A TEAM of engineering experts from Sheffield Hallam University is combining laser and powder metals technologies to slash the cost and reduce the environmental impact of making vital components used in offshore pipelines.
Researchers have teamed up with Rotherham-based precision engineer Evenort to develop new ways of producing complex metal flanges, protected from corrosion by a high-strength nickel-chromium alloy called Alloy 625.
Professor Alan Smith, from the University’s Materials and Engineering Research Institute, said: “Evenort produce flanges and other pipeline products for the oil and gas industry which have to be machined to very tight tolerances from highly alloyed corrosion resistant materials.
“We are developing an Alloy 625 process which will give the necessary corrosion resistance but at greatly reduced manufacturing cost.”
The researchers are using a combination of laser deposition and powder metallurgy to clad the flanges with a suitably thick corrosion resistant layer.
“The savings in terms of materials cost has been estimated to be between 50 and 85 per cent depending on the complexity of the product,” said Prof Smith, whose team includes Dr David Clegg and knowledge transfer associate Chunjun Li.
“This also has an environmental benefit because far fewer precious metals are required in the manufacturing process.”
Evenort’s general manager Craig McKay said: “By applying a laser-deposited section of Alloy 625 to the wetted surfaces of the product, the amount of the costly alloy in the component is much reduced.
“Flanges produced in this way are therefore cheaper and quicker to market. The savings get bigger as the nominal size of the pipeline increases, so this would be particularly suitable for large- diameter applications such as oil pipelines.”
Material costs could be reduced by up to 85 per cent thanks to the process, which is also more environmentally friendly because it cuts down on the amount of nickel used in the process.