Note: This article is based on the inputs from Mr. Amlan Saha, Segment Management National – Welding Automation, Fronius India Private Limited.
The oil and gas industry in India ranks amongst India’s eight core industries. It is extremely crucial in the global energy supply. Welding is an integral part of the oil and gas industry. Welding is one of the most important technologies and processes that help in the efficient functioning of this industry.
From building pipelines to working on rigs and operating in the oil fields, the oil and gas industry needs highly skilled welding professionals. Let us understand the role of welding in the oil and gas industry, the skills required, careers, tools, and safety gear along with some challenges.
Welding in the oil and gas industry – what makes it different
Welding is an important process in the oil and gas industry like in any other process industry. But, the prevailing conditions in the oil and gas industries are much different than other engineering industries.
Major differences are due to the conditions given below:
- Safety concern: Most of the oil and gas equipment handle high-pressure fluids, which are mostly flammable and even a small mistake or defect may cause huge loss to life and property
- Difficult terrains: Most sites are in difficult terrains near the source of the oil fields or at gas processing and transportation locations. These can be onshore, offshore or, cross-country locations
- Corrosive nature of the media: The materials used in the oil and gas industry are corrosive in nature. The crude oil, semi-processed or, processed hydrocarbon products or, by-products, presence of materials like Sulphur, Hydrogen Sulphide, Carbon, and its various compounds are very corrosive and poses many challenges to welding
- Stringent quality requirements: There are stringent quality requirements and a very narrow window of tolerances. This is because even a minute mistake may result in huge losses
- Requires special skills: Welding in the oil and gas industry requires special knowledge and skills. There is also a need to follow a different set of standards.
Skill requirements for welding in the oil and gas industry
The pipes, elbows, valves, and other sub-sea equipment, etc., all deal with various stages of operations involving precision and highly time-bound operations. Welding operations like joining or, overlay welding to provide corrosion resistance, are not feasible to carry out manually, in most situations. Therefore, the equipment and processes involved in oil and gas are mostly dependent on automation.
Similarly, other operations like maintenance of oil field equipment, drilling services-related operations, and processing of crude oil and gases require a good understanding of system knowledge and operations of automated process controls.
Another area for the welding operators is Cladding/Overlay welding using automation systems. The cladding materials are exotic and very expensive due to the high percentages of Ni (Nickle) and other exotic material. Any over-deposition or, rework can drain the profits to a great extent. Here, the skill and knowledge of a welding operator are very important and play a major role.
Apart from domain skills and knowledge, below are some of the key skills required by a welder in the oil and gas industry:
- Numerical ability
- Verbal and written communication
Careers in welding for the youth
There is a huge demand for high-quality 5G and 6G pipe welders in the oil and gas sector. The qualified and skilled 6G welders earn handsome and most of the time, the pay packages are much higher compared to that of young engineers.
The demand for welders in the oil and gas industry will continue in the future too. It is because the focus for government and many construction companies is the cross-country pipeline in the oil and gas infrastructure.
There is a dearth of skilled manpower not only in India but also across the globe. Many Indian companies depend on experts from abroad. The skill requirement for welders in this industry is good GTAW welding knowledge and skills.
The person should have good knowledge about operating and maintaining a sophisticated automation system. In short, the need is not just for a welder but a skilled operator of a welding system.
Challenges in welding in the oil and gas industry
Challenges that one might face in the oil and gas field are mostly related to the basic nature of this industry. The oil and gas industries are located at very difficult terrains depending on the availability of petroleum products like crude, natural gases, etc. These sites could be offshore like Bombay High, KG basin, etc.
Availability of skilled persons at such locations, away from major cities always poses a challenge to any manager working in the oil and gas sector. The facilities and infrastructure to provide adequate training and engagement with sophisticated equipment and system take a long time as well as money.
It is critical for an employee in this sector to have the material knowledge and the significance of their usages. This is because the cost of mistakes could be very high.
Benefits of Fronius’ Perfect Welding for the oil and gas industry
Perfect Welding of Fronius has developed processes and technologies to support the oil and gas industry globally. Way back in the twentieth century, around the mid-’70s Fronius developed automated welding systems to carry out the Overlay/Cladding of the oil and gas sub-sea components (BOP, Christmas Tree, Chokes, and Conduits) and Valves.
This system works on the Hot Wire TIG process and controlled by a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) to reduce the human interventions during the long and crucial welding operations.
The precision windows as specified by American Petroleum Institute (API) standard are very narrow and the system has been developed in such a way to control the process parameters precisely to produce defect-free welding time and again.
Over a period, Perfect Welding developed many other processes like Compact Cladding Cell (CCC), Endless Torch Rotation System (ETR-S), Speed Clad Twin process for increasing productivity and deposition rate, High Performance 12 m-Pipe Internal bore cladding system and pipe welding and joining processes like TPS 400i LSC Advanced GMAW welding equipment and Flex Track orbital for pipe welding at sites.
Also read: Welding in the Construction Industry: Skills, Careers, and Challenges – https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/welding-in-the-construction-industry-skills-careers-and-challenges/
Tools and safety gear
The oil and gas sector requires special safety gears for welders, as many times, welding in this industry is done in closed chambers or on materials that were previously soaked in chemicals. During welding, the fumes and corrosive gases may affect the welder’s health.
The filler materials used are also exotic metals and some of these metal dust are found to have bad effects on the human respiratory system. The welding shields should have a special Respiratory Protection System with the provision for the supply of fresh air to the welder during the operations. Fronius has developed a VIZOR Air/3 Respiratory Protection Auto-Darkening welding helmet for the safety of welders working in such conditions.
There are immense benefits of welding and welding technologies in the oil and gas industry. The industry is constantly expanding and needs highly skilled welding professionals across the globe. If you are someone who loves to work in challenging situations, with an element of excitement every day, then you might consider becoming an industrial welder in the oil and gas industry.