RE­TURN ON IN­VEST­MENT

How an en­gi­neer bat­tled with mol­e­cules and fought for fund­ing to guar­an­tee a non-flak­ing, cor­ro­sion­free steel coat­ing—for life

Alberta Oil - - CONTENTS -

A non-flak­ing, cor­ro­sion-free steel coat­ing—for life? This en­gi­neer guar­an­tees it

COAT­ING CHAM­PION KEN WANG RELISHES A CHAL­LENGE.

He’s faced plenty in tak­ing what he says was “an aca­demic for­mula and trans­fer­ring it to a pro­duc­tion for­mula” to cre­ate a flake- and cor­ro­sion-free coat­ing for steel—a quest that has lasted nearly 15 years.

From there, Wang, the CEO of Har­ber Coat­ings, piled on the requirements. It had to be able to with­stand chem­i­cals, me­chan­i­cal im­pacts, high pres­sures and high tem­per­a­tures— roughly 800 de­grees Cel­cius high. In short, he cre­ated the In­noGuard Elec­tro­less Nickel coat­ing that’s fit for the deep ocean oil and gas in­dus­try, be­cause what’s tough enough for off­shore is tough enough for any other ap­pli­ca­tion too.

Start­ing out in 2001, Wang faced his first hur­dle: un­co­op­er­a­tive mol­e­cules. Their be­hav­ior pre­vented him crack­ing the pro­duc­tion-scale process co­nun­drum. “The sec­ond-time coat­ing rate would go slower and slower as you added more chem­i­cals,” Wang says. Watch­ing paint dry is not only frus­trat­ing—it costs money.

He also learned that size does mat­ter—big time. Wang wanted a 45-foot-long tank—the largest in North Amer­ica—to im­merse prod­ucts in so that en­tire tools and other large parts could be dunked in the molec­u­lar coat­ing bath.

Chal­lenges in­cluded: keep­ing the so­lu­tion sta­ble in large-scale op­er­a­tion; keep­ing the re­ac­tion even; and evenly heat­ing the tank while en­sur­ing con­tin­u­ous re­plen­ish­ment of chem­i­cals dur­ing the con­tin­u­ous dip­ping of large tools.

Wang, a chem­i­cal and me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer, doggedly worked at those prob­lems un­til his eu­reka-mo­ment ar­rived. “The big­gest suc­cess mo­ment was the suc­cess­ful com­mis­sion­ing and pro­duc­tion of the 45-foot tank pro­duc­tion sys­tem in May 2015,” he says.

But the suc­cess was in­cre­men­tal. His team had ac­tu­ally achieved a flake-free so­lu­tion six years ear­lier when they started to sta­bi­lize the me­chan­i­cal prop­er­ties. “It al­lowed us to of­fer a guar­an­tee,” he says.

The coat­ing is eas­ier and cheaper to make than us­ing solid al­loy ma­te­ri­als. It’s from a process, which gen­er­ates an al­loy of nickel and phos­pho­rus at a molec­u­lar level, based on a chem­i­cal re­ac­tion in wa­ter.

The pro­jected sav­ings for the equip­ment own­ers come from lower pro­duc­tion and re-fab­ri­ca­tion costs, re­duced worn-as­set dis­posal and bet­ter pipe­line pro­tec­tion.

The tank’s large ca­pac­ity means Har­ber Coat­ings can pro­tect equip­ment that oth­er­wise could not be coated, like large pipe spools, tub­ing, cas­ing, slot­ted pipes, sucker rods, bot­tom pump bar­rels, pump ro­tors and pol­ished rods. “The fact we have been run­ning 45-foot tanks suc­cess­fully also means we can build much big­ger tanks of dif­fer­ent shapes to fit dif­fer­ent fu­ture needs,” Wang says. Har­ber Coat­ings is look­ing at build­ing wider, deeper tanks to coat large heat ex­chang­ers and pres­sure ves­sels. “Those are very ex­pen­sive as­sets. Ex­tend­ing the work­ing life by more than 20 times means a lot on cost cut­ting—fab­ri­ca­tion, trans­porta­tion, down­time loss, rou­tine main­te­nance and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact,” he says.

The process it­self also cuts costs and waste and re­duces Har­ber’s own foot­print too—eas­ily beat­ing Cal­gary’s dis­charge reg­u­la­tion of 3 mg of nickel ions per liter of wa­ter.

From its two-guys-in-a-lab start, the firm is now go­ing global. Wang’s goal is to ex­pand into new coun­tries/ter­ri­to­ries us­ing the Cal­gary lo­ca­tion as a train­ing fa­cil­ity. Har­ber Coat­ings is now as­sess­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties for set­ting up coat­ing fa­cil­i­ties in the Mid­dle East and Rus­sia.

KEN WANG LAUNCHED A NICKEL COAT­ING FOR­MULA STUDY IN LATE 2002 AND HAR­BER COAT­INGS IN 2008

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