Spray and walk away? Not in this game

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - INDUSTRIAL COATINGS - By Steve Hart

Ron Berry has more than 33 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in the cor­ro­sion man­age­ment in­dus­tries. His back­ground in­cludes cor­ro­sion as­sess­ment and fail­ure analy­ses.

He owns New Ply­mouth­based NZ In­spec­tion Rentals, a firm that also trades un­der the name RB Cor­ro­sion Ser­vices, and has spent 26 years work­ing with the oil & gas off­shore and on­shore pro­cess­ing in­dus­tries – help­ing clients com­bat cor­ro­sion, as well as de­vel­op­ing plan­ning and bud­get­ing main­te­nance paint­ing pro­grammes.

Much of the firm’s work­load of late has been in the Taranaki re­gion and on off­shore struc­tures. He says the key to any suc­cess­ful project has to be the ini­tial in­spec­tion – to es­tab­lish cur­rent con­di­tion and the ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment based on what the client spec­i­fies.

“If some­one is spend­ing a mil­lion dol­lars on a pro­tec­tive coat­ings project with­out any in­spec­tion then there are lots of things that can go hor­ri­bly wrong,” he says.

And if you thought a mil­lion dol­lars for a coat­ing project is a big bud­get job – then it’s as well you un­der­stand how that money can be spent.

“Out of that mil­lion dol­lars, around half is spent gain­ing ac­cess with scaf­fold­ing,” he says.

“The next part is the sur­face prepa­ra­tion and that takes around half of what’s left, and that leaves just 25 per cent of the bud­get for ap­ply­ing the sur­face coat­ing.

“Pre-in­spec­tion de­pends on each client’s needs and the level of de­tail re­quired – in­clud­ing bud­get prepa­ra­tion.”

Skip­ping a thor­ough in­spec­tion, scrimp­ing on the prepa­ra­tion, or rush­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion is not rec­om­mended.

“Peo­ple go and ap­ply coat­ings un­der all sorts of con­di­tions,” says Ron. “They get into binds with time con­straints, they start to work in any weather… there are lots of things that go wrong be­cause ma­te­rial is ap­plied un­der the wrong con­di­tions. Too hot, too cold, too hu­mid.

“I know of one coat­ing job that cost $78,000 to do in the work­shop. Now it’s on­site and fail­ing, it is cost­ing $ 800,000plus to put it right. All be­cause the prepa­ra­tion was not done well, and the coat­ing was not fit for the pur­pose.

“They have this is­sue now, all be­cause they wouldn’t pay a few thou­sand dol­lars to in­spect the job as it pro­gressed. In­spec­tions should hap­pen nu­mer­ous times dur­ing each phases of the job, through to daily vis­its to see what hap­pened the day be­fore so peo­ple can check that the paint has cured etc.

“An in­spec­tor might tell con­trac­tors they need to use more paint, or less paint, what­ever the case may be.”

Ron says be­cause his firm has a long his­tory in the in­spec­tion and coat­ings in­dus­try, its staff can help firms put main­te­nance sched­ules to­gether.

“We’ll go out and as­sess the plant, and put a re­port to­gether cov­er­ing two years and break it into pri­or­ity ar­eas along with a cost as­sess­ments,” he says. “This is some­thing that should be done ev­ery two years.

“Our rec­om­men­da­tions can form part of a bid­ding con­tract for the client, or a work plan for a company’s main­te­nance staff. And that’s what we are do­ing for some of our off­shore projects.”

Among the changes seen by Ron over his more than three decades in the business in­clude com­pa­nies re­ly­ing less on abra­sive blast­ing to clean metal with gar­net or sands due to cost.

“More peo­ple are mov­ing into ul­tra-high pres­sure wa­ter blast­ing, or wa­ter as­sisted abra­sive blast­ing – where they use a mix­ture of wa­ter and abra­sives – and that uses a small amount of abra­sive con­tent,” he says.

“Right now, gar­net is cost­ing around $ 600 a tonne, and five or six man-hours min­i­mum to sweep the gar­net all up again [after it has been sprayed]. It can cost up to $400 a tonne to dis­pose of it – due to the con­tam­i­nants.”

He says: “For one tank here in Taranaki we bud­geted 770 tonnes of gar­net to clean it. But guess what, the plan has changed and we will be clean­ing it with mostly wa­ter, and then give it a fi­nal clean us­ing gar­net. That way we will only use be­tween 70 and 150 tonnes of gar­net.”

That means re­duc­ing the cost of gar­net from $462,000 to be­tween $42,000 and $ 90,000.

“There is a range of metal sprays that in­volves clean­ing the sur­face with abra­sive blast­ing, but us­ing a wire, fed through a ther­mal arc that melts it and sprays it onto the sur­face.

“There are few com­pa­nies do­ing that, but you can’t use it ev­ery­where – such as oil and gas in­stal­la­tions – be­cause it uses a naked f lame. But it can be used in work­shops be­fore items are taken on site.

“So this tech­nique is gen­er­ally re­stricted to new works, and there are quite a few shops around the coun­try that can of­fer this treat­ment.”

He says many of his sup­pli­ers are work­ing on new coat­ing tech­nolo­gies, but says he needs to check all prod­ucts be­fore putting them in front of clients. Ron says he’s look­ing for coat­ing prod­ucts that have a longer life, im­proved ad­he­sion, that can be ap­plied with less sur­face prepa­ra­tion, and for prod­ucts that can be ap­plied in a sin­gle coat.

“Our big­gest cost still re­mains labour,” he says. “So if we can cut out one coat of paint, then that will be a sig­nif­i­cant labour sav­ing – and that’s what it’s all about,” he says.

“Other de­vel­op­ments are high tem­per­a­ture coat­ings. We have a great deal of dif­fi­culty get­ting paint to stay on sur­faces that reach the 200-to-350-de­gree mark. Most of the coat­ings on hot ob­jects typ­i­cally haven’t lasted all that long. But there are new de­vel­op­ments by all our sup­pli­ers in this area.

“A big part of re­coat­ing struc­tures in the oil and gas in­dus­try is from me­chan­i­cal dam­age, and a lot of plant, and equip­ment in this in­dus­try has to be pulled apart ev­ery four years for statu­tory sur­veys – and things get dam­aged when that hap­pens – and that cre­ates a lot of work.

“Even tak­ing off bolts can dam­age things, and that all has to be put right when the gear is put back to­gether. So a lot of stuff in the in­dus­tries we work in are painted ev­ery four years.”

Ron says test­ing and in­spec­tion equip­ment has been de­vel­op­ing fast, with data now be­ing stored in the cloud for easy shar­ing with staff and clients.

“We’re us­ing elec­tronic data log­gers, WiFi, and stor­ing it all in the cloud – it means a lot of the weather mon­i­tor­ing equip­ment, and paint sur­face pro­file gauges that we use can be gath­ered elec­tron­i­cally and save us a huge amount of labour.

“It avoids any er­rors that can be caused by man­ual read­ings be­ing noted down,” says Ron.

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4 1. A high tem­per­a­ture coat­ing is sprayed on pip­ing at an oil & gas plant. 2. The drill string chute of a drill ship is pre­pared for paint­ing. 3. Pas­sive fire pro­tec­tion train­ing at an oil & gas plant. 4. Newly painted pip­ing at a petro­chem­i­cal site. Th­ese won’t need to be re­painted for another 15-plus years.

Ron Berry, owner of NZ In­spec­tion Rentals.

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