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Heat treatment and pickling process of steel pipe

January 25, 2024

Steel Pipe Heat Treatment Process and Function:


Steel pipe heat treatment refers to a series of processes applied to steel pipes to alter their mechanical properties and improve their performance for specific applications. The heat treatment process involves heating the steel pipe to a specific temperature, holding it at that temperature for a certain period, and then cooling it at a controlled rate. The main objective of steel pipe heat treatment is to enhance its strength, hardness, toughness, and ductility while reducing residual stresses and improving dimensional stability.


The typical steps involved in steel pipe heat treatment include:

  1. Preheating: The steel pipe is gradually heated to a specific temperature to prepare it for the subsequent heat treatment processes.

  2. Annealing: Annealing is a heat treatment process that involves heating the steel pipe to a temperature above its critical point and then slowly cooling it. This process helps relieve internal stresses, improve the ductility, and refine the grain structure of the steel pipe.

  3. Normalizing: Normalizing is a heat treatment process similar to annealing, but the cooling process is done in still air. It helps refine the grain structure, improve the mechanical properties, and enhance the machinability of the steel pipe.

  4. Quenching: Quenching is a rapid cooling process that involves immersing the steel pipe in a quenching medium, such as water, oil, or polymer solution, to achieve high hardness and strength. This process forms a hardened microstructure in the steel pipe, such as martensite or bainite, which enhances its mechanical properties.

  5. Tempering: Tempering is performed after quenching to reduce the brittleness and improve the toughness of the steel pipe. It involves reheating the quenched steel pipe to a specific temperature and then cooling it. This process helps relieve residual stresses, refine the microstructure, and achieve the desired balance between hardness and toughness.

  6. Stress Relieving: Stress relieving is a heat treatment process performed to reduce residual stresses that may have developed during the previous heat treatment processes or due to manufacturing processes. The steel pipe is heated to a specific temperature below its critical point and then slowly cooled to relieve the internal stresses.

Why Steel Should be Pickled:

Pickling is a pre-treatment process often performed before steel pipe heat treatment. It involves immersing the steel pipe in an acid solution, typically hydrochloric acid or sulfuric acid, to remove surface impurities, oxides, scales, and other contaminants. The main reasons for pickling steel before heat treatment are as follows:

  1. Scale and Oxide Removal: Pickling helps remove oxide scales that form on the surface of the steel during manufacturing processes, such as hot rolling or welding. These scales can interfere with subsequent heat treatment processes and affect the quality of the final product.

  2. Surface Cleaning: Pickling removes surface contaminants, such as rust, dirt, oil, and grease, which can hinder the heat treatment process or negatively impact the properties of the steel pipe.

  3. Improved Heat Transfer: Pickling enhances the heat transfer efficiency during heat treatment by removing insulating oxide scales and allowing for better heat penetration into the steel pipe.

  4. Uniform Heat Treatment: With a clean and scale-free surface, the heat treatment process can be performed more uniformly, ensuring consistent mechanical properties throughout the steel pipe.

In summary, steel pipe heat treatment processes, such as annealing, normalizing, quenching, tempering, and stress relieving, are essential to modify the mechanical properties of steel pipes. Pickling is a crucial pre-treatment process that removes impurities and oxide scales, ensuring optimal heat treatment results and improving the overall quality of the steel pipe.