Quality wins through Offshore: High quality piping with TIG hot wire

Fig. 1: Cladding solutions from Polysoude^ / Photo: Polysoude (PresseBox) ( Nantes, )
The small family company of Sub Sea Services AS was established in Stavanger, Norway, in 1990. Its services and specialised products are of international significance in the offshore industry. To meet increased demand as well as their own stringent quality and productivity standards, the company has invested in high-tech manufacturing technology: Since the middle of this year, the Norwegians have been welding and finishing their pipe assemblies and components using the efficient TIG hot wire technology from international market leader Polysoude, France (fig. 1)

Otto Henning Sulen, "Weld-Shop Manager" at Sub Sea Services (fig. 2), outlines a clear picture of the technological requirements and financial considerations for their manufacturing processes in Stavanger: "Pipes and systems used to convey crude oil or natural gas energy sources at high speed and at high pressure demand high levels of investment. The sand and other abrasive minerals, as well as corrosive media, which are also conveyed during exploration, necessitate pipe materials of the highest possible quality. To control costs and preserve resources, we finish the internal walls of our components using deposition welding. In this process, the extremely hard and tough material Inconel*) is melted onto the cost-effective and easy-to-process carbon steel parent metal", and glancing at the new technology, he notes, "to achieve this, we found an especially efficient and effective system in the shape of the automated TIG hot wire and deposition welding system from Polysoude. The new system with its six computer-controlled axes (fig. 3) welds and "coats" both reliably and efficiently.

Promises fulfilled

These benefits enable the 50-person company to manufacture its unique niche products - such as the remote-controlled, interchangeable, modular slip joint for pipes on drilling platforms around the globe - at the same consistently high quality levels and to schedule.

Welding expert Sulen's view on how Sub Sea Services provides these advantages is wholly pragmatic: "Quality and delivery times are given the highest priority in our organisation. For manufacturing, this means that the availability of the production equipment used must be extremely high. For my particular area of responsibility, the equation is really very simple - if the welding system breaks down, there is no product!"

"High-tech in mind"

The decision to invest millions into manufacturing equipment was not an easy one for the Stavanger-based company. A variety of equipment manufacturers were invited to present their technology. The locally based technical consulting firm, TEMA, ultimately made contact with the Polysoude representative in Holland, Kees Meurs. From that point, everything progressed quickly: "At Polysoude we found the automated welding solution that we had in mind: High-tech equipment - not exactly cheap - but of the highest quality, and both robust and appealing in design", Otto Henning Sulen reflects, "It was not least the people there, competent and reliable, that tipped the scales in their favour. Outstanding technology and quality has always cost more. And we have decided to invest in the best".

An increase of 40 percent

Thanks to much shorter production cycles, the brand new system has greatly increased productivity for both joint and deposition welding. This has enabled the company to achieve between 50 and 80 percent greater Inconel application levels than previously; and the increase in quality is cited at 30 to 40 percent. This also enables us to meet the specifications more closely. For example, the melt level of the carbon steel parent metal is consistently below three percent, which is what makes it so hard-wearing.

Quality demands standards

The range of materials processed by Sub Sea Services extends from X60, X65, X70 to AISI 4150, 4140, 8630 right through to low carbon steel F22. Pipe components from 1000 to 1500 millimetres in length with diameters of 150 to 1000 millimetres are manufactured.
For its customers, the company meets every required standard and specification, whether the DNV (Det Norske Veritas - leading international institute for the technical monitoring of offshore installations) or the IPE (Implementation of design-related requirements in Production and Erection) as well as ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers). The quality procedures are certified to ISO 9000; the proof of quality is granted following in-depth hardness and flexion tests as well as material grinding. That the welders in Stavanger have all the requisite qualifications and undertake ongoing training is taken as a matter of course for the personnel.

Success engenders pride

With a smile, Sulen notes that his welders and machine supervisors were initially very sceptical of the new technology: "It was of course a natural human reaction in the face of the new and of changes. Once they had thoroughly familiarised themselves with the machines, automated welding and deposition process, they are now hugely enthusiastic. They are also proud to be given responsibility for the new technology. This is because they have witnessed their own high levels of productivity and the consistently high quality. They also see the value they then bring to the company - and that fills them with pride".

Inconel*) Registered trademark of Special Metals Corporation
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