Global joint integrity specialist and engineering services company Hydratight compares its degree of care with the standards of aerospace technicians working on a typical jumbo jet who ensure that every one of the 28,000 hydraulic connections is leak-free.
A world-leading specialist provider of joint integrity assurance services, Hydratight helps companies achieve leak-free bolted joints in refinery and production facilities.
Major discoveries of oil and particularly gas fields off Australia’s North-West Coast have shifted the Australian industry into a higher gear for decades to come. New production comes with new floating production storage and offloading facilities (FPSOs), platforms, terminals, pipelines, refineries and chemical plants as well as new risks.
Though Hydratight sees massive potential for good for the Australian and the world economy, the company also has concerns for the potential dangers of rapid growth and construction.
The company’s experience in joint integrity assurance over the past 30 years has led to procedures and techniques that are now incorporated in safe working procedures and industry documentation in use around the world, and which are fundamental to the construction and operation of every energy facility.
But in a typical energy plant, up to 5% of the flanged joints leak, letting out highly toxic and inflammable material under high pressure, which can lead to devastating plant accidents and expensive shutdowns.
In spite of several mishaps and potential dangers, not all companies give due consideration to the performance of flanged joints. Untrained technicians bolting the joints, poor design, incorrect bolt loads and gasket materials as well as torque and tensioning errors can increase the potential for leakage and disaster.
Over several years, Hydratight and other bolting and jointing specialists have developed systems for complete joint integrity assurance, beginning at the joint design process, working through bolt loads and gasket materials, and following the jointing process from first-fit to final checks.
Such systems are designed to create a leak-free joint from the first time it is made live, with every operation on every single joint recorded and reviewed. Realising that doing the job correctly at the start leads to far fewer shutdowns and losses later, plant owners are increasingly adopting these systems.
Total joint integrity assurance requires the company to build a management procedure that gives an individual the ownership of the task and supports that person. Additionally, everyone with an influence on joint integrity should be aware of the management system.
Management tools such as risk assessment, competence management, practice controls and records and data management all have a significant role to play in the system’s implementation. Best practice needs to be adopted, with procedures specific to each pipe and joint. There needs to be a plan for proper inspection, both for joints in service and for those broken for maintenance. All the data needed by trained personnel to do their job properly needs to be available on demand.
It is also important for the management to know the capabilities of each individual so that only the most suitable personnel are assigned to undertake specific jobs.
Very importantly, recording what has been done to each joint in the past is an important part of maintaining leak-free performance in the future. Recording the history of a joint encourages best practice, provides data for maintenance planning, gives traceability, and ultimately records what worked, or didn’t.
A full record helps those responsible for the system to learn and improve by allowing painless auditing and performance measurement.
In conclusion, joint integrity assurance can save millions of dollars and many lives in industry across the world.