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New SmartFit System Optimises Pipe Fit-up and Welding Productivity

15 March 2012

Pipe measurement technology specialist Optical Metrology Services (OMS) Ltd has launched a new system for optimising the fit-up and improving the weld productivity of oil and gas pipes.

In oil and gas pipeline projects, the welding of fatigue-sensitive SCR and flowline pipes to tight specifications is absolutely critical. Counterboring the pipes might not be a viable method of controlling pipe geometry due to cost considerations or to limitations on pipe wall thickness.

OMS’ new SmartFitTM system is a unique suite of hardware and software tools, which together, provide a powerful system for pipeline contractors, which ensures that pipe fit-up, welding and pipelaying processes run as smoothly as possible with minimal interruptions. Elements of SmartFitTM are deployed in different ways to suit the practicalities of different production processes, both onshore and offshore.

Typically, pipe end dimensioning and fit-up involves two main steps: measuring and fit-up. SmartFitTM caters for both stages. The measuring stage involves the actual collection of pipe measurement data. Here, OMS’ suite of laser-based measurement tools can be used to measure the geometrical features of pipe ends. This process normally takes place onshore, although sometimes offshore on a cargo barge.

Manual or automatic laser-based measurement tools can be used to measure the IDs and WTs of pipe ends in rapid time. Typically, using automatic measurement tools, several thousand IDs of a pipe can be measured in less than 30 seconds, enabling hundreds of pipe ends to be measured in a single shift. This means less time on site, minimising project delays and costs for the pipelay contractor. Developed specifically for measuring the geometrical features of pipe ends, these automatic laser-based measurement tools offer high accuracy measurements, typically to +/- 0.05mm.

Significant time and cost savings
Compared to conventional pipe measurement tools such as caliper gauges, which measure only at a few discrete locations around a pipe end and therefore cannot determine its true shape, SmartFit automatic laser-based end dimensioning tools can determine the true shape of any pipe end and are able to measure up to 400 pipe ends in a single day. Pipelay contractors are therefore able to keep project schedules on track and because some projects involve measuring more than 3,000 pipes, time and cost savings are significant. For end dimensioning of pipes, OMS’ automatic Pipe Checker laser measurement tool, for example, is capable of measuring more than 2,000 IDs and 2,000 OD’s in a single day.

After pipe end measurements are complete, SmartFit also provides software that uses this measurement data to optimise the sequencing and fit up of pipes. Typically, SmartFit comprises a laptop computer system used prior to the pipe firing line, for example, in a ‘ready rack’ on a pipelaying vessel.

Each pipe end is measured, identified and entered into the SmartFit sequencing software. The software then analyses the fit-up of pipes and allows the operator to mark the best rotational position on each pipe end. In the bead stall, these marks are aligned to immediately achieve the best rotational position so that misalignment is minimised. Any problem pipes that won’t fit at a specified HiLo are also indicated and are re-sequenced or removed completely so that fit-up problems do not occur in the bead stall. Production delays due to mismatched pipes are therefore avoided.

Richard Gooch, Director of Technology at OMS comments: "With typical flowline HiLo limits and using typical seamless line pipe that has not been counterbored, fit-up issues can occur regularly depending on the HiLo requirement. For a HiLo of around 1.0 to 1.2mm, problems are likely to occur every 10 to 20 pipes, although this varies according to the exact project and the type of pipe. Using SmartFit enables the required HiLo’s to be achieved in the bead stall without trial and error. But when pipes will not fit, this will be indicated and the problem pipe can be taken out of sequence, therefore avoiding any problems in the bead stall. For a HiLo of 0.8 to 1.0mm, problem fits will occur in 20 to 50% of the cases.”

When contractors need to deliver pipeline welding projects against challenging logistics, SmartFit can help to minimise fit-up risk. For example, OMS can deploy its own fully qualified weld inspectors onsite anywhere in the world to measure samples of pipes and to help quantify the likely problems. Issues can be considered upfront and solutions can be tailored using OMS’ own proven pipe measurement technologies.