Metallurgical testing should not be a ‘grudge purchase’

Companies should be using metallurgical testing to better their products and keep their edge in industry. Companies should be using metallurgical testing to better their products and keep their edge in industry.

Because the oil and gas industry is a high-risk environment, metallurgical testing and quality control is extremely important when doing any fabrication work in that sector.

In order to avoid failures, which could be catastrophic, metallurgical testing and quality control, testing is vital. Dr Janet Cotton is the director of Cape Town-based One Eighty Materials Testing (Pty) Ltd. The company specialises in metallurgical and materials testing and consulting. Facilities like One Eighty create an enabling environment for fabricators of oil and gas.

Cotton said, “The industry is starting to use more and more at exotic engineering materials that fabricators may not necessarily have much experience with. Therefore new weld procedures are required to be developed and One Eighty has the facilities and the expertise to help get those weld procedures right.”

Weld techniques have to be qualified, according to the regulatory authorities such as ABS, Lloyds, BV and DNV. This means that weld test coupons must have extensive mechanical and compositional tests conducted on them before the procedure can be passed. Further, material used in fabrication of oil and gas installation has to carry this certification. In many cases material that is available from merchants does not automatically carry the necessary certifications, compelling manufacturers to do tests at a SANAS accredited facility.

“We are the only laboratory in Cape Town that is ISO 17025 SANAS accredited. This means that we are qualified to an international standard and we are obligated to adhere to all of the codes that govern metallurgical testing,” states Cotton. “The reason we set up in Cape Town was because there was no commercial laboratory to service the huge fabrication industry here – not just for the oil and gas industry. Before One Eighty, fabricators had to send their samples up to Johannesburg for testing, thus making the turnaround time (and subsequent costs) challenging to the manufacturers.”

Cost is always a challenge. “Getting people to understand how much technology and cost is involved in getting the metallurgical test right can be difficult.” Cotton says that they are often challenged on their pricing. “But there is a lot of responsibility that comes with the test certificate. When people in this industry make decisions to bypass the testing, it carries consequences.” “For example, if you are going to put in a channel section somewhere, you need a stress analysis done. And let’s say we have done the metallurgical tests to say that the material has a strength of 400mpa. If our result is incorrect, it is significant. Not only is it in terms of money, but safety too.”

Metallurgical testing is often a “grudge purchase,” but with regulatory authorities such as ABS not signing off work done if it has not been metallurgical tested, it is a necessary one. One Eighty is rightfully proud of its ISO 17025 SANAS accreditation and sports excellent facilities and machines dedicated to achieving the international standards required.

“If one looks at the cost of the testing in the context of the cost of the fabrication – and what it’s role/fit is – and the risk that it carries, then maybe one can see things a bit differently.” Cotton adds. “Also, not many people know about metallurgy. Metallurgy is a field of engineering and requires a professional degree. Companies should be using metallurgical testing to better their products and keep their edge in industry.”

By: Kristy Jooste


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