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Under the microscope

Published:  02 July, 2014

ODEE spoke with Jan Rademaker, senior corrosion expert at Element Materials Technology, and Erwin de Rijcke, Element’s business development manager, about the company’s recently completed state-of-the-art laboratory in Amsterdam, and what it offers oil & gas customers in terms of materials testing services and support.

During the latter part of 2013, Element Materials Technology’s Materials Testing and Sour Testing teams in the Netherlands moved from facilities in the centre of the Amsterdam to a new state-of-the-art laboratory near Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and international train station Sloterdijk. Erwin de Rijcke, Element’s business development manager, explained the background behind the decision to open the new facility: “Within the oil & gas industry, we are seeing an increasing number of companies venturing into deeper seas. This type of environment means pipelines and other sub-sea equipment need to be more robust and reliable than ever before, and able to function efficiently in ever deeper and colder seas. Therefore the need for thorough material testing has never been so critical.”

With this in mind, two years ago Element decided to focus to a greater degree on the oil & gas industry by offering testing services that fitted the increasingly exacting needs of this sector, including sour service and fracture mechanics testing. de Rijcke continued: “Because of the high demand for these types of services in oil & gas Element made a substantial investment in developing these kinds of services, offering a state-of-the-art laboratory, high-tech equipment and the highly skilled team of engineers managed by senior corrosion expert Jan Rademaker to carry out the wide range of exacting tasked involved. Indeed, Jan has over 25 years’ experience in sour service testing. This was the background behind the establishment of our recently opened Amsterdam laboratory, as well as its sister laboratories in Sheffield in the UK and Houston, Texas in the US.”

According to Jan Rademaker, one of the key benefits of the new laboratory in Amsterdam is that it can now undertake multiple tests of material samples whereas at the previous site it could only have one or two running at the same time. Also, although safety has always been a primary concern for Element, de Rijcke pointed out that new facilities take this to a whole new level, with state-of-the-art alarms to ensure all staff and visiting customers are fully protected from any potential health & safety risk.

Sour service

At the new Amsterdam facility, the sour service laboratory includes 28 gas-controlled outlet terminals with the ability to mix gas. Rademaker explained that each outlet terminal has a capacity of approximately 20 litres, so there is a total capacity to run 560 4PB SSC tests (NACE TM0177 Meth. B) or HIC tests (NACE TM0284) at ambient temperature and pressure at the same time. Element’s sour service laboratories also have the ability to perform SSC tests in autoclaves conditions. Autoclaves are used to simulate the high pressure, high temperature conditions encountered downhole. Rademaker explained that Element has a range of these pressure vessels with capacities in the range of 0.25 to 40 litres. These facilities permit bent beam tests and C-ring tests up to 650ºC and pressures up to 5000 psi in sour environments.

Element’s sour service laboratories are accredited according to NEN-EN-ISO/IEC 17025. Element Amsterdam provides access to an independent team of specialists in the field of Materials Testing, Failure Analysis and Product Qualification Testing.

Materials testing

The Materials Testing division is made up of experienced metallurgists who use state-of-the-art equipment to serve all kind of industries. Element offers a full range of services specialist in mechanical testing, fatigue testing, metallograpy, chemical analysis and corrosion testing. Rademaker and his team set out to ensure that Element’s customers have access to the best knowledge and capabilities in corrosion testing. As with all the company’s European and US laboratories, the Amsterdam facility is accredited to ISO 17025 and offers a range of accredited sour service test methods:

• Hydrogen-Induced Cracking (HIC) test in accordance with NACE TM0284.

• Tensile test in accordance with NACE TM0177, Method A.

• Bent-Beam test in accordance with NACE TM0177, Method B and/or ISO 7539-2.

• C-Ring test in accordance with NACE TM0177, Method C.

• Double-Cantilever-Beam (DCB) test in accordance with NACE TM0177, Method D.

The company offers materials qualification testing in accordance with the NACE MR0175/ISO 15156-2 / 3, as well as industry specifications and requirements including:

• EFC Publication 16, Annex A.

• DNV-OS-F101 supplementary requirements for sour service.

• Total GS EP PLR 211, Appendix 4.

• API 5L 44th Edition, additional provisions for PSL 2 pipe.

• Client-specific R&D, e.g., API PRAC Small-Pipe testing.

Failure analysis

The Failure Analysis division comprises experienced material engineers and scientists who determine failure mechanisms and failure causes and give advice in material selection, failure prevention and repair procedures. de Rijcke explained that the company’s welding engineers offer a wide range of services, including welding procedure and welder qualification testing, welding consultancy and onsite welding qualification services. “Our corrosion engineers identify corrosion problems in combination with failure analysis and root cause determination,” he said. “They can advise engineering or quality departments on design and process improvements as well as performing customer-specific corrosion tests and research services.”

Element’s product qualification test engineers provide clients with physical measurements and tests on existing products, assemblies, or systems under various environmental conditions, both in the laboratory and onsite. These evaluations determine a product's strength or robustness, identify problems with troubleshooting, determine expected lifetimes, and functionally analyse prototypes and validate finite element method (FEM) calculations.

Mechanical testing services

With regard to mechanical testing, de Rijcke pointed out that this is an important means of characterising the properties of a material across a number of areas including strength, hardness, fracture resistance and ductility. “These and other properties are used to determine whether a material or part is suitable for its intended application,” he said. Element offers a wide variety of mechanical tests to measure the strength, elasticity, elongation, hardness, fracture toughness, impact resistance, stress rupture, and fatigue limit for metals, polymers and other advanced materials to support the engineering design and quality control processes for Element’s customers in the oil & gas industry – as well as others such as aerospace & defence, transportation, power generation, biomedical, construction and primary metals.

Accreditations and standards

Element operates in accordance with all of the applicable local, national, regional and international standards. In particular, the company’s laboratories comply with and operate to all of the relevant ISO, ASTM and EN standards that govern testing, inspection and certification service providers.

Corrosion testing services

Rademaker reflected that the potential for failure in pipelines and other production infrastructure through corrosion and corrosion related mechanisms has long been recognised. “As the energy sector seeks to produce hydrocarbons in increasingly challenging environments, the potential for corrosion failures is becoming ever more significant,” he said. “It therefore comes as little surprise that the industry seeks to validate its choice of materials and welding processes through laboratory based corrosion testing while at the same time, test conditions such as pressures, temperatures, stress and environment become ever more demanding to reflect the realities of the production and exploration environment.”

Element, through its global network of corrosion control and evaluation testing laboratories, backed by its team of corrosion consultants, provides an extensive range of sour corrosion services and environmental simulations following such international protocols as ASTM, IP MIL, NACE, FTM and others to a consistent standard of technical excellence.

Element’s corrosion knowhow covers a wide range of applications and client needs, utilising state-of-the-art materials engineering, instrumentation and techniques for testing, consulting, and corrosion investigations. The company’s services include everything from sulphide stress cracking, hydrogen induced cracking, critical pitting temperature, critical crevice temperature, bespoke corrosion tests and corrosion rate, to electrochemical testing, pitting corrosion, crevice corrosion, inter-granular corrosion, salt spray and failure analysis.

Rademaker commented that Element’s experts consistently provide accurate and reliable data regarding material properties allowing clients to validate the integrity of pipelines and other infrastructure and in the process help solve, mitigate and prevent corrosion related problems occurring in the oil & gas sector, as well as many others.

Weld procedure services

Welding is a critical fabrication process used in many industry sectors to either fabricate or repair metal or thermoplastic based products and as such is fundamental to the engineering and manufacturing communities. To support this critical process Element provides a complete range of third party, independent Weld Procedure and Weld Engineering services for oil & gas and other sectors. Each of Element’s laboratories is staffed with certified welding inspectors (CWI), certified welding engineers (CWEng) and international welding engineers (IWE) experienced in all aspects of welding requirements involving ferrous, nonferrous, and polymer materials.

The weld-related services Element offers include: weld qualification testing, development of weld procedures for specification and code compliance, weld quality analysis, weld failure analysis and welding process auditing & improvement services.

Welding Procedure Qualification Record

A Welding Procedure Qualification Record (WPQR) is a company-specific qualification. It proves that the holding company possesses the technical welding knowledge necessary to perform metal joining work. Generally, a new welding procedure qualification record is required each time a new welding procedure is introduced. To obtain the WPQR, an independent specialist must observe the new procedure being used on a sample welding plate or pipe. Element’s experienced welding coordinators can support partners in the process of creating new welding procedures and are fully authorised to act as independent testing, inspection and certification specialists.

Once the sample welding plate or pipe has been welded, it is sawn into test samples, which can then be passed to the Element laboratories for destructive and non-destructive testing. Non-destructive testing usually includes visual, X-ray, penetrant or magnetic testing procedures, while destructive testing involves tensile testing, bend testing, Charpy impact testing, hardness measurements and macroscopic and microscopic investigations, as well as Ferrite content measurement, CTOD and corrosion tests if required. Element then presents the results of these tests in a certificate – the WPQR – which provides a practical assessment of the welding method description.

Welder Performance Qualification

A Welder Performance Qualification (WPQ) is a test certificate that shows whether an individual welder is sufficiently skilled in welding to the specifications of a particular standard. Destructive and non-destructive tests are used to determine whether the welder is capable of producing a good weld quality using the welding processes, materials and prescribed procedures. A welder who has performed a test weld for a welding procedure qualification record (WPQR) automatically qualifies as a welder. The scope of the WPQ test varies depending on the requirements, but it generally involves some destructive tests, including bend testing and macroscopic investigations, as well as non-destructive tests. If a good result is achieved, the welder receives an individual test certificate – the WPQ.

Accreditations and standards

Element welding specialists are familiar with a highly diverse range of codes and standards, including:

• I SO, NEN-EN, standards ISO 15614, ISO 15609, ISO 9606, EN287-1, ISO 3834, ISO 5817.

• American Welding Society, AWS D1.1 to AWS D1.6, AWS D9.1, AWS D14.1, AWS D14.6, AWS D15.1.

• American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME B31.1, B31.3.

• ASME Section IX, Pressure & Power Piping Code.

Alongside these standards, almost all large concerns and insurance companies have their own additional, company-specific welding specifications. Element welding specialists are also familiar with these requirements, including: DNV rules, Lloyds rules, NORSOK, Shell DEP, Total spec and Tata steel welding standard.

“Although oil & gas companies are now placing more stringent demands on test facilities than ever before, we are already proving to be more than fit for the task,” concluded de Rijcke.

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