A Decade of Improved Pressure Vessel Fabrication

In 2011, facing a dearth of experienced pressure vessel welders, Enerflex a global oil and natural gas manufacturing and services supplier, embarked on a crucial automation project. The result: enhanced productivity and safety.

AWS Publications | December 17, 2021 | Tech and Industries
Welding Digest ►  A Decade of Improved Pressure Vessel Fabrication

In 2011, facing a dearth of experienced pressure vessel welders, Enerflex a global oil and natural gas manufacturing and services supplier, embarked on a crucial automation project. The result: enhanced productivity and safety.

“Ten years ago, skilled welders were getting harder to find, and longer project lead times were causing production challenges as the company grew,” said Shawn Johnston, the Calgary-Canada based company’s general manager for operations and supply chain.

Enerflex’s partner, All Fabrication Machinery Inc., Calgary, Canada, introduced the company to HGG Profiling Equipment Inc., Houston, Tex., and its SPC 2500 pipe cutting machine to improve pressure vessel profiling capabilities.

HGG’s SPC 2500 was predicted to replace three machines as well as numerous manual processes and tasks required to make pressure vessels. Preprogramming eliminated the need to manually cut and fabricate as well as produce other products, such as exhaust systems, elbows, mixing boxes, and air intakes. By 2012, the SPC 2500 had improved overall capacity at Enerflex by 25 to 30%. Today, with highly experienced operators aligned with an engineering and design team that completely understands the machine’s capabilities, the company is realizing a performance and capacity increase of more than 40%.


Automated Pipe Profiling Increases Productivity

Designed for efficiency, the SPC 2500 has features that improved fabrication schedules for Enerflex. These features include:

-a chuck-driven mechanism that provides stable and secure precision cutting;

-a multihead cutter that enables cuts using various torches and gases (i.e., plasma or oxyfuel) to accommodate different types of material, including carbon steel from 3⁄8 in. to several inches thick and stainless steel;

-a 96-in.-diameter span that provides pipe cutting capabilities ranging eight diameter inches (152 to 2500 mm);

-built-in marking tools for drawing lines and positioning holes prior to cutting to provide quality assurance and accuracy checks;

-embedded software that manages exact cuts and hole locations, as well as nest profiles, and fully integrates into Enerflex’s computer-aided design system.

Additionally, eliminating the manual function saved work hours. Shell preparation for nozzle weld-in was estimated to have been reduced to only one hour from the previous 8 to 10 h. Plus, large vessel welding preparation has been reduced from as many as 40 h to as little as 4 h. Cut times on larger vessels has been improved by 60%.

1Enerflex now realizes a 60% improvement in cut times on larger vessels.


Since the purchase of the machinery, the company has utilized and strategically deployed employees in tasks that take advantage of their quality and expertise while enabling the machine to complete routine and automated tasks simultaneously and in sequence. For example, hillside holes, which are difficult to accurately cut, fit, and weld, are now easier to produce.


Automation Improves Safety, Shortens Lead Times

Along with better utilization of hard-to-find welders, the SPC 2500 addresses the fabricator’s ongoing safety initiatives to protect its people and jobs.

“We have dramatically lowered employee touch points, handling time, and manual processes while eliminating and protecting employees from hazardous fumes,” Johnston said.

Prior to incorporating the SPC 2500, Enerflex dealt with long lead times that often caused production delays, resulting in losing control of quality and production schedule deadlines. Today, the machine has increased the company’s efficiency because of its extensive profiling capabilities and enabled Enerflex to integrate the machine’s capabilities into other areas.

“Our processes have improved, too, because we manipulate specific features to our advantage through internal innovation, a win-win for our overall value proposition,” Johnston said.

The company is now confident to not only bid on jobs with non-typical hole placements on pressure vessels but also to use the SPC 2500 to its fullest potential. The company takes full advantage of more of the SPC 2500’s capabilities to support customer requirements, which brings in more contract work.

Proven Productivity

After analyzing the results and benefits of the SPC 2500, the company purchased another HGG pipe profiler for its U.S. and international fabrication facility.

The HGG SPC 2500 PT is a computer numeric control pipe cutting and vessel profiling machine designed for the pressure vessel fabrication industry. It easily handles large-diameter pipes and heavy weights. It has also been carefully designed and then implemented so extreme cutting tolerances are guaranteed and can be easily handled throughout the cutting operation.

2Pressure vessel layout and cutting is no longer manually intensive. Quality and productivity have increased while plant safety has improved.

Users benefit from thick wall accuracy and perfectly round holes. The need for layouts has been eliminated. Machine cutting specifications include a diameter cutting range capability range of 8 to 98 in., a wall thickness cutting range of ¼ to 6 in., and an effective cutting length capability of 40 ft. The SPC 2500 PT is equipped with both plasma and oxyfuel quick-change cutting torches and a layout marking device.

Ten Years Stronger

As part of the company’s growth strategy over the last decade, Enerflex relocated its Canadian manufacturing facility to double its regional fabrication square footage. The company also expanded its customer portfolio to span the entire energy value chain. More recently, it has entered the energy transition sector with a heightened focus on delivering low-carbon energy solutions.

“Automation has adjusted and improved our fabrication model, enabling us to drive a higher-quality product at a reduced cost,” Johnston said.


This article was written by Tim A. Schultz (president of Marcom Solutions, Cleveland, Ohio) for the American Welding Society.