November 25, 2022

Shell printed and deployed industry first leak repair clamp

Shell has successfully installed the first 3D printed leak repair clamp in service. Clamps, also known as mechanical leak repair enclosures, are engineered solutions that are used to encapsulate and restore integrity of operating pipelines against pipeline defects or wall thinning arising through erosion and corrosion mechanisms.

At present, a simple clamp can be manufactured within 3-5 days, but complex clamps may take 4 weeks or more, when factoring in delivery times from limited fabricators specialised in pressure enclosures. The ability to apply such temporary repairs is critical to enable facilities to remain on-stream. The availability of essential equipment can be maximised, thereby reducing production loss and environmental emissions. Defects can occur in diverse locations given the complexity of piping systems, often triggering the need for dedicated, customised solutions. The speed of response to restore the mechanical integrity and continuous safe operation of the asset is critical.

3D printing is an additive manufacturing technology in which the material is built up through a layer by layer deposition process. This technique is claimed to have an edge over other conventional manufacturing techniques such as casting or forging due to its ability to manufacture parts with intricate geometries. 3D printing offers the ability to produce the near net shape of the desired component, limiting the need for high material wastage during the machining process typical of current manufacturing practices.

3D printed leak repair clamp (2)
3D printed leak repair clamp (3)
3D printed leak repair clamp (4)

Clamp produced using Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing, as welding and prior to post-processing.

Finally, 3D printing is transferable across product designs, as the manufacturing process only requires the use of computer-aided design of the product, and programming of the build (deposition) robot. In case of conventional techniques for large items, preparing bespoke tooling such as moulds and dies normally involves a greater lead time and costs.

Due to its merit, 3D printing technology was chosen for the fabrication of selected clamps for use in our operations. A proof of concept (POC) was executed collaboratively by Shell, TEAM, Inc. and Vallourec. Together, the team established a technical specification and inspection test plan for the first clamp with an industrial application to be produced completely with a Wire Arc Additive Manufactured (WAAM) technique. The goal was to verify the feasibility of using a WAAM technique to produce clamps for leak repair which will meet the required quality assurance for medium-pressure steam systems. The proof of concept helped gather insights into the steps needed to improve the quality and productivity for future applications.

3D printed leak repair clamp (1) Drawing of a 3D printed clamp

The above article, text and images, is part of a Shell Global paper posted online.

Link To That Page

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