Tube & Pipe

Streamlined strategy

By Tim Allan Schultz

Above: Using the SPC 3000 profiling machine to cut and profile pipe has reduced fabrication times for each pressure vessel from five or six days to 24 hours.

Overhauling equipment allows fabricators to take control of processes all under one roof

March 2019 - In west Texas, RAMA Fabrication Inc. and Interstate Treating fabricate equipment for midstream energy operations. With natural gas becoming a more accessible and cheaper energy alternative, natural gas processing is on the rise. RAMA and Interstate Treating fabricate equipment that removes moisture levels and CO2 content from natural gas, turning it into a marketable product. Combined, the two companies employ 225 workers who complete turnkey greenfield construction projects used for fabricating entire skids for natural gas processing. The shops also fabricate individual ASME standard pressure vessels in diameters ranging from 12 in. to 120 in., 10 ft. to 200 ft. long, and that can contain pressures from 15 psi up to 1,440 psi.

Previously, Interstate had to outsource all round-seam and long-seam cylinder cutting. “We were at the mercy of suppliers for entire shell sections that required subsequent fabrication steps, such as adding nozzles and base plates,” says Matthew Elrod, a supervisor at Interstate Treating.

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The RPC plasma beam machine has helped free up welders to focus on welding instead of beam cutting.

The shell sections typically had the longest lead times, which affected the delivery cycle for the entire plant.

Prior to using machinery from HGG Profiling Equipment, Interstate Treating employed older, less efficient techniques, including hand-cutting nozzles with single bevels on cylinders with thicknesses reaching 3 or 4 in. As a result, workers had to double bevel materials, which resulted in problems during the welding process.

Interstate Treating learned that qualified welders are rare in Texas and subcontractors had to withstand an extensive auditing process. Labor shortages created longer lead times, and projects fell behind schedule.

Single source

Interstate Treating wanted to find a single source to provide a variety of profiling and related equipment that was able to shape beams and vessels, among other tasks. The fabricator had worked with HGG before and chose an RPC plasma beam profiler and SPC 3000 profiling machine for cutting and profiling pipes and pressure vessels, along with a vessel head-profiling machine. The latter cuts precision beveled holes in pressure vessel heads, shells, nozzles and reinforcing pads, as well as hillside holes.

“[HGG] provided us with 3D models and AutoCAD, which helped us design our entire new facility,” Elrod says. “They helped us streamline machine operations, including head movement, travel and so on.”

Previously, the skid fabrication process could typically take Interstate Treating more than 500 hours to cut beams for each skid. Now, it takes 24 hours. Simplified material loading and offloading to and from the feed table enables efficient cutting for 12-in.-thick beams.

“We typically push out enough beam in one week to keep our welders busy for a month … which means now our welders are welding [instead of] beam cutting,” Elrod explains.

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RAMA Fabrication and Interstate Treating have the capability to fabricate entire skids for natural gas processing or individual ASME-code pressure vessels.

Interstate Treating’s design engineers now generate and control the bulk of the cutting work off-line, creating quality nests using Tekla software. Potential problems are caught during the design and engineering phases rather than on the shop floor.

Interstate Treating uses the SPC 3000 daily to cut and profile pipes from 12- to 120-in. diameters, lengths from 10 to 200 ft., and thicknesses from 3⁄8 in. to 41⁄2 in.

Accuracy achieved

Machine flexibility enables Interstate Treating to cut with either oxyfuel or plasma, depending on the job. Thinner walls are cut with plasma while thicker walls are cut using oxyfuel torches. The SPC 3000 readily changes from one cutting method to another.

With the SPC 3000, Elrod says the company has “reduced modeling and layout times by over 80 percent, from five days to one day. Welders can now count on total accuracy with respect to hole location and sizing, as well as 100 percent beveling accuracy for both X and K axis beveling,” reducing scrap and ensuring a perfect fit-up each time.

Since installing the machine, Interstate Treating has experienced a 20 to 25 percent increase in vessel production. Lead times shrunk from five or six days to cut each pressure vessel (with only a single bevel) to just one day with both X and K bevels. The company calculated that the machine paid for itself within the first 14 months.

Along with not having to outsource beam cutting and pressure vessel profiling, these added capabilities give Interstate Treating the option of setting up its own contract cutting service, becoming a job shop for other fabricators.

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Interstate Treating uses a Davi roller machine to make cylinders along with HGG pipe profiling and beam cutting machines, bringing each process in house.

HGG’s ProCAM software integrates with the RPC beam profiler or the SPC 3000. The software enables Interstate Treating’s design engineers to convert off-line files into files the machine can read, and then send those files to the shop floor for cutting. Interstate Treating’s operators are also able to make changes on the fly at the machine and create new part profiles on the spot.

“During the commissioning process, HGG made sure that every operator was extremely comfortable,” Elrod says. “Then, and even though HGG is headquartered in The Netherlands, HGG service technicians continued to provide assistance and support. Whenever we needed someone on-site, HGG service technicians have typically gotten here faster than even domestic suppliers.”

The company also invested in a roller machine from Davi, Dallas, so it can roll its own plates into cylinders. Interstate no longer needs to outsource beam cutting and profiling and beveling of pressure vessels, and even plate rolling can be performed in house. FFJ

Tim A. Schultz is a contributing editor from Marcom Solutions.



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