In the 61 years that niobium has been used in commercial steels, it has proven to be beneficial via several properties, such as strength and toughness. Over this time, numerous studies have been performed and papers published showing that both the strength and toughness can be improved with higher Nb additions. Earlier studies have verified this trend for steels containing up to about 0.04 wt.% Nb. Basic studies have shown that the addition of Nb increases the recrystallization-stop temperature, T5%
. These same studies have shown that with up to about 0.05 wt.% of Nb, the T5%
temperature increases in the range of finish rolling, which is the basis of controlled rolling. These studies also have shown that at very high Nb levels, exceeding approximately 0.06 wt.% Nb, the recrystallization-stop temperature or T5%
can increase into the temperature range of rough rolling, and this could result in insufficient grain refinement and recrystallization during rough rolling. However, the question remains as to how much Nb can be added before the detriments outweigh the benefits. While the benefits are easily observed and discussed, the detriments are not. These detriments at high Nb levels include cost, undissolved Nb particles, weldability issues, higher mill loads and roll wear and the lessening of grain refinement that might otherwise occur during plate rough rolling. This loss of grain refinement is important, since coarse grained microstructures often result in failure in the drop weight tear testing of the plate and pipe. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the practical limits of Nb microalloying in controlled rolled low carbon linepipe steels of gauges ranging from 12 to 25 mm in thickness.
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