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An innovative pipe field joint coating solution

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World Pipelines,

Serimax, the Vallourec subsidiary specialised in welding and coating, has developed a revolutionary field joint coating solution. Onshore line pipe operations involve welding pipes together to form a pipeline. The field joint coating covers the gap where two coated line pipe sections meet and are welded together, in other words: ‘where there's a weld, there's field joint coating’.

Manual coating application in the field has been the typical process for coating welded pipe joints. Often the client is anxious that field joint coating will cause a delay to the project, slowing down the welding operations and they demand faster solutions with greater process traceability and lower costs. Time is of the essence in welding operations and the field joint has to be implemented as fast as possible for the laying rate to be optimal. In the field, project execution requires significant co-ordination between both the welding and coating contractors, to avoid bottlenecks and prevent any slowdown. The industry has been waiting for a solution that would work well across the full range of pipe diameters, with reduced manning while delivering high quality performance. Serimax Field Joint Coating took up the challenge.

Adopting the field proven Serimax bug and band technology, the Serimax FJC design team, led by Andrew Stribley, Engineering Manager, designed Orbiter™, a two-component liquid coating system. The technology not only reduced capital costs, but also importantly resulted in faster process speeds, reduced manning and lower solvent usage. Orbiter is a robust, light-weight, automated spray machine with process monitoring and data recording. Shunning the use of mechanised lifting equipment, it makes for a fast and safe option for coating landline field joints with multi-component liquid systems. Its speed, reliability, ergonomics and efficiency make it revolutionary in the small world of FJC.

Proof is in the field

Prior to its release to market, the machines were extensively tested, using Serimax FJC technologists and operators before being demonstrated to respected industry consultants. Orbiter has since proven its worth on 250 km of pipeline, running from the Caspian Sea through Azerbaijan and Georgia to Turkey.

Serimax's Orbiter first real life challenge was in Georgia, Caucasus. The environment was as tough as it gets: difficult access and arduous terrain, wet and snowy conditions as well as strong winds. In addition to the unfavourable time of year, the teams only had a very short period to mobilise equipment and materials in the country, with a meagre 4 weeks' notice. Beating the odds, over 4000 field joints were completed on schedule, including nearly 1500 tie-in joints.

Meeting and exceeding customer expectation

The new coating technology has ensured a significant reduction in personnel required on a project. For example, on high throughput mainline coating of 48 in. pipes with liquid epoxy systems, it is possible to halve the head count. Removing the reliance on vehicles with mechanical lifting systems, makes it easier and cheaper to supply equipment in many regions of the world where access would have been a major headache. Furthermore, in terms of speed, with the innovative Orbiter system, it is now possible to outpace any welding crew, without significant change to the equipment profile. It is just a matter of balancing the manning level to the target output and number of vehicles used.

Organisation and project management

Andrew Mullins, Project Manager, tells: "The delivery of a project starts in Blackburn (UK), where we pack and check every item required from disposable gloves and screwdrivers through to containerised coating units for project use. The next step is sourcing and training local labour to assist with the project. Once on site we then set the equipment up, perform job safety analysis and start the work. Our supervisors perform daily site reports to keep our management team in the loop."

Managing projects and logistics overseas can be as challenging as the in-field operations, due to restrictions on importing; manning and team work with language barriers and local ethics or beliefs. Running projects smoothly with diplomacy, understanding and efficiency is just as essential. Serimax has the experience and know-how to handle the most complex aspects of project management surrounding field joint coating, as it has with welding services, for many years.

"Serimax uses its experience in the field to support its customers by offering innovative coating solutions suited to their specific needs. Our Orbiter range provides speed, repeatability and global competiveness necessary for demanding field joint applications. We constantly improve our solutions to maintain our leader position in welding and coating services," states Louis-Nicolas Hallez, Managing Director at Serimax Field Joint Coating.

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