Failure: The Origin of API 20E


  • The Origin of API 20E

    In the past decade, the industry has suffered a series of failures that were traced back to critical bolting operations. While investigating these bolt failures, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) discovered that fasteners were being manufactured and coated with little to no communication between steps in the process. Steel manufacturers passed blame for failures to coating companies, who then passed it to coating applicators, who blamed installers, who passed the buck up the chain of command to procurement and finally back to steel manufacturers. This circuit of miscommunication resulted in catastrophic bolting failures that put lives at risk and cost the industry billions of dollars, yet were somehow “nobody’s fault.”


    At the same time, the industry became aware of a new challenge to fastener safety: hydrogen embrittlement. A form of environmentally assisted cracking (EAC), hydrogen embrittlement occurs when hydrogen penetrates a fastener’s base material, making it fragile and more susceptible to failure. In highly corrosive environments such as offshore subsea operations, hydrogen embrittlement is a constant threat to bolt integrity.


    In the published report of its findings, BSEE called for the establishment of a new standard that could right the ship of fastener production and reduce the risk of future failure. Soon after, the American Petroleum Institute (API) formed a Bolting Task Force to evaluate production practices and come up with a solution to address the problems leading to failure. From their recommendations, API published Specification 20E.