Explore the innovative Superheat SmartWay™ approach to on-site heat treatment, focusing on a project completed for a northern Alberta oil sands facility. This project included solution annealing five 10.9” OD Header Tees, with a wall thickness of up to 1.5’’, and various components identified during the discovery phase. Before delving into the project’s details, it’s crucial to grasp the client’s challenges and critical objectives.
Identifying Customer & Scope Concerns:
The client’s foremost concern centered around ensuring safety, particularly in addressing the intricacies of confined spaces and adhering to site-specific safety protocols. Additionally, it was imperative to prioritize the well-being of field personnel who faced significant exposure to high temperatures generated by radiant heat during the heat cycle process’s hot strip/air quench phase.
During previous attempts, the client struggled to achieve and/or maintain the desired set point temperatures and soak times required to successfully solution anneal the components. The compounding failures prompted the facility decision-makers to seek a more reliable and effective approach. Heater integrity was put into question, resulting from an inability to control the power output percentage per zone, which led to constant burnouts. Another contributing factor during initial attempts was the need to fold heaters, leading to the formation of hot spots and undesirable electrical shorts from piggybacked elements. Such setbacks raised concerns about the overall ability to complete the heat treatment scope at all. Therefore, demanding a new methodology that could overcome past shortfalls and ensure superior results was necessary.
To address these challenges and provide an optimal solution, Superheat proposed a solution annealing technique utilizing their Superheat SmartWay™ process.
Scope and Schedule:
A solution anneal heat treatment application subjects a component to a specific procedure that reduces the base metal’s crack sensitivity in response to thermal stresses caused during welding. The component’s ductility and fracturing toughness are significantly enhanced by employing solution annealing prior to welding. This is achieved by eliminating secondary carbides that precipitate during the components’ in-service use. Therefore, it is standard operating procedure and an industry-recommended practice to solution heat treat higher alloy cast materials after extended service exposure prior to weld repair.
The scope of the project encompassed the solution annealing of five 10.9’’ OD Headers Tees, material type 20 Cr-32Ni+Nb, which measured up to 1.25’’ wall thickness. Based on discovery work, additional weldolet and thermowell tubes composed of alloy 800HT up to 1.25’’ wall thickness were added. The project complied with applicable codes and recommendations: ASME B31.3 Edition and AWS D10.10 Edition.
The heat cycle involved a soak temperature of 2120 degrees Fahrenheit with a tolerance of plus or minus 18 degrees, maintained for 30 minutes. The subsequent cooling process entailed removing heaters and insulation immediately, followed by applying compressed air from 14 air blowers evenly distributed around the circumference. This rapid and even cooling reduced the temperature of the header at a staged rate that produced the desired metallurgical results.
The Superheat SmartWay™ Solution:
The Superheat SmartWay™ solution, encompassing its equipment, technology, and specialized manpower, played a crucial role in the success of the project. The following elements had significant impacts:
Preplanning, Collaboration, and Engineering/Quality Department Support:
Two months of preplanning, collaboration, and the support that Superheat Engineering and Quality teams provided were instrumental in ensuring project execution. The thorough engineering process in communication with facility engineers allowed for meticulous planning and customization, resulting in practical solutions tailored to the client’s specific requirements.
The Superheat SmartCenter™, SmartView™, and SmartReports™:
The synergy of Superheat’s SmartCenter™, SmartView™, and SmartReports™ electronic project data packages provided advanced monitoring, analysis, and reporting capabilities. These tools allowed for real-time visibility into the heat treatment process, enabling prompt adjustments and ensuring compliance with quality parameters. This strategic approach enabled us to streamline operations, resulting in a remarkable 30% reduction in manpower requirements.
The strategic use of Superheat SmartPoint™ & SmartPak™ significantly contributed to achieving project KPIs. The Superheat SmartPoint™ allowed for precise output percentage of power, which meticulously controlled temperature increases within specific zones, thus ensuring that temperature quality parameters were not exceeded. The ability to control the power out percentage ensures the heating element’s temperature synchronizes with that of the component, whereas the traditional method requires the heating element to far exceed the true temperature of the component to achieve heat distribution and penetration. This overloading causes heater burnouts based on the elevated soak temperatures required for solution annealing.
Moreover, the industry-leading output capacity of a single SmartPoint™ console minimized the overall machine footprint on the project site, contributing to resource-efficient operation that was 25% less than the traditional approach.
Custom-shaped and built Kanthal D wire 40V multidirectional flexible ceramic heating elements were designed and manufactured specifically for the header configuration. Eliminating the need to overlap traditional off-the-shelf sizes of heater elements.
An additional project-specific item was the development of a custom-built stripping apparatus. This device, known as the “pike,” enhanced the Field Tech’s ability to strip the insulation, metal banding, and resulting heaters quickly and effectively from the header. This device made sure the rapid cooling required in the solution annealing procedure could take place.
The project greatly benefited from the expertise and experience of the key individuals involved. Effective communication and collaboration between Superheat team members and the client were essential in overcoming challenges and achieving objectives. Based on the market fluctuation of the skilled labor pool, was a testament to Superheat’s workforce team and the commitment and loyalty of field staff.
The Superheat SmartWay™ solution and the tailored approach significantly impacted the project’s overall success. The heat treatment scope was completed according to the procedure, with Superheat demonstrating the ability to achieve and maintain the desired temperature hold points. The experience gained from working on Header A was applicable to the remaining four headers, further improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the entire heat treatment process.
Superheat also delivered cost and schedule savings that were essential to other aspects of the turnaround project. Additionally, Superheat had the advantage of providing an ample workforce to complete the required scope, whereas lack of manpower was a primary concern for other contractors.
Furthermore, Superheat not only improved the quality of the project but also prioritized safety. This included the use of fire suits and multiple pairs of high-temperature gloves, ensuring the safety of the workers involved. The sequence of operations was meticulously designed to maintain safety standards throughout the entire heat treatment process.
In conclusion, the Superheat SmartWay™ solution demonstrated its value through cost and schedule savings, improved quality, and a strong commitment to safety. The collaboration, expertise, and innovative technologies provided by Superheat further established its reputation as the most advanced on-site heat treatment provider in the industry.