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Thursday, 16 May 2013 12:00

Arc Machines Automated Orbital Welding Applications can make Subsea Ops Safer

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Maintaining subsea pipeline integrity is absolutely vital for safety and commercial reasons – shutting down a defective pipeline could potentially cost millions of pounds a day – and this is where hyperbaric automatic orbital welding systems can be deployed.
subseaReducing the risk to divers must be part and parcel of any operational regime. Arc Machines Inc’s (AMI) automated orbital welding equipment can help minimise potential dangers divers face while they are undertaking subsea maintenance work on pipelines.
AMI, which offers the widest range of automated orbital welding products for subsea activities, has over three decades’ of experience in the offshore industry with its equipment being used in all parts of the world, including high pressure clad pipelines for Elf-Franklin, the Troll/Heidrun project in the North Sea and the Hondo firewater systems off the coast of California.
However safety conscious subsea contractors are, divers still have to be routinely deployed at depths of up to 180 meters of water to carry out repairs to ensure maximum uptime of pipeline flow, particularly where sour gas is concerned as it contains significant amounts of hydrogen sulphide (H2S) making it very corrosive to normal pipeline materials.
Automated orbital welding can minimise welder diver intervention as it can be used in dry hyperbaric conditions which are conducive for higher quality welding, while still maintaining the optimal weld requirements, something divers may find difficult to match due to the issues they face, such as the safety element of decompression sickness.
This remote welding application helps keep the risks associated with subsea pipeline activities closely controlled and as low as possible. Basically, deploying automated orbital welding equipment minimises the diver activity in the habitat where the weld is to be performed on the pipeline.
Typically oil and gas subsea pipelines are up to 36in in diameter, making them ideally suited for all-position, automated welding of pipe for hyperbaric GTAW process. The gas tungsten welding method gives a more refined weld in terms of quality for non-destructive testing and examination (NDT and NDE) pass standards. There is also less rework in terms of grinding out stop starts and cleaning out between passes.
AMI has adapted its M52 heavy duty and M15 weld heads, for subsea conditions. These weld heads are compatible with AMI’s versatile and easy to use M415 power supply. The AMI weld heads have high precision vision systems that can provide accurate monitoring of the welding operation and enable a remote post-weld visual check to determine weld acceptance.
Utilising automated orbital welding for work on subsea pipelines allows the welding to be performed with increased level of accuracy, when operating from a hyperbaric dry chamber. Typically the habitat would accommodate two diver welders and the weld head. The power supply is usually located in a chamber adjacent to the habitat to provide the welding power and control for the weld head. This frees up the diver welders present in the chamber to oversee the welding operation.
AMI’s Technical Sales Manager, John Morris, said: “Our welders are rugged, flexible and functional but above all extremely reliable. A remote automated weld head is far safer and more accurate for subsea welding. Additionally, weld integrity and the ability to adapt to exotic materials are critical.
“The accuracy and consistently high quality welds achieved by the AMI weld heads, power sources and control systems mean that the subsea industry does not have to rely on manual welders to complete the welding operation.”
Ensuring the safest method is used for sealing off any damage, or for connecting underwater piping systems in potentially hazardous conditions, is an essential part of the operational safety case for the offshore industry. If this can be done remotely it removes a lot of the risks divers face.

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