Gas and Oil Pipeline Construction Machinery
Gas and oil pipeline equipment sits idle now that the Keystone XL pipeline again comes to a standstill. The immense amount of equipment and materials used for any pipeline construction is hard to conceive without pictures and a list of quantities or investments.
Imagine the Keystone XL pipeline for pumping heavy oil-sand crude from Canada to Texas Gulf. A total of 1,210 miles of the pipeline was to be built. Dozens of construction contracts, thousands of workers, tons of pipe and materials, and hundreds of equipment pieces.
Every mile required construction equipment specifically designed for digging, boring, welding, and laying the pipeline mostly underground across the plains.
Modern pipeline construction machinery doesn't come cheap. Much of it is leased for the duration or purchased used. After construction, what isn't immediately used will find its way to the equipment auctions like Richie Auctions outside Orlando.
What kind of equipment is used for the construction? It is mostly the same no matter where pipelines are being created to transport the gas and oil to refineries and consumers.
Resources required for construction are considerable.
You have probably seen local water or gas pipelines being constructed near your home to distribute and collect wastewater. Similar processes are used for large remote pipelines.
Surveyors layout the route for the pipelines. Trenches are dug, tunnels bored, and the pipe is attached end to end and laid into the ditches or push through the tunnels. Sounds simple, but pipelines that carry crude oil and gas over long distances are thick steel 36 "in diameter or larger.
At 44 feet long can weigh a considerable amount—definitely, more than your average in-town water or gas pipe.
Heavy equipment is needed to dig the 1,200 mile long trenches and lay the 36" steel pipe that is welded from end to end into that trench.
What Type of Equipment is Used for Construction?
Pipeline Carrier Vehicles
Carrier is the term used to describe pipeline construction vehicles used for transporting materials from offloading or staging areas to the job site. These vehicles are propelled across rugged terrain by tracks rather than wheels to operate in very remote locations and harsh conditions.
Maximum speeds are less than ten mph. They have the ability to handle very steep sidehill, uphill and downhill grades while carrying heavy loads. The machinery comes in small to enormous sizes and carrying capacities up to 33,000 pounds or more.
These modern vehicles come with all the comforts of today's on-road/ off-road trucks or cars with enclosed cabs for driver comfort and safety. The list of options put other private and commercial vehicles to shame. Here are just a few:
- Engine block and oil heaters
- Engine coolant heater
- Emergency driving system
- Remote-controlled spotlight
- Driver seat heaters and cab environmental controls
- Front and side window emergency exits
- Fire extinguishers
- Coat rack
Since all these options require a 12-volt operation, many heaters use PTC ceramic heating elements for added safety and durability. It is a common choice for many remote heating applications.
Pipeline loaders are very similar to logging equipment loaders but with different heads for grasping pipes. The extended boom for rapidly picking up and stacking 44 ft long sections of pipe is somewhat different from logs.
The extended length of the pipe, large diameter, and weight require booms to extend farther out over the pipe's stacks. The pipe is usually grasped at the center of gravity, requiring articulated booms.
Yard loaders used in steel pipe storage yards may not require extended booms since they can approach the stacked pipes from the side. They must be able to accommodate the maximum length and weight of the pipes that could be up to 18,000 pounds.
Even yard loaders are designed for operator comfort and safety. Operator comfort increases productivity. Equipment is often stored outside under adverse conditions, which makes heating and cooling systems essential for both the vehicle and operator.
Excavators and Dozers
Excavator/crawler is the more common term for vehicles used for digging the trenches necessary for buried pipes. The crawler term is due to the need for crawling tracks rather than wheels for traction and mobility over rugged terrain. They effectively crawl along the landscape rather than roll on tires.
Stringing the pipe along the right away for eventual welding and laying into the trenches, the excavators are modified. Specialized adaptations attached to the booms allow picking and placing the pipe sections end to end rather than bringing loaders onto the remote site.
As with other heavy equipment used for pipeline construction, these vehicles are designed for operator comfort and safety. Long hours required to meet the onsite requirements of clearing and trenching require trained and experienced operators.
These valuable assets are more productive if they are comfortable in all weather conditions and can focus on the job at hand. There is no time to waste ensuring the equipment is operational or trying to keep warm and dry.
PTC ceramic heating elements for both cabins and equipment heating are a must. There is no time to hook up additional equipment for external heating of hydraulics, batteries, or controls. These rugged heating devices heat up rapidly from battery power and need little maintenance over their lifetimes.
Welding pipe for gas and oil
The thousands of steel pipe pieces that go into creating an oil and gas pipeline have to be welded end to end before being laid into the trenches. Welding by had was time-consuming and often resulted in quality issues.
The challenge of 360 degrees welding in a remote area was difficult enough. Imagine creating quality welds in ice, snow, or rain conditions. Welders move tents along the pipeline to shelter the welders from dust storms and harsh sun while they worked.
Automation of the welding process improved the quality, speed, and efficiency of the welding technicians. Their job became setting up the automated welding heads, monitoring materials, and moving the equipment to the next pipe section.
The automated welders appear to be small robots crawling around the complete circumference of the pipe. Each robot is ensuring the same consistent quality weld regardless of position on the pipe.
The capital investment in automation paid for itself quickly with speed and quality, and less rework. It still requires welders to manage the equipment and ensure the welding is done correctly and substantially reduces labor costs.
One of the essential pieces of equipment on pipelines is the pipelayers or side booms. These workhorses hold multiple welded sections with multiple pipelayers to raise and lower the long stretches into the trench.
Specially made to hold multiple sections of the pipe over the trench, they are fitted with large counterweights and tracks to maintain their position without tipping. Since multiples of individual side booms work together for laying long sections of welded pipe, good communications are a must.
Each cab is designed for operator visibility, ergonomic controls, and comfort for long hours on the job. One mistake with a side boom among 6,7 or more pipelayers along the pipe could spell disaster.
Not only must they be able to lift 60,00 to 200,000 pounds, but they also have to do it extended over the trench. The extended boom and counterweight are trigonometry and physics problems that have to be solved correctly for each application. Modern pipelayers have instrumentation in the cabins to correctly position the extended weight required for laying the pipe.
Inspection & cleaning equipment
Once the continuous sections of pipe are in the trench, a final expectation was still required. Testing with high-pressure water for leaks and bad welds works for some pipelines. Others, large enough in diameter, have a human inspector pulled via a trolley through the pipe, inspecting each weld.
Automation of this facet oil pipeline construction greatly simplified the process and reduced time dramatically. Ultrasonics and x-rays are used both from outside and inside the pipelines.
Inside remote-controlled crawlers carry the x-ray or other source through the pipeline inspecting the 360-degree welds. Similar crawlers travel inside the newly laid pipelines to clean the surfaces and remove construction debris.
The use of durable, dependable heating and cooling devices
All the equipment utilized at these remote construction locations and remaining pumping and pressure stations required environmental controls. Keeping oil flowing and valves turning involves much remote control circuitry over thousands of miles of pipeline.
Long after the construction equipment leaves the project, the remaining equipment must continue unabated operations regardless of the environmental conditions.
Systems in place protect automated control circuitry and communication equipment from the elements. It isn't enough to keep the rain and snow from reaching the electronics control remote devices. The interior of the control cabinets must maintain a suitable environment protecting the electronics.
Systems for protecting these valuable assets are where DBKUSA industrial heating and cooling systems come into play. Low maintenance and dependable operation are required to maintain temperature and humidity in these remote locations. Their wide selection of PTC ceramic element heaters, flexible silicone rubber heaters, condensate evaporators, and thermoelectric coolers are ideal for meeting harsh environments.
Want to learn more or have a specific application?
DBK USA has experts standing by to answer your questions. Specialists in PTC heating elements and cooling applications can help you select the right components for your application.
Feel free to call our engineers directly at 1-864-607-9047