Plasma cutting and gouging process approved for use on Ruby pipeline

Hypertherm Powermax plasma systems are helping to create better weld repairs and tie-in points on the 1,086 km Ruby Pipeline currently under construction in the USA.

Associated Pipe Line Contractors, the construction contractor on the Ruby Pipeline, is using Hypertherm plasma in two different ways: to gouge out excess metal and to make cuts on individual sections of pipe during the tie-in process.

In the past, pipeline builders needing to gouge out excess metal had to rely on hand grinding. The process was lengthy – typically taking at least 45 minutes for each small area – and dangerous with flying debris causing an average of one serious eye injury per day.

With plasma, the work takes less than 15 minutes, and eye injuries are eliminated since there is no flying debris.

“Making the switch to Hypertherm and using plasma for gouging has reduced grinding from a major part of the weld repair process to a minor clean-up role,” said Kenny Glaze, a welder and Local 798 union member.

In addition to speed and safety, plasma torches weigh less than hand grinders, so they are easier to handle and offer better visibility to the work area. This ease of use and visibility are critical since even the smallest mistake can result in having to remove and replace a complete section of pipe.

Hypertherm plasma is also used to smooth out the ends of each individual piece of pipe, before the pipe is tied in to the line. In the past, Associated Pipe Line Contractors, like other pipeline companies, used oxyfuel, which resulted in a rough cut requiring secondary work. Using plasma crews can immediately weld the pipe to the line.

Superintendent of Associated Pipe Line Contractors Sonny Weems says “The Hypertherm plasma technology makes the industry much more efficient and works to eliminate hazards associated with the use of the old hand grinders.”

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