol. In case of connection break-up or unforeseen
circumstances, the diver comes out of the water in order to avoid possible incident situations.

Diving equipment
The diving equipment includes dry diving suit, dry suit full face mask, surface supply umbilical cord
which includes cord connection for communication and hose for air supply, air tank on the surface with
regulation manometer and compressor for filling the air tank. The underwater works contractor also has
to have a hyperbaric chamber for decompression in case of diving accidents.

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Welding power sources


Welding rectifiers are designed with decreased open circuit voltage and adjusted welding characteristic.
Transistored power sources are also applied lately, and further development shows that current level of
power source technology can provide better arc striking and arc stability. Intensive dynamic behavior of
the power source is necessary to obtain a stable electric arc in greater depths. Welding power source
must be adjusted for underwater wet welding, not only in the matter of good arc behavior but also in the
aspect of diver-welder safety
For underwater electric arc welding and certain cutting procedures a direct current supply is necessary
which can produce 400A at 60% intermittence. This purpose is best served by diesel aggregates of
minimal power of 12kW, which do not depend on the energy infrastructure. Rectifiers may also be used
but due to high energy requirements there may be problems in operation. For the welding the 300A
sources may also be used, whereas electric arc cutting requires stronger sources. The sources have to
have lower idle voltage due to safety reasons.

Safety switch
For safety reasons, the electrical circuit is fitted with a safety switch which interrupts or establishes the
flow of current necessary for underwater welding or cutting. At the diver's request or in case of accident
the electrical circuit is interrupted / established on the surface in order to fully comply with the safety
requirements.

Communication system
For constant connection and coordination of works between the surface and the diver, two-way
telephone communication system has to be applied in order to facilitate the realization and organization
of underwater activities. On the surface one operator is in charge of communicating with the diver and
to monitor the air tank, request for establishing or interrupting the current circuit, supply of tools and
consumables. Apart from transmitting the audio signal, it is recommended to install a camera for video
signal transmission and monitoring the activities for the surveillance and recording requirements.

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Welding cables, and welding and cutting holders


Special cables with special insulation class have to be used for underwater welding and cutting in order
to prevent breakthrough of electric current into the water or to the platform structure, which may cause
safety problems and difficulties in welding. Welding cables of greater diameter have to be used in order
to reduce the fall in voltage and excessive heating which may result in insulation disintegration. All the
connecting systems have to be specially insulated. The welding and cutting torches have to be of special
design, which means placing of electrodes at different angles (45 and 90) as well as special class of
insulation. In case of cutting torches where there is additional flow of oxygen, one has to beware of
oxygen leakage, since this would mean fall in pressure, reduction of cutting efficiency, and increase in
oxygen loss even up to 40%. This is especially dangerous since oxygen and hydrogen generated by
water decomposition can be collected in the structural parts. This mixture is of explosive character and it
is very important to insure that there is no contact between the electric arc and such gas pockets.

Mechanical tools system


Mechanical tools for underwater works may be driven electrically, hydraulically and pneumatically.
Electric drive is avoided because of safety problems, and mostly hydraulic and pneumatic tools are used.
Operating capacity of the pneumatic tools falls with the increase in the depth due to increased
hydrostatic pressure, and because of releasing the compressed air after the operating cycle they generate
significant problems in the visibility due to the occurrence of bubbles. If pneumatic tools are used, it is
necessary to use the exhaust hoses which conduct air to 2 to 3m from the working place. It is
recommended to use hydraulic driven tools because of the fact that hydraulic tools do not feature falls in
the operating capacity with the increase of depth, so there are no bubbles present. Special drive
aggregates (internal combustion engines) have to be used for hydraulic tools, which significantly
increases the problems of equipment installation.

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Figure 9: Hydraulic grinder and power pack

Human resources
Professional divers who are involved in underwater activities, which includes cleaning, assembly and
dismantling of various elements, handling of various tools and underwater welding and cutting, have to
provide evidence of being certified for certain working operations. Besides, they have to have diving
certificates for surface supplied dry suit diving. The diving supervisor is responsible for the organization
of diving and planning of diving activities.
The surface team prepares all the works and assists the divers in performing the underwater works. The
surface team has to include technically qualified specialists for diving organization, preparation of the
necessary diving equipment, preparation of the cutting and welding equipment, instruments for nondestructive testing and other required tools.

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4. Underwater dry welding

Comparing to underwater wet welding which is primarily used at shallow depths when need for larger
depths emerge underwater dry welding procedures is first choice. Moreover, usage of underwater dry
welding methods offers completion of full penetration welds with mechanical properties adequate to
welding in normal conditions. Additionally, it is possible to perform preheating or post weld heat
treatment in order to decrease hydrogen content and improve weld properties.
Application of underwater dry welding can arrange normal open air visibility and communication
between welders and other workers greatly enhance work progress and safety. Further, there are better
conditions for surface cleaning and weld preparation as well for maneuverability and manipulability of
equipment and working parts. Due to good working conditions preparation and welding time is
shortened in a great deal comparing to underwater wet welding. Regarding choice of welding processes,
in this case beside MMAW which is most often used, FCAW-flux cored arc welding and GMAW- gas
metal arc welding as well as TIG- tungsten inert gas welding also come into perspective depending on
welding but also on depth requirements. As for problems normally expected using underwater wet
welding like brittle microstructure prone to cracking in this case this problems are completely avoided.
On the other hand, usage of underwater dry welding demand for significant time and financial resources
just for preparation of underwater habitats, manipulating equipment like cranes and also other technical
resources. Comparing to underwater wet welding procedures larger working crew is needed. Very often
habitats can be used only for one type or shape of underwater structure because of positioning and
sealing demands. However, underwater dry welding is widely used in maintenance and erection of
underwater structures.

23

4.1. Underwater dry welding alternatives

Depending on water depth, shape and type of underwater structure as well as ease of arranging other
necessary facilities underwater dry welding could be performed in several options.

Dry welding at one atmosphere -Dry underwater welding in cofferdam is characterized by the fact
that the welder and the welding site are in dry atmosphere, without the presence of water. To isolate the
working site from water steel, or more recently aluminum box-like construction is used, which has an
exit towards the sea surface, so that the activities are performed at the atmosphere pressure, thus
eliminating the diving problem and influence of increased pressure on the welding parameters.
Cofferdam is set along and fixed to the structure where the works are being carried out. Before
underwater assembly, a seal of polymeric foam is adhesion bonded to the contact edge of the cofferdam,
and it adheres to the contact surface and prevents water breakthrough. After setting and fixing the
cofferdam, the water is pumped out through a special system of valves, necessary safety measures are
carried out, and the welders who work in dry atmosphere are lowered through an entry shaft into the
cofferdam. Special problem in working in such a narrow confined space is the occurrence of vapors and
gases which may have an explosive character, so that it is necessary to solve an adequate system of
ventilation and fresh air supply.
The main advantage of such welding is better quality of weld related to wet underwater welding,
flexibility in the selection of the procedure and the welding technology and higher working safety. The
drawbacks are additional costs of realization and positioning of cofferdam, as well as problems that
occur in structure sealing. This concept is often used in practice and there are a number of examples
where this technology has been successfully implemented.
After installing the cofferdam it is necessary to insure a surveillance system or to install adequate sensors
to detect water leakage, and it is necessary to install a system for pumping out water. Very often, the
problems of good sealing are present in practice. This indicates that the very design and construction of
the cofferdam represent an additional cost and investors engagement.
24

On the other hand, the application of underwater welding in dry atmosphere substantially increases the
productivity of welding, providing a selection of different welding and cutting procedures, and the weld
quality is improved.
From the aspect of welding, it is very positive that more productive cutting and welding procedures may
be applied compared to wet underwater welding. Apart from MMAW procedure, MAG procedure and
flux cored wire welding can be considered. However, MMAW procedure is recommended because of
the problems that occur due to the separate wire feeder and contamination of the working ambient by
shielding gas. Regarding the composition and the thickness of material, gas cutting and air plasma
cutting are suitable, the latter being especially favorable since supply of dangerous gases (flammable gas
and oxygen) into the cofferdam is thus avoided.

In case when cofferdam is used, the diving activities are implemented in the preparation of works, and
during installation and dismantling of the cofferdam. However, it is necessary, during the works, to
maintain the continuity of control activities from the outside, i.e. by visual control which is done by the
diver, so as to be able to identify on time the damaged seals or elements of the positioning and fixing
system of the cofferdam.

25

Figure 10: Preview of usual cofferdam configuration for ship hull repair with entrance shaft from upper
side [41]

Dry welding in a habitat; welding at ambient pressure in a large chamber from which water was
displaced and where such atmosphere is achieved that welder has no need to use diving equipment. As it
is shown on the figure 11 welders are completely in dry environment and weld properties are equivalent
to one welded in normal conditions. However, much more fit-up time is necessary to fix the habitat and
prepare it for welding.

26

Figure 11: Specially designed habitat for repair of K-nodeon offshore platform [42]

Dry chamber welding; welding at ambient pressure in a simple open bottomed dry chamber that at
least accommodates the head and shoulders of a diver-welder in full diving equipment. Welder-diver is
partly immersed in water but welding is performed in a dry atmosphere. Habitat is smaller and less
complex than in case of dry habitat welding. Due to smaller size of habitat other operating facilities are
also less expensive.

27

Figure 12: Dry welding in minihabitat where the diver-welder is partially immersed in
water[41]

Dry spot welding; welding at ambient pressure in a small, transparent, gas filled enclosure with the
diver-welder outside in the water. Welding process itself is performed in dry atmosphere and welder is
situated outside of welding area and physically divided by transparent barrier. Equipment is much
smaller than in case of dry habitat or chamber welding but problems are possible due to welding fumes
and visibility.

28

Figure 13: The Hydrobox system for riser repair [44]

5. Weld quality evaluation


Underwater NDT testing is well accepted in practice in off-shore activities and is today regularly applied
on off-shore installations during installation and in-service. Usuall inspected structures are fixed and
mobile platforms, pipelines, ship and submarine hulls etc. Special procedures and equipment are
necesary due to environment conditions, construction types, small topside space, deep water
constructions, high investment cost and , most of all, serious conseqences of failure on environment.
Execution of NDT depends on environment and water depth. Deep water installations can be inspected
by means of remotely controlled equipment, monitoring systems or divers in atmospheric suits. Since
1960`s, technology has improved and is very complex and sophisticated. Some practices and certain
inspection philosophies have changed due to high operating levels applied in off-shore installations.
The most important underwater NDT technique is visual examination. Visual examintion is used for
detection of mechanical damage, cracks, caoting damage, corrosion damage and anode condition. Also,
rate of marine growth, scouring and debris is possible to detect using visual control. Underwater visual
examination is performed by divers or remotely operated or other types of vehicles. Options available to
improve visual examination are still photography, photogrammetry, video cameras and recording
29

devices. In the first applications of ROV, visual examination was easily implemented due to simple
upgrade and technical requirements. ROV could be upgraded with several mono or color cameras in
order to provide best way for inspection of the structure. Some special imaging systems are developed
to enable visual examination in poor visibility conditions. The quality of visual exmination is dependent
on experience of the inspector.
Beside visual examination, magnetic particle examination is major underwater NDT technique. The
method is suitable for detection of surface cracks, and high quality of inspection could be obtained if
proper procedure is used as well as experience of inspection personnel. This method requires surface
preparation with manual or hydraulic tools. The fluorescent magnetic particles are applied and viewed in
ultraviolet light. Different technics of magnetisation are in use but mostly electromagnetic yoke is
applied. The application protocols of magnetic particle inspection evolved on the level that acceptional
probability of detection is achieved. Some other achievements like optimisation of magnetic field
strength or integration of electromagnet, light source, particle spray and camera in one unit led to
development of cost effective techniqe widely applied in underwater inspection. Nevertheless, magnetic
particle inspection is being replaced in some cases by noncontacting electromagnetic techniques which
require less cleaning. As supplement to magnetic particle inspection, the alternating current potential
drop technique was developed and adopted for the purpose of measuring crack depths and crack length
information. As well as magnetic particle inspection, this technique require good surface cleaning. Figure
14 presents underwater MPI inspection on off-shore platform.

Figure 14: Underwater MPI inspection on platform node


30

Manual underwater ultrasonic inspection is mainly performed for detection and mapping of corrosion.
Weld examination is too complex to perform and it is used for diagnostic purposes and in connection
with repairs etc. Automated and mechanised ultrasonic inspection was introduced at beggining of
1980`s. Comparing to manual inspection, efficiency was significantly improved. Also, ultrasonic time-offlight-difraction was developed for underwater crack sizing on complex weld geometries.

Figure 15: Manual underwater ultrasound inspection of the node weld on a platform structure

Eddy current technique is used on offshore objects and has partly replaced magnetic particle inspection.
This technique has ability to operate through 5mm coating and is possible to apply it by means of ROVremote operated vehicles. Eddy current technique requires less cleaning then magnetic particle
inspection, and thus makes it more cost efficient.
Electrochemical potential measurements are used to check the state of cathodic protection systems on
underwater structures and indicating the risk of corrosion damage. The potential difference
measurement is taken between structure and reference electrode with water acting as electrolyte. The
reference electrode may be positioned by divers or ROV.

31

FMD or flooded member detection is based on gamma radiation or ultrasonic techniques. Presences of
water in certain structure element indirectly indicate on cracks appearance on base material or weld
itself. Modern inspection procedures promote FMD into more and more used inspection tool. This fact
has resulted with FMD implementation on the ROV.
Considering diving NDT personnel, it is very difficult to integrate experienced diver and skilled NDT
operator. Furthermore, harsh working environment combined with sophisticated equipment could be the
item that decrease attention and have negative influence on inspection results. Therefore, crucial role in
development of underwater NDT personnel is appropriate education and training program.
ROV`s became fully operational inspection tool, equipped with adequate sensors and measuring devices.
Manipulators and possibility to perform underwater inspection on deep water structures, as well as
grinding and cleaning tools, have helped ROV to achieve high-tech level necessary for off-shore
underwater inspection. Use of ROV`s introduced new inspection philosophies as well. Disadvantages of
ROV initiated development of so called hybrid vehicles. To improve the pipe and hull inspection, hybrid
vehicle concept incorporates the attributes of both the autonomous unmanned vehicles and the tethered
remotely-operated vehicle.

5.1. Weld classes

The class of weld determines the level of applicability and mechanical properties, which are determined
by mechanical testing, weld appearance and non-destructive testing. Procedures and qualifications for
underwater wet welding are commonly completed to the AWS D3.6 Specification for Underwater
Welding, which takes into consideration factors associated with the underwater environment .The AWS
D3.6 Specification for Underwater Wet Welding was first published in 1983 to establish a state-of-theart technology relative to underwater welding and to provide those with a requirements for underwater
welding. The specification is roughly revised every five years to keep up with the modern technology.
AWS D3.6 sets out four classes of welds identified as A, B, C and O.

32

According to standard AWS D3.6M:1999 there are four (4) groups of underwater welds:

Class A weld corresponds to identical weld performed in normal conditions, and intended for
applications that can withstand structural loads. Class A welds are usually required in underwater
dry welding, up to depths of 150m, but also in wet underwater welding for shallow depths of up
to 15m for stainless austenite steels.
Class B weld is intended for less critical applications where lower toughness, moderate porosity
as well as other irregularities can be tolerated. The acceptability of class B for certain
applications has to be determined based on the "Fitness for purpose" principles. Class B is
usually applied in wet underwater welding of engineering steels of up to 50m depth and austenite
stainless steels up to the depth of 25m.
Class C is applied in cases when the loading capacity of the structural section is not of primary
importance. Also, Class C weld should not damage the structure to which it is bonded. Lower
requirements compared to classes A, B and O are specified.
Class O refers to other requirements which are not specified by the standard AWS D3.6M:1999,
and which can include operating conditions, ambient conditions, etc.
In real situations for underwater wet welding class B welds can be obtained also in more severe
conditions, unlike class A, in which top criteria in joint preparation, work piece positioning, selection of
welding filler material, welding technology, etc. have to be met. This significantly influences the increase
in costs and longer times. If Class A is required usage of underwater dry welding must be engaged.
If optimal technological solution and adequate structure which avoids critical stresses are selected, class
B provides the optimal solution which results in acceptable underwater weld quality with acceptable
time consumption and financial investment. This applies especially to wet underwater welding where
there are a number of complicating factors such as poor visibility, sea currents, cold, high safety risk,
etc. From the aspect of technological and economic features, Class B weld has advantage over Class A,
whereas Class A has much better mechanical properties.

33

6. Research on determination of diffusible hydrogen


The rapidly increasing development of the laying of high-strength steel underwater pipelines for the
transportation of gas and oil requires adequate welding technology for maintenance and repair. As
FCAW is suitable for automation and appropriate for application at greater depths it represents a
welding process capable of replacing MMAW underwater wet welding. Moreover, the complexity of
underwater wet welding on high strength steels up to grade X70 requires precise welding parameters
and heat input control.
This research presents the basic issues of FCAW underwater wet welding. Measurement of diffusible
hydrogen was made with the glycerine method for different welding parameters and levels of heat input
for FCAW welding of API 5L X70 pipeline steel. In addition, hardness HV10 was also determined in
order to define the effect of heat input on steel microstructure.
Steels of group X70 according to API 5L have good mechanical properties and good weldability. This
is the result of development in the area of metallurgy and thermomechanical treatment. Reduction of the
percentage of carbon below 0.1%, microalloying with Nb, V or Al in correlation with the parameters of
TMCP have resulted in a fine-grained structure of excellent mechanical characteristics. X70 steels are
used every day in the construction of pipelines and to a lesser extent in off-shore plant. However,
because of the microstructure it is necessary to define the welding parameters in narrow borders in order
to make it possible to obtain welded joints of satisfactory mechanical properties .
Because the length and operating pressure of pipelines is constantly on the rise, the development of high
strength steel considerably contributes to the reduction of development costs. For underwater off-shore
pipelines, the working pressure is the most important design factor. A much greater impact derives from
the hydrostatic pressure of the environment, i.e., much more important than the strength of the material
is the resistance of the pipeline to being flattened or squashed as a result of a pressure overload, which
requires from the producers a much more qualitative geometry and shape for their pipes. With an
increase in the percentage of H2S in the transport gas, problems of the occurrence of hydrogen-induced
cracks also rise.
From all of this it can be concluded that it is necessary to define the technology of wet underwater
welding in order to minimise the quantity of diffusible hydrogen and thus to a reduction of the risk of
hydrogen cracks in wet underwater welding.

34

6.1 Experimental setup


Wet underwater welding was carried out in laboratory conditions in a small pool with dimensions of
1100 x 600 x 75 mm with a volume of 500 litres. Water temperature in the pool came to 22C. Test
tubes for the determination of diffusible hydrogen were machined from tubes of API 5L X70 diameter
700 mm and wall thickness 16 mm. For determination of the diffusible hydrogen, the glycerine method
was employed. All samples were welded automatically with a speed of 30 cm/min.
The chemical composition of the basic material is given in table 1.

Table 1. Chemical composition of API 5L X70 steel


C

Si

Mn

Cr

Ni

Mo

Ti

Nb

0,091 0,30 1,72 0,03 0,03 0,12 0,025 0,05 0,06


Filler material was rutile flux cored self-shielding wire diameter 1.7 mm, classification AWS: A5.20-95:
E 71T-8.

Welding was carried out with the electrode on the negative polarity.

The chemical

composition of the metal of the weld is shown in table 2, while the mechanical properties of the metal of
the weld are shown in table 3. Table 4 shows the welding parameters.

Table 2. Chemical composition of the metal of the weld with flux cored wire (welded in dry)
Chemical
element

Mn

Si

Al

0,18

0,65

0,27

0,004

0,006

0,55

Mass
percentage,
%

Table 3. Mechanical properties of the flux cored wire weld metal


Rm
Re
Kv
A
%
N/mm2
N/mm2
-20C
590

490

26

35

65J

Table 4. Welding parameters with self-shielding flux cored wire

Level

Welding

Wire

Welding

Heat

current

feed

Voltage

input

speed
A

m/min

kJ/cm

290

27

12,5

350

27,9

15,6

390

7,16

30

18,7

Figure 16 shows a sample prepared for welding gripped in a copper fixture. It is particularly important
to control the wire stickout because this affects the welding parameters and the drying of the flux cored
wire brought about by the heat of electric resistance.

Figure 16: Sample prepared for welding.

36

Figure 17: Underwater wet welding in the laboratory pool

Figure 18: Appearance of the welded sample

37

Figure 19: Collecting hydrogen in a measuring tube


6.2 Results and discussion

Results of diffusible hydrogen determination are given in table 5. Quantities from 27.73 ml H2/100 g for
a heat input of 12 kJ/cm to 29.75 ml H2/100 g for an input of 18 kJ/cm were measured.
Table 5. Results of diffusible hydrogen determination

Designation

Mass of
weld
deposition
m, g

Read
volume of
Hydrogen
V, ml

IB1
IB1
IB1
IB1
IB2
IB2
IB2
IB2
IB3
IB3
IB3
IB3

13,3
13
13,8
14
22,8
26,5
25,5
24,2
27,5
30,4
27,4
30,4

4,36
4,32
4,06
3,98
6,91
8,41
8,11
7,61
9,18
9,24
9,34
10,02

38

Diffusible
hydrogen
content
HD
ml H2/100 g
27,73

28,34

29,75

Diffusible hydrogen content

30,00

29,71

29,50

HD ml H2/100g

29,00
28,34

28,50
28,00

27,73

27,50
27,00
26,50
12

15
E kJ/cm

18

Figure 20: Graph showing the results of diffusible hydrogen determination


The quantities of diffusible hydrogen measured for the flux cored wire without gas shielding welding
technique correspond to the data from With an increase in heat input, only a small growth in the volume
of diffusible hydrogen was observed, figure 20. In this procedure electro-resistance preheating and
drying of the wire is most vigorous because of the high welding currents, from 290 to 390 A, while the
speeds of wire are relatively smaller and for the same stickout of the wire the preheating time is longer.
The voltage range of the electric arc was from 27V for 12 kJ/cm, 27,9V for 15 kJ/cm to 30V for 18
kJ/cm. For an increase in the voltage of the electric arc is connected with an increase in the height of the
electric arc. For a higher voltage it holds that the drops of molten material will travel longer through the
atmosphere of the electric arc in which the partial pressure of hydrogen is relatively high.

The

consequence is that the molten drops will be contaminated with hydrogen.


Values were measured that are lower than data for MMA welding in which the quantities of diffusible
hydrogen range from 30 to 80 ml H2 /100 g of weld deposit This shows the lower likelihood of cold
cracks appearing for underwater FCAW.
Measuring of the hardness HV 10 showed that the highest values for all three heat inputs were measured
around 0.5 mm from the fusion line, which indicates the martensite microstructure in this zone. For an
heat input of 12 kJ/cm a hardness of 409 HV10 was measured; for 15 kJ/cm of 380 HV10, and for 18

39

kJ/cm of 370 HV 10. This indicates a slower cooling with a rise in heat input and an elevation of the
percentage of bainite.

Hardness HV10
450

HV10

400
12 kJ

350

15 kJ
300

18 kJ

250
200
M1

M2

LS

M3

M4

M5

OM

Measurement position
Figure 21: Hardness in the welded joint
In single pass wet underwater welding, martensite microstructures that are sensitive to the occurrence
of cracks are common. The width of this martensite belt comes to abut 0.5 mm, depending on the heat
input. From the hardness results it can be seen that as a rule maximum values were measured at a
distance of 0.5 mm from the fusion line (LS marks fusion line). In the very next measuring point, about
1 mm distant from the melting line, the hardness begins to decline. It thus follows that the width of the
martensite zone right by the melt line ranges around 0.5 mm.

40

Figure 22: Fusion line sample IB21, magnification 200 x

Figure 22 shows the weld metal, the fusion line and the coarse grained martensite microstructure. In the
coarse-grained part of HAZ along the melting line it is martensite that prevails, while with increasing
distance from the line, a martensite-bainite structure is formed.

41

Figure 23: Inclusion in the weld metal close to the fusion line, magnification 100 x
A self-shielding flux cored wire of a diameter of 1.7 mm has a highly stable electric arc. The greatest
problem with this wire is the relatively difficult cleaning of the slag that remains entraped on the weld
surface. In conjunction with the good mechanical properties and geometry of the weld, it is necessary to
make some modifications to the composition of the flux in order to prevent slag inclusions, figure 23.

On the basis of the research carried out it is possible to make the following conclusions:
-

The volume of diffusible hydrogen in wet underwater welding with self-shielding rutile flux cored
wire depends on the heat input, although only a relatively small rise is involved (27.73 ml
H2/100g for 12 kJ/cm to 29,71 ml H2/100g for 18 kJ/cm)

The hardness values decline with a rise in the heat input, from 409 HV10 for 12 kJ/cm to 370
HV10 for 18 kJ/cm .

For wet underwater welding of X70 steel with self-shielding flux cored wire heat input of 18
kJ/cm is better, for although this does result in a somewhat higher quantity of diffusible
hydrogen, a better microstructure is nevertheless obtained.

Small changes in the quantity of diffusible hydrogen enable a better flexibility in the choice of working
parameters of welding in the context of the risk of cold cracks occurrence.

42

7. Safety and diving issues


Hazards during underwater welding can be divided into hazards that are a consequence of welding and
hazards that are a consequence of diving. The welding hazards are dangers from electrical current,
explosions and electric arc flashes. Diving dangers are the dangers that are possible in any dive, such as
the sudden emergence of the diver onto the surface, toxic effects of pressurised oxygen, the toxic effects
of carbon dioxide, the narcotic effects of nitrogen, hypoxia, decompression sickness, baro-traumatic gas
embolisms, drowning, contamination of the divers air, injuries during the dive, risk of infection, hypoand hyperthermia.
Croatia is rather small country with relatively small number of divers, but nevertheless during the diving
activities 52 serious incidents occurred in the last year (2014), with death casualties reaching number of
10.
Hazards arising from welding operations
During underwater welding there are many potential difficulties that if ignored can bring about major
injuries or even death.
The greatest hazard in underwater wet welding is electricity. Alternate current is not used during
underwater welding. An electric shock arising from alternating current results in spasms of the muscles,
and the diver who has electrodes in his hand cannot in such a situation drop them since he is inside an
electric circuit. During underwater welding, only direct current is used. Appropriate welding power
sources have to ensure good welding parameters. Welding power sources are constructed in such a
way that they have reduced voltage, for the safety of the welder, and yet also appropriate characteristics
for welding. Transistor welding power sources are also used, and further research suggests that the
current stage of welding power source technology will enable a better establishment of the electric arc
and its stability. As a result of welding and the creation of drops of molten metal it is possible to damage
the dry diver suit. Even the smallest of holes in a dry diver suit will lead to the leakage of water into the
suit, increasing the danger from electric shocks.
The second direct hazard consists of explosions that can happen during underwater welding and cutting.
During welding, when the electrode combusts and water evaporates, explosive gases are created that

43

contain great quantities of water and oxygen. These gases that remain in the pipes in the form of bubbles
represent potential dangers of explosion.
Other dangers that occur during welding are eyes damage as a result of the flash of the electric arc, and
parts prepared for welding coming apart and falling on the welder. Also in the supply of electrodes from
the surface to the welder, most often done with a basket, it is possible that the cable and the air tube
become entangled. In the event of piped supply of electrodes, it is possible for the diving suit to be
damaged if the electrodes come down too fast.
In the use of the habitat, fires and sudden uncontrolled drops of pressure are the most frequent potential
dangers in the performance of operations at depths. Because of the possibility of the rapid spread of
fires in a hyperbaric atmosphere, fires are hazards of the first order: most fires in such conditions also
finish with an explosion, and even the most harmless fires in the habitat are considered hazards of the
first order. Every delay in putting out a fire at the very beginning will lead to its sudden flare-up and a
tragic outcome for the crew of the habitat and for the personnel in the surroundings. A fire in a high
pressure atmosphere can smoulder or spread very rapidly. The first most often occur in electrical
conduits, and the flare up and spread of fires is mostly contributed to by a high percentage of oxygen,
the presence of objects that are flammable, and secondarily the kind of inert gas of which there is the
highest proportion in the high pressure atmosphere. A fire has to be put out with all available resources.
The best results are achieved with a special system with a water jet under pressure executed centrally or
autonomously. As soon as the danger of the spread of a fire has been obviated, the diver has to be
switched over to the emergency breathing mixture. This prevents carbon monoxide poisoning and
removes the danger of hypoxia. Often a diver has to be removed from the habitat into a rescue bell or
container.
Hazard arising from diving
Diving is an activity that requires an understanding of the physiology of the human body, of medicine,
physics and engineering, and the exercise of special skills, procedures and rules. The concept of safety is
primary in diving, and the dangers that derive from diving are crushing, sudden emergence of the diver
onto the surface, high pressure oxygen toxicity, carbon dioxide toxicity, the narcotic effect of nitrogen,
hypoxia, decompression sickness, barotraumatic gas embolisms, drowning, contamination of the divers
air, wounds in the dive, risk of infection and hypo- and hyperthermia.

44

Crushing: Crushing or compression is the name use for a serious underwater incident specific for diving
in a dry diving suit that comes as a result of too rapid descent to the depths, and it is caused by sudden
depression.
Sudden emergence of the diver onto the surface: Sudden emergence of the diver onto the surface occurs
when the diving dry suit is given too much air or when it is exhausted insufficiently into the environment.
The sudden emergence of a diver onto the surface, except from small depths, is a serious incident.
There is a great chance that a suddenly emerging diver will collide with various items that are in the
water, or vessels that are located above the underwater working site. There is also a real danger that the
diver can be exposed to decompression sickness.
High pressure oxygen toxicity: Although the gas oxygen is essential for the support of life on earth, on
conditions in which it is inhaled in conditions of high pressure, it may work as a strong toxin. Oxygen
toxicity can be divided into two groups:
- the pulmonary form, also called the Lorain Smith effect, comes after several hours of breathing oxygen
at a pressure of more than 0.6 bar; this form is characterised by serious inflammation of the respiratory
tract and lungs that on the whole will respond to no kind of treatment. This event is not significant for
everyday diving practice, but can be a big problem with long decompression procedures, when the
oxygen is inhaled.
- the neuro-toxic effect is much more important for everyday practice for it drastically limits the
application of oxygen only to diving at small depths and for a short time. It appears if pure oxygen is
breathed too long at high pressure. This form of oxygen toxicity is manifested with contortions similar
to epilepsy, and is actually also called oxygenous epilepsy.
Carbon dioxide toxicity: Accumulation of carbon dioxide occurs in the observation chambers and in
submarines or in devices in which air is not led up to the surface. The accumulation of carbon dioxide
is a major hazard in autonomous diving decides of a close or semi-closed circle as well.
Nitrogen narcosis: Also known as rapture of the deep, this is a specific state similar to being drunk with
alcohol, and arises in conditions of increased atmospheric pressure (i.e. increased partial nitrogen
pressure) whether in diving conditions or while staying in a hyperbaric chamber. Nitrogen works on the
cerebral synapses. For an explanation of why nitrogen has a narcotic effect, the Mayer-Overton formula
is used, according to which gases that show a pronounced narcotic potential with respect to the central
nervous system have a high coefficient of solubility in fats and lipids as compared with their solubility in
water.

45

Hypoxia (hypoxia): Hypoxia is the name for shortage of oxygen in the blood and tissues because of the
reduction of the partial pressure of oxygen in inhaled air or the impossibility of oxygen being used in the
organism. In diving with an air or mixture of gases supplied from the surface hypoxia most often occurs
when there is a break in the supply, because of some fault in the compressor or because of a break in the
supply pipes. Hypoxia also often occurs in the case of autonomous closed circuit diving devices that
are supplied with pure oxygen.
Decompression sickness: Decompression sickness is a health problem that appears with persons who
breathe air under pressure or an artificial mixture of gases in sporting or professional diving. The
sickness is caused by bubbles of inert gas (nitrogen or helium) that arise in the organism because of an
over rapid return from elevated to normal pressure. In high pressure conditions more gas is dissolved in
the fluid with which this gas is in contact, depending on the coefficient of solubility of this gas in a
certain fluid. Nitrogen dissolved in the body under pressure will, on surfacing, leave the tissue and go
into the blood. If the surfacing is gradual, the nitrogen will have time to abandon the tissues dissolved in
venous blood and will be exhaled in the lungs. In contrast, if the surfacing regime is not adequate, the
body is not able to eject the nitrogen from the body in the normal way and the gas will stay in the body
in the form of the bubbles that can form in the venous blood, in muscles and bones as well as in other
tissues. Decompression sickness is manifested by a great many symptoms, ranging from itching to
convulsions and death.
Barotraumatic gas embolism: this is among the gravest and most dramatic states that can appear during
diving. It is caused by gas bubbles that come into the circulation from previously damaged lungs that
have been excessively dilated. Over-dilation and breaking of the tissue of the lungs comes when in the
lungs of a healthy person the pressure sudden passes the critical border of 8 -11 Kpa (corresponding to a
pressure of about 0.1 bar). Barotraumatic gas embolisms most commonly appear during emergence.
Drowning: This is the name for acute suffocation caused by the presence of a fluid, most often water, in
the respiratory tract, as a result of which there is an acute shortage of oxygen because it is impossible for
air to reach the lungs. Rare cases of drowning during diving occur after the breakage of the glass on the
mask or because of incorrect sealing and a poor join with helmet and mask. If the diving is poorly
secured, all conditions accompanied by loss of consciousness (oxygen and carbon dioxide toxicity,
rapture of the deep) can result in drowning if the regulator is dropped out of the divers mouth.
Contamination of the breathing medium: A great deal of attention has to be devoted to the quality of
breathing medium. Danger of harmful mixtures in diving air increases progressively with depth of the
dive, because of the fact that with the rise in the ambient pressure the partial of the gaseous components
46

in the breathing medium rises, and hence the toxic effect of the toxic admixtures. The concentrations of
toxic gases that in normal conditions do not endanger the life of the person who inhales them at normal
pressure can be very dangerous during diving. Breathing medium contamination can occur for example
with the suction of the exhaust gases of an internal combustion engine while tanks are being filled with a
compressor, the most dangerous being carbon monoxide, nitrous gases and saturated and non-saturated
hydrocarbons.
Physical injuries during diving: Injuries during diving can be of various origins and extents, and are
most often inflicted by underwater fishing gear, various objects in the water and on the surface that
might be in the way during a sudden diver emergence. They might be ships screws, explosions of fuels
and lubricants during underwater cutting or welding. To such wounds we should add grazes and
various wounds from rocks, corals, shells, sharp edges of the metal of wrecks and divers knives.
Risk of infection: Infections are directly transmitted during diving by contact of the diver with
contaminated water or indirectly by interpersonal contact or the use of common parts of diving
equipment. Infections can be general or localised on the mucous membranes. The waters of harbours,
canals and rivers are particularly liable to contamination when untreated or partially treated effluent
enters them. General infectious diseases of diverse are enteric typhoid, paratyphoid, dysentery , amoebic
meningitis, schistosomiasis, cholera, viral hepatitis and other sicknesses caused by enteroviruses. As for
local and mainly purulent infections there are athletes foot, purulent infection of the ear canal and
swimmers itch, and in exotic areas schistosomal dermatitis.
Diver hypothermia: The temperature of the surface layers of marine and lacustrine waters oscillates
markedly according to season, and the speed and intensity of cooling depends on the temperature of the
water, the kind of insulation in the suit, the thickness of subcutaneous fat, the breathing medium,
ambient pressure and individual sensitivity to cooling. Shivering and other defensive reactions of the
organism to cold reduce the ability to work, as well as bottom time, and increase the hazard of
decompression sickness.
Diver hyperthermia: Hyperthermia is the consequence of one or more factors like physical activity,
diving suits that are too thick, exposure to warmth and insufficient intake of fluids.

In normal

circumstances the body will cool by sweating, and since the diving suit makes this impossible, the
overheated diver can become disturbed and even collapse.

47

7.1. Defining the safety instructions necessary for underwater welding


General recommendations for protection before and during diving:
1. Check that power sources for welding and all ancillary equipment are earthed.
2. Check that the power source for welding is not short-circuiting, or that there can be no short circuit.
3. Check that all electrical joins are made correctly.
4. Whenever possible stand on a dry wooden surface or some similar insulator.
5. Wear dry rubber gloves whenever handling live lines.
6. Keep all switches at the electricity source dry in order to prevent sparking.
Recommendations for handling electrode holders:
1. Only electrode holders specially constructed for underwater welding can be used. They have to be
able to be loaded with the highest currents necessary for underwater wet welding. Use only attested
holders.
2. Check that all parts of the holders are covered with insulation.
3. Use non spring-loaded electrode holders whenever possible.
4. Change electrodes only when there is no live circuit
5. Never turn the holder in such a way that the electrode is turned towards the diver.
6. Take especial care that the electrode does not come into contact with metal parts.
7. Be careful that not a single metallic part of the diving equipment comes into contact with the basic
material.
Recommendations for handling live cables:
1. All parts of submerged cables must be properly insulated.
2. Check if there is any place on the cables with damaged insulation. If there is, repair at once.
3. Use only attested cables. They have to be able to conduct the maximum current necessary for
underwater welding.
4. During the joining of two cables, make use of devices for joining that have at least the capacity of the
cables.
5. All joining devices must be well insulated.
6. Check the cables are not tangled.
7. Join and place the cables in such a way that the diver/welders body is never between the electrode
and the earth in the circuit.
8. Cables that are used under water are not to be used for surface work.
48

9. Long cables should be placed in the air, above head height, on board ship, whenever possible. If it is
not, place them along the deck, protect them suitably and ensure normal passage.
Recommendations for handling the safety switch:
1. Have the electricity off except when underwater operations are being carried out.
2. Keep switches off except when underwater operations are being performed.
3. Place the safety switch on the welding cable as part of the electric circuit.
4. Dont use the switch in flammable atmospheres and use only attested switches.
Recommendations for choice of diving suits and other gear:
1. Take care that the body does not come into contact with live additional material unless the safety
switch is on.
2. It should be completely isolated from all live circuits.
3. Take care that the diving suit is in good condition and undamaged. There must be no holes or faults in
the diving suit that might affect the insulating characteristics.
4. Mandatory wearing of undamaged rubber gloves.
5. Obligatory use of welding helmets. They must have appropriate protective welding glass.
With all these recommendations it is very important that during the whole of his time underwater the
diver/welder can be in two-way contact with the support team on the surface. The support team has to
be informed of all events under the water and give the diver practical advice. Every diver/welder must
be very well familiarised with the safety recommendations, and at each place where works are being
carried out there has to be a safety at work manual. If after performing his work a diver/welder has to be
subjected to decompression, the decompression chamber must be under surveillance the whole of the
time. One of the reasons is the possible presence of harmful explosive gases such as argon, carbon
dioxide (used during welding), helium (from the breathing mixture), nitrogen (used for equalising
pressure in the chamber), oxygen and hydrogen.
Basic recommendations when diving with gas mixtures:
1. While planning a dive it is necessary to now the depth of the dive, the composition of the mixture of
the breathing gas, the necessary total quantity of diving gas, to define and calculate the decompression
profile. Figure 24. shows an example of a calculated decompression profile and Figure 25. a depiction
of the saturation of individual parts of the body with breathing gas before the start of the ascent.
2. Using an authorised supplier for filling the appropriate mixes of gases, analysis of mixture before the
dive, and proper labelling of tanks according to kind of gas mix
4. All divers have to know procedure for changing mixes during the dive
49

5. All divers have to be trained how to behave if during a dive there is a toxic gas effect, decompression
sickness and so on, as well as stress.

Figure 24: 50 m, 60 minutes bottom time, mixture on the bottom and during the dive: Tx 23/34 (23%
O2, 34%He, 43%N2), decompression mix: EAN50, O2
50

Figure 25: Depiction of saturation of individual parts of the organism with breathing gas before the start
of ascent: 70 m, 60 minutes bottom time; mixture on the bottom and during the dive: optimal Tx 17/50
(17% O2, 50%He, 33%N2)
During the planning of underwater works, first of all attention must be paid to the health of the diver,
that is, his physical and mental state. If the diver is totally ready to carry out the job, before the dive all
the equipment that is used for diving has to be checking, the length of the stay underwater planned, and
51

according to the depth, the gas mixture for breathing carefully chosen. Check of the good working
order of the equipment used for welding is also obligatory. Attention should be paid to the possibility of
explosion, the good condition of the electric cables, and the use of only direct current. As well as to
these hazards, especial attention has to be paid to the dangers that are possible during diving.
Underwater welding is a particularly complex and dangerous job. Because of this complexity and the
hazard involved, special measures and procedures for achieving safety and protection of the diver/welder
have to be respected. For as safe as possible a performance of underwater works, a well trained team
has to be chosen for safe diving, in which every member will be assigned a role, and the execution of the
tasks has to be planned very carefully. Apart from the dive coordinator, there also has to be a protection
at work expert present, who according to the complexity of the execution of the underwater operations
will draw up safety instructions, will supervise their implementation and check out the use of personal
protective equipment.
For technical diving gas mixtures other than normal atmospheric air (21% oxygen, 78% nitrogen, 1%
trace gases) is used, so long as the diver is properly trained in their use. The most commonly used
mixture for shalow depth is Enriched Air Nitrox, which is air with extra oxygen, often with 32% or 36%
oxygen, and thus less nitrogen, reducing the likelihood of decompression sickness. The reduced nitrogen
may also allow for no or less decompression stop times and a shorter surface interval between dives. A
common misconception is that nitrox can reduce narcosis, but research has shown that oxygen is also
narcotic. Several other common gas mixtures are in use, and all need specialized training. The increased
oxygen levels in nitrox help fend off decompression sickness; however, below the maximum operating
depth of the mixture, the increased partial pressure of oxygen can lead to oxygen toxicity. To displace
nitrogen without the increased oxygen concentration, other diluents can be used, often helium, when the
resultant mixture is called trimix. For technical dives, some of the cylinders may contain different gas
mixture for each phase of the dive, typically designated as Travel, Bottom, and Decompression. These
different gas mixtures may be used to extend bottom time, reduce inert gas narcotic effects, and reduce
decompression times. The effect of breathing gas mixtures upon the diver-welder health has not been
fully known yet. For understanding of the mentioned effect, very extensive research should be
conducted. Moreover, effects of breathing of gas mixtures under increased pressure upon ability of a
diver-welder to perform quality welded joints are almost completely unknown.

52

8. Conclusion

In underwater welding and inspection, continuous and scientifically arranged work was necessary to
provide results that could be applied in real environment and practical tasks. Development of new
welding technology, power sources, diving equipment and filler materials and significant improvements
in welder training enabled that high quality wet welds are produced. Underwater wet and dry welding,
together with inspection techniques gained

credibility and professional acceptance Alternatives in

underwater welding and inspection development are in application of various autonomous or remotely
operated systems, but it must be mentioned that divers are irreplaceable in some occasions. Underwater
wet and dry welding and inspection are significant and important tools for maintenance and repair of
naval objects. Moreover, through development of technology and equipment, their applicability is
further improved, especially with help of ROV. With current research projects, investigation is present
in area of diver-expert training and education, development of filler materials for welding of carbon, high
strength and stainless steels, development of wet welding technique, development of adequate power
sources, development of equipment for underwater NDT inspection, development of appropriate
organization scheme for divers and surface team, further automation and introduction of ROV, deep
waters technology, and standardization and certification as well.

53

Glossary

Banite (bainitic): A transformation product of austenite formed during cooling and comprising a mixture
of ferrite and iron carbide.
Carbon equivalent (CE): A number calculated from the chemical composition of steel by means of an
empirical formula, which summarizes some aspect of the steel behavior, particularly its hardenability or
its resistance to hydrogen cracking.
Heat affected zone (HAZ): The part of the basic parent metal adjacent to weld metal which is
metallurgical affected by welding or cutting heat but not melted
Heat input: The amount of heat supplied to the parent metal by welding. The quantity of heat depends on
welding parameters and efficiency of heat transfer.
Hydrogen embrittlement: Ferrite steels are embrittled to an increasing degree at ambient temperatures
when containing significant amounts of hydrogen present in steel microstructure. Embrittlement is most
severe at slow strain rates and is readily apparent in steels with relatively low toughness, that is to say, in
HAZ area with high hardness.
Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV): Underwater unmanned self propelled vehicle, connected via
umbilical cord and operated form the surface.

The vehicle is equipped with various tools and

measurement equipment.
Rutile coating: Stick electrode coating which contains a high proportion of titanium dioxide which usually
gives high weld metal hydrogen contents.
Weldability: The ability of the metal to be welded and give a joint free of unacceptable imperfections and
within required mechanical properties.

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