November 2021, Vol. 248, No. 11

Tech Notes

Providing a Safer Welding Environment in Pipeline Construction

By Rachel Dalton, Xiris Automation  

Acting as the veins of a region, pipelines transport water, gas, oil and more. Through a network of pipelines, these materials get distributed to power plants, businesses and consumers’ homes. Wherever these pipelines are, welding is required.  

Photo: Daniel Acker
Photo: Daniel Acker

Pipeline welders require experience and expertise to meet the demands of the job. They must deal with potentially dangerous materials, often in harsh weather conditions. They also must know how and when to use different automated welding techniques.   

There are serious potential economic and environmental consequences should there be any mistakes made in the welding process that would jeopardize the pipeline network. This means there is an emphasis on quality and consistency for pipeline construction and why, typically, pipeline companies will perform automated orbital welding processes.  

The orbital welding process has the torch traveling around the outside of the pipe with clamps powered by hydraulic pressure, holding two pieces of pipe in place to be joined together in the field.  

Dangerous Conditions   

Pipeline construction can often present dangerous scenarios, as seen with one of our customers. The customer is a welding contractor who deploys automated welding equipment and operators to the field to perform joining of the pipe segments.   

While the equipment used is an automated orbital welding system, it still requires an operator to be present to monitor the welding process and ensure that all the process parameters are optimized during the welding process.    

Prior to implementing a new set of welding equipment, our customer did a risk assessment of the new equipment going in the field. They determined that there was an elevated risk to their operators because some of the hydraulic hoses for the clamps used could potentially leak in the work area, causing some hydraulic oil to mist in the air. This was deemed a potential fire hazard to the operator.   

There was the potential that the misting hydraulic fluid could catch fire around the open arc welding process that is used during the pipe welding. The operator who needed to view and monitor the welding process was dangerously close to the potential fire hazard.    

Weld Cameras   

To remove the operator from the danger zone, the customer decided to implement a Xiris weld camera so the pipeline welder could monitor the weld process from a remote location.   

The setup included two weld cameras on the orbital welding equipment, one leading the weld torch and one trailing. The video signals were run to an operator’s cabin 66 feet (20 meters) away from the welding process, allowing the operators to perform and remotely monitor the welds from a safer environment.     

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