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Innovation and Technology

Cladding Company Extends Life of Component Parts

Innerfuse ID Welding Applies the Latest Weld Technology to Preserve the Life of Valves, Piping and Component Parts

Today’s search for oil and gas focuses on reserves previously thought too expensive to obtain, specifically subsea and shale formation drilling. Exploration of these areas often exposes equipment to high levels of highly corrosive hydrogen disulfide (H2S) gas. Therefore, some of the most expensive maintenance problems in the oil equipment and petrochem fields are corrosion, abrasion and oxidation. These environments can significantly reduce the life cycle of processing and ancillary equipment. Weld overlay is used throughout the industry to eliminate or minimize these issues.

This is a good state of affairs for William Lee, president of Innerfuse ID Welding, LLC in Hammond, Louisiana. Mr. Lee, known as Billy throughout the welding industry, has worked in the welding field for more than 30 years, a good part of that time spent in Europe, with trips all over the globe. He has logged more than 67,000 hours in the welding field. When personal issues brought him home to Louisiana, starting his own welding company seemed like a natural progression in his career. He found a few partners, and Innerfuse ID Welding was born.

Innerfuse builds components such as separators and pressure vessels but the company’s primary mission, according to Mr. Lee, is to “provide unique solutions for life cycle extension for critical components that are particularly difficult and expensive to change.”

Innerfuse has developed proprietary welding procedures used for high alloy weld metal overlay for mild and low-alloy steel piping, valves, flanges and fittings. This protective alloy, usually Inconel, austenitic stainless steel or nickel- or cobalt-based alloys, is far superior to the base metal in fighting corrosion, abrasion, oxidation and general wear of critical components parts. In many cases, the application of a thin layer of protective weld alloy to a less expensive base metal is far more economical than buying thicker stainless steel or chromium piping.

Weld overlay technology has been shown to significantly extend the life cycle of critical components. The amount of life extension is based on the particular conditions of the application, including operating pressure, temperature and chemical considerations, but Mr. Lee has seen life cycles increased by as much as 15 years in harsh environments. This provides a big advantage to a company in operation where service time and safety are important factors.

A key component to Innerfuse’s process is the use of Fronius cladding technology. According to Mr. Lee, Fronius provides the state-of-the-art welding technology needed to make his welding procedures successful. He first became aware of Fronius’s capabilities in Europe, and the Fronius machine was the first machine he purchased for Innerfuse. “Fronius provides great support to us on all facets from technology to service and support. They’ve been a great asset to us.”

Innerfuse uses Fronius equipment in two key areas: piping and valve components. The company has a customized cladding system primarily used for piping and uses the Fronius Compact Cladder for its work on other component parts, such as valves.

According to Mr. Lee, the digital capabilities of the Fronius controller and welding power supplies are ideal to capture the high-end skills and knowledge of his welding staff so that those skills can be applied evenly across the board. “A good welder has a feel for how to set up the job and get it right,” Mr. Lee says. “The digital capabilities of the machine can save and mirror the parameters that are used, so that the welding process is consistent time and time again.”

Although Innerfuse uses highly skilled welders, some companies do not have access to their level of skill. According to Fronius representative Wm. Jeff Hoffart, “Fronius offers advanced features that allow operators to do tasks they normally would not do. This is a key advantage in a field faced with a shortage of highly skilled welders.”

The Fronius Cladding System uses Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW) with Hot Wire addition. This welding process offers the controlled penetration and high arc on time needed to maximize the weld deposit quality. Pulse welding power supplies are used for both the GTAW process and the Hot Wire addition. Fronius uses a unique pulse control and proprietary software that enables both power supplies to interact. “This virtually infinite control produces excellent all-around weld deposit chemistry and weld bead profile,” Hoffart says.

“The technology that Fronius brought to the table took us to a higher level,” Mr. Lee says. “The digital technology is precise. It is important to be exact with your welding parameters, such as wire feed, heat input and deposit chemistry. With the digital capabilities, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. You can lock in your parameters and keep everything the same time after time. This helps meet quality assurance criteria.”

Innerfuse uses a Fronius Compact Cladder for overlay of component parts, such as valves, separators, nozzles and parts for the die-casting industry. “These parts are found in very aggressive environments where uncoated parts can wear out very quickly,” Mr. Lee says. “The coating stops corrosion and abrasion. These cladded parts won’t wear out in our lifetime.”

The Compact Cladding Cell is designed to provide cost-effective overlay welding on components up to 1 m diameter (39 in.) and a maximum weight of 1250 kg (2755 lb.). Despite its compact design, this powerful machine provides the same simple operation, precise movements and extensive data logging capabilities as larger Fronius machines.

“The Compact Cladder supplies the high-end deposit of welds needed to meet the high standards and specifications of the industry,” Mr. Lee says.. “We have used it with exotic alloys that are difficult to weld under the best circumstances.”

Mr. Lee also appreciates the fact that Fronius designs and manufactures every part of their machines, so a single technician can service the entire machine. If there is ever a problem, service is a single phone call away, eliminating the need to call multiple vendors to service one machine. Plus, all the parts are built to work together in a smoothly operating system designed to produce the highest quality, a fact that is apparent in the homogenous appearance of the welds, Mr. Lee says.

More and more companies today recognize the advantages of including protective alloys on their piping, valves and components, and this technology is often included today in the written specifications for a project. With a huge refining base in Louisiana, plus Mr. Lee’s contacts all over the world, he sees a bright future for his fledgling company, and he hopes Innerfuse will contribute to the technological success of the oil industry.