Pipeline Welding Equipment
The welding equipment used in pipeline welding is highly varied, as different types of pipelines require different welding techniques. Due to the specific challenges posed by this type of welding and its crucial role in global infrastructure and economy, pipeline welding is considered a distinct profession within the welding industry. Consequently, it necessitates the use of a wide range of specialized tools and equipment to facilitate the safe and efficient joining and repair of pipelines.
Pipeline Welding Challenges
Pipelines are like the veins of our planet, and each region has its own pipeline structures transporting natural gas, oil, water, and other vital infrastructure. Like veins in our bodies, pipelines are scattered everywhere. And very often, they are laid in uninhabited terrain with harsh environments, which makes a pipeline welder’s job a challenge on its own.
Any pipeline failure can lead to dramatic economic and environmental consequences. So, weld quality is crucial for pipeline integrity and environmental safety. Pipe welding is sometimes done manually but often employs automated welding equipment to improve weld quality.
Unlike horizontal plate welding, pipe welding requires making circumferential welds around the joint line. The welding process is far more challenging because you must keep the torch/electrode angle consistent as you travel along the joint. In addition, operators must reposition themselves as they travel around the pipe, which takes time and can put welders in uncomfortable welding positions out in the field. Welder fatigue, harsh environmental conditions, the challenge of maintaining the same arc travel angle, keeping an even joint gap, and many other challenges make pipe welding a complex job that requires specialized welding equipment.
Different Types Of Pipelines
The oil and gas industry primarily relies on pipelines for gathering, processing, and distribution. However, many different pipeline types are involved in these processes, and they all have unique challenges during their production.
There are five main types of pipelines:
- Gathering Pipelines
- Transmission Pipelines
- Distribution Pipelines
- Feeder Pipelines
These pipelines vary in size, primary material, internal pressures, and the types of chemicals and aggressive agents the inside and outside of the pipes are exposed to. As a result, there are varying welding needs depending on the pipeline type you are working with. For example, joining a service distribution pipeline made of copper with a pressure of 6 psi has completely different welding equipment requirements than joining a carbon steel transmission pipeline of up to 42-in diameter with pressures up to 1,200 psi.
Pipeline Welding Equipment
Pipeline welding equipment is highly diverse and specialized for welding pipes of various materials and diameters. In addition, many advanced automated pipe welding solutions exist for different pipe materials and sizes. While manual pipe welding plays a significant role in the pipeline industry, automated equipment provides consistent arc manipulation patterns, speed, voltage, amperage, and work angles.
Besides the welding equipment, joining pipes also requires external and internal clamps, pipe stands, pipe lifting devices, pipe bending equipment, weld testing machines, and various auxiliary equipment. The need for these additional tools depends on the pipeline types and the location where the pipes are joined.
Welders also need to use personal protective equipment (PPE). Besides welding apparel, pipe welders use pancake-style welding helmets to prevent backlight exposure and ensure maximum eye protection from arc radiation, sparks, and spatter. In addition, pancake-style welding helmets are lighter than standard flip-up welding hoods, which reduces fatigue during days with extended hours under the hood.
Welding Power Sources
While a lot of the manual pipe welding is done with the well known E6010 and E7018 stick welding electrodes, the TIG, MIG, and Flux-cored welding processes are also often applied, depending on the pipeline type, material, pipe diameter, and other variables.
Joining pipelines in remote locations is not only challenging for your welding crew but for your equipment as well. Besides exceptional arc stability and built-in features, your welding power source must be made to perform in harsh environments.
For example, the diesel-powered Big Blue Air Pak from Miller is designed for heavy industrial applications and built to be one of the most reliable high-output welders in the world. This powerful unit can output 500A at 100% duty cycle or 600A at 60% duty cycle, allowing your welders to join the thickest of pipes efficiently and with little to no downtime. Its “Arc-Drive” automatically enhances stick welding, especially when welding pipe, by improving arc stability and preventing it from going out. Besides excellent stick welding capabilities, the Big Blue Air Pak includes MIG, FCAW, DC TIG, and submerged arc welding processes. As a result, you can join pipes in the most optimal way for your current job.
Another option is to use dual-output diesel-powered welders like the Dual Maverick 200/200X from Lincoln Electric. This workhorse of a welder can output up to 450A in a single mode or up to 225A in dual mode — it combines two welding machines into one, allowing your pipe welders to work simultaneously on the same pipe. Besides its support for MIG, DC TIG, and stick welding, it also supports arc gouging at up to 450A, allowing you to gouge bad welds quickly. In addition, its Downhill Pipe (CC) mode allows your operators to weld the pipes “downhill” with a more forceful digging arc during the root and hot passes and a softer arc when “stacking the iron” during the fill and cap passes.
Pipe Bevelers and Cutters
Cutting and beveling the pipe remains one of the most challenging aspects of pipe preparation. No matter how skilled your operators are, achieving a consistent bevel angle on the pipe is nearly impossible when manually severing with the torch. On the other hand, pipe fit-up and cut precision must be almost perfect for maximum joint quality and for the weld to pass the inspection.
Pipe bevelers and cutters allow you to accurately prepare the pipe joint quickly and consistently. Depending on the system, they are mounted inside or outside the pipe. An operator can easily position the beveler or a cutter in about five minutes or less and achieve clean cuts and bevel angles, making pipe welding far easier and with a lower chance of weld failure.
Pipe Heating Equipment
Preheating and post-welding heat treatment are often crucial to establishing a sound weld. Pipes made from various high-strength steel grades and alloys have specific preheating temperatures and often must undergo a process of stress relieving through post-welding heat treatment. In addition, the interpass temperature between each consecutive weld is usually provided in the welding specification sheet.
If the pipe joint is not appropriately preheated or the interpass temperature is incorrect, there are higher chances of weld cracking due to brittleness and hydrogen diffusion. Therefore, pipe heating equipment is vital for successful pipe joining.
There are various pipe heating technologies on the market, but most of them are based on induction heating, open flame heating, and ceramic resistance pads. High-quality systems not only provide sufficient pipe heating, but can also log the data and offer very accurate and uniform pipe heating. Unlike traditional open flame heating systems, induction heating systems like the Miller ProHeat 35 don’t cause water vapor condensation and won’t contribute to additional hydrogen buildup in the weld.
Rent Or Lease Pipe Welding Equipment From Red-D-Arc
Pipeline welding is a very diverse field and depending on the types of pipes you need to join, your equipment selection can vary significantly. For example, if you are a fabricator who joins pipes in the shop for your client, you may require completely different equipment than a contractor working on large transmission pipelines in the open and across the states.
Red-D-Arc has a massive fleet of pipeline welding equipment at your disposal. You can rent the necessary tools and avoid purchasing, storage, and maintenance costs. Investing in heavy-duty pipe welding equipment is costly and often doesn’t make financial sense. Many contractors move from job to job. So, it’s more cost-effective to rent and scale in and out with your equipment on an “as-needed basis.”
Contact us today, and our experienced team will help you determine the needed equipment based on the job at hand. Red-D-Arc has over 60,000 units of high-end equipment strategically placed across North America, and we can provide our tools to your job site, regardless of the location and equipment requirements.
Red-D-Arc Welderentals™ an Airgas company rents and leases welders, welding positioners, welding-related equipment, and electric power generators – anywhere in the world. Our rental welders, positioners and specialty products have been engineered and built to provide Extreme-Duty™ performance and reliability in even the harshest environments, and are available through over 70 Red-D-Arc Service Centers, strategically located throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands, as well as through strategic alliances in the Middle East, Spain, Italy, Croatia, and the Caribbean. From our rental fleet of over 60,000 welders, 3,700 weld positioners, and 3,700 electric-power generators, we can supply you with the equipment you need – where you need it – when you need it.