Hi-force says comprehensive bolted joint integrity programmes should be a priority for oil and gas companies’ to ensure safe operations
Typically, an oil, gas or petrochemical facility will contain between 30,000 to 50,000 bolted joints, all of which have the potential to leak and create a risk to the plant, the environment and could even lead to loss of life. Some leaks result in a minor, low risk incidents, but others could lead to catastrophic loss of life and assets, as well as major damage to the environment, within the local proximity of the plant.
This can also easily escalate to the wider area, dependng on the location of the plant, with inevitable damage to the reputation of all involved. Any loss of life and asset is both regretted and avoidable, and history has shown us that major catastrophes can, and do, happen and the costs can run to millions and sometimes billions of dollars.
Still, we use bolting technology because it makes the construction process easier to manage, and because bolting components together provide the essential access required to carry out regular maintenance, or in the case of the failure of an individual component, it can be dismantled and removed In order that the failed component(s) can be repaired or replaced.
Pipelines and pressure vessels, which move and process hydrocarbons, need to be regularly cleaned and maintained, and this process is usually carried out during a planned maintenance shutdown or outage. Clearly, planning is key to ensure that a clear and defined work scope is prepared, including all of the necessary tooling and expertise required.
During construction and commissioning of new facilities, the issue of correct “bolt up” of critical and non-critical joints is often an oversight during the construction contractor bidding phase, which usually results in conflict between the plant owners, EPC contractors and the construction sub-contractors. Arguments arise over the responsibility for the cost and provision of the required bolting tools, and the necessary expertise, to carry out the bolting work.
In many cases, due to a lack of available tools and expertise, construction contractors suffer from conflict, with the precommissioning and commissioning teams, as a result of leaks from incorrectly assembled bolted joints during construction phase and from incorrectly pre-assembled components, supplied by third parties, that only come to light during pre-commissioning and joint integrity pressure testing.
Plant owners often apply severe penalties to EPC contractors for late delivery of the plant, and delays are often due to rework and rectification of leaking joints. The improvement in bolted joint integrity is one of the most significant areas requiring attention, both on the site and at all levels of plant facilities management.
So how can the whole process around “bolted joint integrity” be improved and implemented to help reduce the risks and costs related to loss of life, assets, environmental issues and project completion delay penalties?
All parties involved need to change their mindsets and buy into the benefits of implementing the necessary policies and procedures required to deliver a comprehensive joint integrity programme, at their respective projects.
This is particularly applicable to new-builds, but can also deliver significant time and cost savings during shutdown maintenance,
provided everything is planned in advance. A “first time right” mindset is key to the successful implementation of the entire bolted joint integrity programme. Rework costs will always be multiples of the original assembly costs, so surely a significant reduction in rework is something everyone involved is keen to achieve?
As a major, UK headquartered manufacturer, Hi-force, with overseas regional offices in Holland, Italy, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Malaysia and South Africa, has over thirty years of experience in the design, manufacturing, operation and use of manual, pneumatic and hydraulic bolting tools.
Hi-force UK operates from a “state of the art” manufacturing facility located in Daventry, England, which houses everything from product design through to manufacturing, assembly, testing and certification of an extensive range of bolting tools, as well as many other types of high pressure hydraulic tooling.
Hi-force also offers full after sales and service support through all of its strategically placed regional offices and authorised and trained distributors, in almost 100 countries worldwide. For many years Hi-force has also offered clients short and long term tool rental, and in 2016 this service was formally extended to offer complete on-site bolted joint integrity management during plant construction and maintenance shutdown activities.
The Hi-force On-site Bolting Services Division, managed from the Hi-force UK Head Office, can now offer clients pre-start on-site surveys, a full and comprehensive analysis of bolted joint needs and requirements, development of correct procedures, including all required bolted joint load calculations, on-site supervision using ECITB qualified and trained supervisors, on-site bolted joint integrity training courses for the nominated contractor technicians, full flange management control, utilising the Hi-force BOLTRIGHT PRO calculation software and high quality, Ukmanufactured bolting tools.
“Our on-site Supervisors have all the necessary skills to supervise the bolting work, carry out bolting work when necessary, conduct high quality training courses at site and of course carry out any required tool service and repair work,” says Group Managing Director of Hi-force Kevin Brown.
As part of the Hi-force on-site bolting services offering, the company is able to mobilise to site bespoke twenty foot containers, fully equipped, as either a bolting tool store, or a mobile on-site training facility, incorporating all the necessary training equipment, to deliver bolting training courses, to the highest possible standard.
“Hi-force is always looking to expand its offering to clients worldwide and this new venture has already delivered significant results in recent months,” says Brown. “We currently have four containers mobilised, two each to two different plant construction sites and our clients are already seeing the benefit of employing a specialist bolting services company to manage all of their joint integrity needs at the site. A further two bespoke containers have also recently been ordered.”
“The issue of purchasing of capital intensive bolting tools, is no longer a requirement for the site, because we are offering competitively priced tool rental, throughout the project, with our own on-site tool service repair facilities, fully supported by readily available spare parts, to ensure bolting work is continuously carried out.”