Performing maintenance on an industrial piping area can be a bit like trying to pick the right piece of fruit. Even if it looks good and feels ripe, you really don’t know what you’ve got until you cut into it.
That’s a lesson Danos learned over many years of serving oil and gas processing customers. For example, in one job a few years ago, Danos was hired by a long-time client to perform a series of repairs to the slug catcher finger piping at a gas processing facility. It seemed fairly straightforward, with customer-provided maps of the corrosion to guide their efforts. But it wasn’t long before the team realized the true scope of the challenge.
When Danos first started cutting into the piping as indicated in the plan, the team quickly discovered the corrosion was more widespread than expected. That required them to adjust, cutting further up the pipe and replacing larger sections in some cases. Every new spot they found had to be investigated and potentially replaced.
This particular slug catcher featured large-bore, 48-inch piping, which is always tricky to work with, but in this case the work site also upped the difficulty level. The slug catcher was situated inside a trench-like area with levees rising up on either side, making for tight quarters and more difficulty bringing materials in and out. Danos also had to make additional arrangements to create level ground for the use of a crane with stable footing.
But perhaps the hardest part of the job was the heat. Work on the project was conducted in July and August in Louisiana, meaning daily temperatures in the upper 80s and 90s along with high humidity. Accounting for the thermal expansion each day of both the slug catcher and the piping segments became a matter of careful timing. Measurements, cutting and welding had to be performed under nearly identical conditions each day at the same time to avoid problems. This often meant leaving sections to cool or waiting for an area to heat up before being able to start work. This painstaking process, in addition to the large number of welds that ended up being required, can often cause major delays to a project’s timeline.
But thanks to Danos’ highly skilled and experienced crew, this project — despite the unexpected challenges it presented — was completed ahead of the baseline schedule and under budget. With a weld repair rate of less than 1 percent and an incident-free record, Danos delivered a successful project for the customer.
Despite this success, Danos project managers saw opportunities for improvement on future projects. They had the opportunity to test their ideas on another slug catcher project a few years later, this time a big construction job. Facing a much larger scope of work with a longer timeline, the team knew the key to success would be reducing or eliminating the amount of field welding that had to be performed. Their solution: automated welding on the job site.
Danos had plenty of experience using automated welding in its fabrication shop, but using it in the field was a first for the company. The idea made sense given the size of the job as well as the site environment, which was far more stable and easier to work in. And so Danos proceeded with the automated approach, which proved even more successful than expected. The result was a major decrease in the project timeline by 10 percent (about one month) and an extraordinary weld repair rate of .01 percent, all without a single incident.