ARTICLE - Focusing on safety in the field

By David Campos / January 01, 2018

Tomorrow’s energy demands are driving pipelines across the world. Given the remote locations of many natural resources, these pipelines must often cross environmentally sensitive areas. As a consequence, the continued growth in society’s need for energy – and the increase in pipeline development – brings opportunity and a great responsibility for pipeline constructors. But ultimately, it is the hands-on expertise and dedication of the field workers that guarantees a safe and environmentally aware result.

The environment is a personal responsibility
One such pipeline, a major expansion to the pipeline infrastructure of northeast British Columbia (B.C.) has recently been completed by a large North American midstream operator. The operator has a strong record of community engagement, environmental stewardship and safe, reliable pipeline performance – effectively balancing quality and productivity with safety and the environment.
 
As part of this commitment, the operator chose Acuren, a company of over 4000 dedicated employees, to provide inspection services for all pipe welds in its 150 km of 12 in. dia. pipeline. This chain of environmental responsibility is, of course, only as strong as its weakest link – and in most cases, it comes down to personal responsibility and integrity where it matters: out in the field.
 
Experience at the sharp end
Acuren’s team perform an often overlooked but highly important job ensuring the environmental and economic safety of the pipeline. Barry Woit is a metallurgical engineer at Acuren. He is in his 41st year in the business. His role involves specifying the best tools for his colleagues to perform their tasks. It is his responsibility to ensure the overall success of the operation, which is why he needs to give his people the most reliable and efficient tool for the job.
 
He describes how he has seen an increased awareness of the industry’s environmental focus. “We have a visible environmental stance at Acuren – and that’s important to us. I can see how it’s affected as it trickles down through the organization. We’ve always been committed to the environment, and we are now more purposeful in communicating that – it’s good that everyone knows how proud we are of what we do.”

But what does it take for his company to win a major tender like the B.C. pipeline project? “A lot of it is to do with our experience, and how we have performed on previous jobs and, of course, the personnel you’re going to supply. It also comes down to the reputation your company has regarding the environment. We have a tremendous responsibility to our environment too.

“You often seem to read about protests and problems in the news. But there are a lot of good things going on that never get reported – the efforts we make daily to keep things running safely. We know that what we do in our inspection of pipelines is our livelihood, and doing the best job we can will make it better for the company in the long run and increase our good reputation.”

And keeping this reputation means using the best tools: “On the expansion project, my backend crew, including repairs, poorboy and tie-ins, all used a PXS EVO with a combination of 300 kV and 900 W constant potential X-ray power for directional inspection from the outside. I think that’s more or less all I need.”
 
Hands-on responsibility
Acuren has a reputation for employing skilled, high-quality inspectors and technicians. The company ensures that pipeline projects are staffed by ‘best in class’ workers. The company’s expertise in weld inspection, crack sizing, corrosion mechanisms and deformation have made Acuren the first call for natural gas and liquid pipeline operators.

A great example of Acuren’s on-the-ground expertise and attitude is Robert Drake. A quality inspector for ten years, he worked and traveled the length of the pipeline extension – over the hills, across the creeks, and through the forests, seeing and experiencing first-hand the environments his work had to protect. And, as usual, he took his role personally, working in all sorts of weather to position the X-ray systems that test the welds connecting the pipe sections. The exposed films are then examined to ensure that the welds are made correctly.

“I take my job very seriously. When I’m looking at a weld, there’s not one thing that I’m not paying attention to. I take 100% pride in what I do. If I miss something, I get very hard on myself. To make sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to protecting the environment, we’ve got a guideline – a code from the government, the CSA code. We all stick to that. There are no grey areas; it’s either black or white with me. They’re strict codes, but I wouldn’t want them any looser ... we’re as motivated by pride in the job as much as regulations."
 
 “We take real care with what we do – we take safety seriously and check everything with the best tools we can get, and that’s the PXS EVO. We used it on the poorboy sections, on mainline repairs and on tie-ins – we use that tube just about everywhere we can, really."
 
“They are great tubes, no doubt about it. We shot 15 to 25 of 12 in. OD tie-in welds using a technique that required five exposures per weld. There were no issues with production whatsoever. The client is happy with us, and we’re happy too. There are no fluctuations in radiation, and it’s the same every time, I just dial in the time and temperature. It’s so easy to figure out."

“I find the beam-spread is wider and more consistent than we had on old tubes. For NPS 12 girth welds, we used to get 20 cm of coverage, but with the new PXS EVO we get a 30% increase. We now can get densities that comply with code requirements closer to the ends of the film, which ultimately reduces the number of exposures required and saves time and money for our client."
 
The PXS EVO 300D used in the testing of the pipeline features a combination of 300 kV and 900 W constant potential X-ray power for high penetration: making it well suited for all heavy-duty field inspection jobs.
 
Designed and built in Denmark; the PXS EVO systems are comprised of the best components and assembled with the utmost care – making them reliable, long-lasting and a sound investment. They are fitted with a high-quality metal ceramic X-ray tube, and the robust composite casing now protects all vital parts even better. The systems meet the IP65 standard, making them fully operational in dusty and wet conditions.
 
The ergonomic design and the low weight of 29 kg make the PXS EVO 300D easy to handle and re-position. A broad temperature range from -20˚C to 50˚C makes the EVO systems reliable and ensures smooth operation even in extreme environments. The intuitive interface allows for a smarter workflow.

Built to meet the highest international safety standards, each unit is individually tested and measured for safety and accuracy.
 
The pipeline expansion project outcomes
The expansion will transport condensate and natural gas liquids for various producers in the liquids-rich Montney resource. Its 150 km of 12 in. pipeline has a base capacity of up to 75 000 bpd and runs through some of the most spectacular, wildlife-rich landscapes in northeast B.C. The pipeline does not overlap any identified caribou ranges, provincially designated wildlife habitat areas or ungulate winter ranges.

In late October 2017, the large North American midstream operator placed the pipeline expansion into service on time and budget. A testament to the efforts of the pipeline’s unsung heroes and the speed and accuracy of their tools. At project start-up, products transported through this pipeline equated to removing over 100 trucks from the road per day.

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