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An example of avoiding possible over-conservatism in

engineering critical assessment TWI


Case Study


The results of an engineering critical assessment (ECA) could be unduly conservative. This case study
demonstrates how this can be avoided and the subsequent outcome.


ECA is based on fracture mechanics and widely used in many industries to determine the maximum
tolerable, initial flaw size in metallic structures. However, it is well recognised that the results of an
ECA could be unduly conservative and the accuracy of an ECA strongly depends on how precise the
input data are. Material fracture toughness is one of the key input parameters.

Although Annex J in BS 7910 (2013) provides methods to estimate fracture toughness – Kmat of
material from charpy V-notch impact energy, Cv – it recommends that direct determination of fracture
toughness by testing is always preferable where possible.
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Figure 1. A defect found at the fillet radius of a flange


The generation of an example to demonstrate how to reduce over-conservatism of ECA by conducting

fracture toughness testing.

Work programme

During an inspection of a refrigeration system operated by a TWI Industrial Member company, some
crack-like defects were found at the fillet radius of the flanges (Figure 1) which were made of steels in
compliance with ASTM standard. TWI was awarded a project to carry out ECA in order to determine
the maximum tolerable defect size for each flange for the design life.

As no fracture toughness or even Cv values were available, the initial assessments were based on the
fracture toughness values estimated from the specified minimum Cv value for the steel, as specified in
the relevant standard, i.e. 27J at 20oC. The maximum tolerable flaw size determined was less than
some of the defects found.
Subsequent Charpy testing of the steel did not produce a significant increase in the estimated fracture
toughness. Finally, fracture toughness testing at the appropriate temperature was performed to
directly obtain the fracture toughness values.

Project outcomes

The fracture toughness values of the steel in several different size of flanges were obtained from crack
tip opening displacement (CTOD) testing at the anticipated service temperature of -20oC.
The exercise showed that they were all significantly greater than those estimated from the Cv values,
by factors more than 2.6. As a result, the maximum tolerable flaw sizes, assessed using the
experimentally determined fracture toughness values, significantly increased. Therefore, all the
defects found were acceptable and there was no need to replace these flanges. This has avoided
downtime of the system and also reduced cost.
References and credits

BS 7910:2013+A1:2015 (Incorporating Corrigendum No.1): 'Guide to methods for assessing the

acceptability of flaws in metallic structures', British Standard Institution, London, UK, 2013.

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