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Ep002: Hydro Testing & Isolation Plus With Allan Barker and Gavin West of IK-UK

Discover the power of custom isolation and hydro testing tools for the oil and gas industry. Enhance safety and efficiency with IK Group UK’s innovative solutions.

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways from the Podcast:

1. Customized Solutions: IK Group UK specializes in developing bespoke hydro testing and isolation tools tailored to the specific needs and challenges of the oil and gas industry.

2. Extensive Tool Range: IK Group UK offers a wide range of tools, including flexible tire tools, internal weld testers, and twin tire tools, designed to handle various pipe sizes and orientations.

3. Testing and Design Process: The company follows a meticulous testing and design process, involving multiple revisions and client approvals to ensure the tools are safe, efficient, and meet the required specifications.

4. Safety and Cost Savings: By using IK Group UK’s custom tools, clients can achieve significant cost savings and enhanced safety by effectively isolating and testing complex piping systems, reducing the risk of leaks and failures.

5. Collaboration and Support: IK Group UK works closely with clients, providing engineering packages, calculations, and support throughout the process, ensuring successful outcomes and customer satisfaction.

Wyatt McPherson 0:00
This podcast is created and produced by Innovator. If you’re looking to cut back or eliminate hot work on your next job or for all of your industrial services needs, visit innovator.ca.
Hello, and welcome to the Industrial Innovators Podcast hosted by founder and CEO of Innovator, Don Cooper. I’m Wyatt McPherson, I produce this show. And today our guests are Alan Barker, along with Gavin West from IK UK. And then Don will be discussing the test plug options that they offer along with exciting new technologies, as well as their long-standing business relationship. So let’s hear what they have to say.

Don Cooper 0:40
Talking with our technology partners from IK UK, in the beautiful town of Newton Aycliffe, in sunny England. And what we’re going to be talking about, I think, is isolation test plugs today, right guys? Yep. Is that the plan? Cool. So, guys, why don’t we start and just tell the audience that will be listening when the podcast airs? Who is IK and the company history focus that sort of set the stage for who you guys are.

Alan Barker 1:24
Okay, hello. Can you hear me? IK was initially called Poly Loop International, doing the same products we do. And they were eventually bought in 2013 by the UK group, which is a Norwegian company. So that was running engines, and in 2050, we were joined by our sister company up in Abu Dhabi and Atlanta Electronics. So made up predominantly, even though we’ve got small worldwide offices, predominantly of putting Newton Aycliffe, Aberdeen, online electronics, and our headquarters, if you like, is in Norway. And that’s where we started from.

Don Cooper 2:09
And across the business, what’s the range of focus of the business?

Alan Barker 2:17
Each department, each office has a different focus. So it’s all gas pipeline oriented. In our office, they seem to do a lot of land special projects. So people will go to them with last-minute major problems, whether it’s subsea or topside, and they will engineer a solution and put it together and help today. They’re fast acting on Madison with motor problems and legislations. Online Electronics in Aberdeen, they do trucking, obviously, by the name, electronics, they do autotronic type solutions and is tracking. And they’ve got some great new fancy tools being developed at the moment. And then here, our facility is predominantly a big manufacturer, manufacturer of various types of road testing and testing tools. Here we do, whether it was just a quick one or two-day rental of a small item up to large manufacturing chosen.

Don Cooper 3:20
So the IK UK office, specifically in Newton Aycliffe, big focus on isolation test plugs, big focus on the manufacturing of a variety of different types of poly and foam pigs, right? I mean, that’s, that’s the space. And so great. Now, today, we’re going to talk about a particular type of hydro testing, a well test plug called the flexible flange tester. So why don’t you tell us what is a test plug and what’s a flexible test plug.

Alan Barker 4:04
So this one, in particular, the flange well test, the standard one is where somebody would, for whatever reason, they would cut off the end of a pipe and exist in front of the end of the pipe resection. And they weld on the new fronts. To avoid having to fill that whole section of pipe work up with water or gas or whatever test medium they wish to use. They put a frangible tester into the plans while testing is mated to the type of plans whether it’s a class three or your class 150, whatever. The test unit goes inside, and the length of the test unit is long enough to pass beyond where the new weld is being made. Then the test unit is energized to create a high integrity seal. And then all they need to do is then just pressurize that cavity or annulus, whatever you want to call it. So it’s only a small volume test. We can test that you well, that’s a standard one which has a fixed length, fixed bodies are flexible. And the flexible ones, the one we’ve been working on, allows us because sometimes these flanges are welded on near pipe bends were severe the straight tool may go in, but it may not be able to get a high integrity seal. So now we’re developing a flexible one which goes on bends.

Don Cooper 5:29
Is it navigating the entire bend? Or is it simply articulating part of the bend so we can capture the weld on a flange on the end of a bend? Like what’s the I’ve seen both types of applications? I’m wondering what we’re talking about here?

Alan Barker 5:43
Yeah. So it is purely just to ensure that it passes beyond where the weld is. The problem of being flexible, it couldn’t ask too far because it’d be very difficult to put it into a flexible juncture, and the easiest things to push forward. It only goes just beyond the weld enough to be able to do that small annulus test.

Don Cooper 6:04
Okay. So how was this idea conceived? And, you know, and why, where did it come from?

Alan Barker 6:14
The request came from a customer in Holland, with the problem they had. Now we do have these well tests, which have an elbow shape, so they do go around bends. The problem with that is obviously then tied to the radius of the bend. So there’s no flexibility in them at all. So we thought, well, if we have 100 customers with 100 different applications, we have to build 100 different tools. So it was decided, let’s build something that could be flexible. And as long as it’s the right idea of the pipe, it can be used within any different bend radius, right?

Don Cooper 6:53
Yeah, we’ve, I mean, we’ve worked with IK UK since the inception of the company, and our Innovator business has probably thousands of your plugs across Canada. And we’ve had you guys design some bespoke custom for international customers, it’s bespoke for Canadian customers, it’s custom designed. Just to get the nomenclature, right. And we’ve got one nuclear power plant client in Ontario that you and I work together, and we developed some flexible isolation plugs that were also used to do sort of low to medium-sized hydro tests, navigating fully around the bend and being able to accomplish some hydro test in that way. So the range of ways that your tools can navigate bends, I think, is fascinating. The types of ways that we’ve been able to collaborate together to design different technology. Let’s talk a little bit about what are some of the customer applications that you’re seeing, using flexible tools? And what are the economic conditions that justify that for a customer? Like, why does a customer want to do that versus a full system test or in-process inspection, or whatever it might be? Why don’t we just talk about that for a little bit.

Alan Barker 8:37

As we said earlier, if they don’t do a local test, then they have to fill out fill the whole void of that paperwork that they may be lucky, they may have an isolation valve, half a meter away a meter away from that where that plug has been replaced. Typically, you wouldn’t see that. Their next isolation could be a few hundred meters away. So that’s a large volume of water if they’re using water, which predominantly they would, but that’s a large volume of water that would have to get in there. They then have the problem of when you use a monitor, and you go on large distances, you need to ensure it’s filled correctly with no air. So then it involves more time, more personnel. Then you’ve got to look at pumps, where you’re going to get your water source from economically. Yes, it can be done, but it’s an expensive way to do it. By using one of these tools, you’re talking about one man, maybe two men, depending on the size of the tool, just to help load it as a small hand pump, water in small pressurized, nothing mechanically needed to add anything. And it’s because it’s a small volume and those very quick two to three sharp tests. So basically, it’s a no-brainer, I think, to do this, to like this rather than

Don Cooper 10:04

Yeah, you know, doing a system hydro test, you know, there’s the time, there’s the volume. Well, what I found often is not only is it a large volume, it’s a lot of time. But if you’ve got 50 meters of pipe to test, almost every case, there’s going to be a whole bunch of branch connections. And it isn’t just filling it. It’s also a whole bunch of blanks and blinds that need to be installed. And it’s a pretty significant endeavor to do a system test compared to a localized weld test, isn’t it?

Allan Barker 10:37

Yeah, yeah. 100% correct there. And I think also, the risk with that is you don’t know how good then vows isolations are further down the line, smoke could be filling forever, instead of filling that 50 meters of paperwork, you’re filling in 250 meters of paperwork, and you’re not aware of it. And then that causes further problems because you need to get that water back out.

Don Cooper 10:58

Yeah. So it’s vitally important when it’s actually a maintenance activity on an existing facility versus new construction because you don’t know where that water is going. And it could be doing more harm than good. Exactly. So all right. We just talked a little bit about how clients traditionally address well tests and specifically some of the challenges around elbow test, but why don’t we just dig a little bit deeper and explore that a little further in terms of the traditional way that clients would be addressing weld integrity if they weren’t using one of your test plugs.

Allan Barker 11:46

So the traditional way, again, as we’ve just said, would be with water. They decide not to do that. And the other way they do it, I’ve seen quite a lot, is golden welds. You know, butt welds. Again, it’s an expense for the clients. Because to do a golden weld, they still need to carry out some sort of X-ray of the system. So that’s an expensive system. And we recently did have a client where there was a miscommunication, our tools were sent over. They were designed to their specification, but somebody on the client side had miscommunicated and they did a golden weld, so they had to do golden welds without even inspecting them. It’s purely a visual inspection. So that side alone could be quite dangerous. Clients prefer not to do that. So it’s either a golden weld or, as we say, it’s using a pressurized pump and water. So them too, whereas they still have an added expense compared to what we do.

Don Cooper 12:49

Right? Yeah, we’ve got clients who either don’t realize that there can be a test plug used for a particular application or some of the other competing types of plugs that are in the market just can’t fit. They’re not versatile enough, they don’t go around bends, or they’re not multi-schedule. Some of your seal technologies like the dual tool, and so then they’re forced with either doing a system Hydrotest, planning in-process inspection, or getting a whole bunch of technical authority sign-offs on golden welds, and each of them are time-consuming, they involve technical risk, and they’re all more expensive. So but it’s surprising in the marketplace how many clients don’t realize the options and the types of tools that are available to them to be able to isolate and Hydrotest in a local way like with your technology, Don.

Allan Barker 14:17
Yeah, well, timewise, it depends on the size of the job you’re doing, but it can be as little as an hour. Okay, I say an hour, they’ve spent, they’ve got to collect that paperwork anyway. So that time is a cost to them, whether we do it or whether they decide to Hydrotest, however they decide to do it, afraid of breaking down, it has to happen when it comes to doing the testing. For us, it’s fitting on, it’s no different than fitting on a single flange, the blind flange, then performing the well tests that we provide. The time and that is just the bolt-in time. If it’s small, it’s quick. Then to pressurize our tool, it takes maybe 15 minutes, two minutes to actually pressurize and get the integrity. That’s now pressurizing for the test. As in, I mean, as an energizing tool, every 15 minutes, 30 minutes, once you know the seal’s got the integrity, then filling in that small volume. Again, 5-10 minutes, allowing for better stabilization time. And the tests are generally only 15 to 30 minutes, the length of the test banks want. So here’s the one about the tools, it can be as quick as taking one hour to do that test. You might get a bit of seepage and you got a few other issues, but these are things which are easily fixed by just putting more pressure within the seals, energizing a bit more. So the overall thing, yeah, it’s a couple of hours in time cost, whereas any other method, there’s a lot more involved in setting up some equipment. So it becomes an expensive process, I think.

Don Cooper 15:59

What about safety? Let’s talk a little bit about the advantages of doing tests this way from a safety standpoint.

Allan Barker 16:10

Yeah, again, for safety here, you’re only touching a very small volume of pipe work. So there’s only a small area which is exposed from anybody external to what’s going on. You don’t have to worry about blowing up 150 meters of pipe work, etc. It’s very, very localized, as in even at the end, there’s only that one flange. Our guys can basically stand right next to the test as long as they stand to the side and then wait for any signs of failure. There’s no problems at all, there’s no need to be shutting down or bowing off. But on the process plants, there’s no need to be shutting down large areas so that people can carry on work in the area as well. Any risk is very, very minimal. And everything which is used as well, it’s a small product and a small test. There’s only one hose which is under pressure. And that’s when you’re old, only a small volume of water. If something does burst, it releases the pressure very, very quickly. So there are obviously safety risks in anything to do with pressure testing, but they are extremely minimized in this application.

Don Cooper 17:24

What I’ve always liked about your range of tools is the versatility across the different types of seal designs and tool designs to be able to be flexible in terms of low-pressure tests, medium-pressure tests, high-pressure tests. Most of the tools in the marketplace that are available to clients are really compression-offering tools. You’re taking a plate and compressing two O-rings, and you’re trying to create rubber pressure by bolting them together. With your tool designs, the inflatable tire design or with the partial self-energizing of the IWT, in particular, those two tools give you a lot of flexibility in terms of efficiency and being able to get work done much faster than the other tools on the market. What I’ve seen is that most clients are using compression tools, and they’re pretty good for schedule 40 and schedule 80 kinds of piping systems under 1000 PSI of pressure. But the minute you get into higher-pressure applications, they start to struggle, and they have to play around with O-ring diameters and O-ring hardnesses to try to get a seal. We’ve got a whole fleet of your IWT tools, and those tools, particularly in the higher-pressure and heavier schedules like 2000, 3000, 4000 PSI hydro tests, you know, one knot, turn it, activate it, and it self-energizes. You can get in there and perform the hydro test in 15 minutes to half an hour, and you’re on your way. So I found the IWT tool to be such an efficient tool for doing the high-pressure stuff. And I just love the tire, the inflatable tire system, because most clients who are listening to this or will be listening to this, they’re not dealing with a brand new piping system. They’ve got ovality, they’ve got pitting, they’ve got internal erosion and corrosion. And the flexibility with the tire tool to be able to accommodate all those effectively wear and tear issues on their piping system is just far superior to an O-ring that has very minimal ability to expand and fill the gap. So I think what you guys have done with tire tools and with self-energizing on the IWTs is just really much better technology than what I’ve seen anywhere else, particularly in North America. There’s really no other tools in Canada and the United States that are as effective at getting Hydrotest done as the combination of the dual tool and the AWT. I think they are way better. I often talk with clients, and when they’re used to using the O-ring type tools that are on the market, the issue is they can’t get a seal. It isn’t that the weld doesn’t have integrity; it’s that they can’t get the Hydrotest to do the well, either it’s a 2500 PSI Hydrotest. And on those higher-pressure tests, the traditional tools on the market seem to struggle. And so many clients have a 15, 20, 30-year-old facility, and when they’re doing a maintenance well and changing the piping system, they’re going to have pitting, erosion, and corrosion on the inside of the pipe. And I find the tire on the dual tool system is just a fantastic seal mechanism forbeing able to do that. And at least for us, having that combination on a maintenance project of having both the IWT and the tire tools is a great one-two punch for being able to Hydrotest almost anything. And being able to do that in a really short period of time versus fighting with it. Let’s dive into R&D and research and development. How has that all come about, and what’s that journey look like in terms of what you guys do in R&D? How long does it take, the engineering and the factory assessment test, and all that kind of stuff that you guys do? Why don’t we dig into that a little bit?
Apologies for the oversight. Here’s the revised transcript with the relabeled speaker.

Don Cooper 23:10

Okay, so when we first did these initial drawings, because it was an application, it took John about three to four weeks to do some calculations and ensure accuracy. And once we had the design, let’s build the model on the back end. So that’s one aspect, taking three to four weeks. When we reached the point of going through the build testing workshop, which is a crucial part of research and development, we encountered several unexpected issues that couldn’t have been anticipated through modeling alone. What we discovered was that the handling and insertion of the tool became problematic. When we tried to pick it up, it lacked flexibility. We’re used to handling smaller tools that are easier to pick, but suddenly we had this large tool with a manual tone. Initially, the handling and insertion became major challenges. We had only put support bearings on one side instead of both sides of the seals, thinking it would be sufficient due to its flexibility. However, it proved to be very difficult to work with. So we had to carefully reevaluate this aspect. Once we managed to insert it, we realized that it wasn’t aligned perpendicular to the pipeline as we had hoped. Additionally, we couldn’t see what was happening inside the pipeline, which was again due to the method of insertion and support in the seals. The scope required some adjustments, and during the second measurement, it literally fell off. Finally, after finding the sweet spot and successfully inserting the tool, we encountered another issue. When we pressurized it, the tool started to creep and move out of shape. Despite our intention for it to remain perpendicular, external forces caused it to shift and extrude the seal. This prompted us to reevaluate how the flexible joint was fitted and the method of installation. We also discovered that the material within the joint, rather than the seal itself, was the cause of the creep. So we went back to the drawing board, reexamined our calculations, and realized that there was significant force acting on the inside of the flexible joint. Initially, we used a chain that we believed was suitable for the job. However, it turned out that the links in the chain were elongating under pressure, causing the tool to creep and affecting the seals.

Unknown Speaker 26:23

So, essentially, the pressure was elongating the chain, and as a result, the sealed portion was walking away from the front of the flange.

Don Cooper 26:35

That’s exactly what happened. It was trying to push its way into the pipeline. Initially, when we installed the chain for protection, it obstructed the view, making it difficult to observe what was happening initially. Once we identified the issue and understood what was happening, we realized the need for a change. However, despite it being a research and development project for the client, there were time constraints as it was required for a job. We recognized that the chain we initially used was inadequate and that we needed pre-tension cables. Unfortunately, the pre-tension cables had a very long lead time, so we had to explore other options. We ended up using a large, chunky chain obtained from a lifting company. We set everything up and secured it. However, this resulted in the tool becoming extremely heavy. Currently, the tool is quite bulky and heavy, and although it functions, I wouldn’t describe it as visually appealing. It’s still a work in progress. We need to explore lightweight and stronger materials that will allow us to improve its design. Additionally, we need to further investigate how it can be fed in and out. So far, we have only tested it with one bend radius. However, the purpose of the tool is to handle various bend radii, even though it doesn’t go far. It’s still important to accommodate different bend radii. This ongoing development will continue with in-house testing. The tool is currently being used on a job with the client, and we have not received any further feedback or complaints. Once the job is completed, we will review and further develop the tool.

Unknown Speaker 28:33

What was the test pressure for this tool that the client is using it on?

Don Cooper 28:38

It was only 30 to 30 back if it’s just under 30 tons.

Unknown Speaker 28:44

Okay. And the tire or the seal mechanism? Is this a tire type seal?

Don Cooper 28:52

It was a tire type seal, and it was hydraulically activated. Hydraulic, yeah, yeah. So when they’re hydraulically activated, it’s not a solid seal, which makes it more prone to extrusion and creep.

Unknown Speaker 29:07

Any idea about the inflation pressure on these tools? We use hydrostatic inflatable seals in most of the tools we’ve received from you. They typically have a maximum inflation pressure of around 300 psi. I’m not sure how that translates to bar, but what’s the inflation pressure for these tools?

Don Cooper 29:40

Well, Gavin has quickly worked it out. So, it’s around 11 bar when filled up. Yes, we initially planned to take it to about 30 bar, but we encountered additional issues when it reached that pressure. Once we resolved those issues, we kept the inflation pressure at around 15 bar.

Unknown Speaker 30:05

Okay, that just goes to show you. I’m out of practice with being in the field. I suggested that 1 psi equals 7 bar, considering atmospheric pressure is around 14.7 or something. My field days have just come back, and I now know how to do the math. Thank goodness for calculators. As a company, what I’ve seen is that we’ve done a lot of creative work together. I’ve come up with many crazy ideas, sketched them on napkins, and handed them to your engineers. You guys have modeled them, and we’ve built prototypes in your shop. We’ve conducted factory assessment tests as well. I really appreciate the way you work. Whether I’m a client, a partner, or an end user coming to you with a problem, such as the need to isolate or hydrotest in unusual situations, what I love about IK is that you embrace challenges. In your old facility in Aberdeen, which was originally the Online Electronics office, it was located about 300 meters from the flat my wife and I own. We used to drive by it all the time, and I would see IK’s sign in front of the building that said, “Challenge Accepted.” It resonates so much with our own core values of innovation and finding solutions. We’ve had numerous success stories because of our shared values. Personally, when I come up with a wild idea for designing a new way to isolate or hydrotest, you and your engineers take that idea and run with it. You model it, we develop concepts, and then you build it in your shop. We create test rigs and conduct factory assessment tests. By the time the tool is in your hands or the client’s hands, it’s been thoroughly tested and proven to be ready for use. It’s always successful in the field due to the extensive factory assessment testing. I believe that in the test plug market, particularly in North America, many standard tools are available, and clients are often asked to try them and see if they work. However, what sets you apart is your approach of embracing challenges, as your sign says. I have experienced this countless times throughout the years, resulting in the development of many innovative solutions. And what you’re doing with this flexible tool is a testament to your commitment to innovation. So, where do you see the future of this technology? Where are we headed with it?
Apologies for the oversight. Here’s the relabeled transcription:

Don Cooper 33:41

Well, we’d like to, obviously, master at least this one size we’ve got, which we will do nearly there. And we need to take it like the rest of our team, we need to have a suite of sizes, and then see where we can adapt it into the tools we have. At the moment, we have one suite of tools of one tape, and then and then we have another tape, but there’s not a little, there’s not a lot of adaption across them. So we need to be looking at not just applying the flexibility to the tools, but there’s something else, we’re actually thinking about trying to make things modular as well. So I mean, what would be ideal is where you could have an enlarged roll tester with a fixed body and then all of a sudden, we could convert that to a flexible Branzburg tested, I just translated a couple of components and things within it. And this is purely been a discussion stage we’ve had a few talks, but we think that would be ideal because again, giving someone an item that’s modular where they can do multiple tasks with it is far more cost effective and beneficial. That I’ve been wanting to to do one particular job, even though the flexible asset it is it’s a great idea because we can use it in a flexible for an event and we can all use or to use it as Standard straight application, be able to adapt it and end up reflexive flexible inline by the testers. Let’s go to entire multi tools which you have already flexible fungible testers, but it along across the whole suite of tools, and that’s where the objective is.

Don Cooper 35:17

the tool that you haven’t, you’ve just done the r&d and factory assessment testing on and it’s in the field, what was the diameter size of that? ballpark?

Allan Barker 35:30

16 1616 1616 inches.

Don Cooper 35:35

Okay. And, you know, can you see this being adapted to smaller diameters to larger diameters so that you cover a more a wider suite of pipe bend diameters? It’s

Allan Barker 35:48

yeah, the challenge there is dependent on the size obviously, also depends on the pressures. Somebody wants to use, it’s a small diameter, and we’re limited to what we can use the flexible joint, and the, and obviously, the tensile strength of that flexible joint. So again, this is something it’s a work in progress of what is the smallest we can do to the largest pressure we can do, and vice versa. So the amount of 16 ends, just the handling of it alone, can get a bit difficult, we need to think that when you start getting up into 24 inch and 32 inch sizes,

Don Cooper 36:28

You’re getting pretty heavy, heavy rigging in terms of either the pretension cables or the or the chain. When I what I always find interesting when I, when I talk, both with technicians who use the tools, and often clients, is they’ll say something to me, like, oh, it’s only a 500 psi test. Yeah, but, you know, it’s, it’s a 36 inch diameter face. So, you know, there’s, there’s a few million pounds of force there. As you know, and in designing the, the tools, particularly when it’s flexible, you know, you’ve got to take into account because you’re you’re effectively, you know, the rigging between the seal and the opening, whether it’s chain or cable or some sort of an articulation. It’s got, you know, it’s got to be designed just like a lifting device, in terms of its load capacity, because it is we are sometimes dealing with millions of pounds of separation for us. The larger you go, you know, even small diameters, you know, something like 567 Bar on on a 36 inch area is huge, huge loads. Yeah, this particular tool 16 inch? I don’t know, I can’t recall it earlier in the conversation. What’s the client’s desire test pressure on this one?

Allan Barker 38:01

That it was he was 29? Bad, which was why was 29?

Don Cooper 38:06

Okay, cool. Now, let’s, let’s just dig into what what our customers normally asking when they’re looking at this tool, or when they’re coming to you with all kinds of other challenges, you know, what are the normal, frequently asked questions that we can kind of walk through one at a time? And try to pre answer those questions for people who are listening to this when they’re thinking about, they’ve got some, they either they either have high pressure test to do they need a tire tool for doing a range of medium pressure tests, they’ve got flexible elbows and bends to go around. What do you normally hearing from clients, when they’re coming to you? And they’re asking questions? Let’s see, I want to just walk, spend some time talking about those, and see how many will try to anticipate what questions people would be thinking when they hear us talking now. What are the normal things you’re hearing?

Allan Barker 39:17

The person we actually is that? I think they just assume we can do anything? The first question is basically, here’s our problem, can you do it, and they’ll give us a minimum information and expect us to be able to solve the problem. So we have a bit of dig in, we extract as much information out of them as we can. And then immediately, it leaves the technical side behind and immediately said, Well, how can we help this? They don’t seem to understand if it’s a product that’s on the shelf, and it’s an everyday product. And yes, it’s not coming to us with what is a problem and needs a solution. And it’s very difficult to give a timeframe. We try to give it time Okay, and we tried to say six to eight weeks. And as, as we found with this too, once you get into the real testing of the concept, then it has its own challenges and its own problems and that timeframe, it just gets longer and longer.

Don Cooper 40:16

Yeah, a lot of the time, it’s, you know, what I found is the client who’s reaching out for that one problem tests that they may or may not even know that it’s non standard. And they’re often you know, a project planner who’s trying to find a solution so they can source the right equipment to solve it. Sometimes it’s, it’s, it’s the piping engineer, but a lot of the time, it’s either the piping engineer or the or the people who are the work planners, and they don’t understand the data that we need, or the lead times. And, you know, a great a great project that we’ve done together more recently, for a client was developing test tools for hub connections, specifically. Some Greylock Greylock, plans, testers. And we we built the we actually built, the customer has a lot of these connections. And we actually have a lot of clients who have a hub connection flanges, because they’ve moved away from rtj ring joints in high pressure connections and they use a lot of hub connections. Greylock is a big one. Another type of hub connection that some of our clients use is a nother manufacturer, slightly different hub designed called Secure Max. One no one else is doing that kind of hydro testing with those kinds of plugs. So they’re they’re always faced with doing, you know, system hydro tests or golden welds or, or non destructive testing. And, you know, we’ve we were approached saying, Hey, can you come up with a way to use plug tests on gray locks? And we said, Well, I knew instantly we could, but you know, then they went they immediately went to a one, can I have it? Can I Can you have it here next week, I’m like, Well, you know, I don’t have it on the shelf. We know how to build that type of a tool. But here’s the process. Number one, we need all your data, you know, size, material, pipe schedule, some dimensions around where the weld is going to be to make sure we design if it isn’t, depending on how close we are to obstructions. And obviously the the test pressure. And then we have to do the design. And there’s a lead time on materials, much like your high tension cables, you know, building that first Greylock tool for that client, and we built it just to do to demonstrate to them that it couldn’t be done. It was I think four or six weeks to be able to get the the hub

Don Cooper 43:16

from Greylock so that we could build the tool. So, you know, there’s often a lot of lead time.

Don Cooper 43:24

But those, you know, those things can be done. But understanding lead time from Can you do it? Well, I think, you know, between you guys and us? Our answer is almost always yes. I can, whether it’s challenge accepted, or we find a way, you know, both of us to have a similar model that yeah, I’m certain we can, you know, let’s, you know, here’s the date, here’s the information we need. And, you know, you got to give us a you got to give us at least a few days or a week to evaluate the sourcing of materials. Because they don’t, you know, most many clients don’t when we’re developing a new tool. A lot of clients don’t understand that we need the data, then we need to do the design, then we need to source the materials, then we need to build and assemble the tool. And we want to make sure we do a factory assessment test in a test rig to prove that the tool is going to do what the client needs before we put it in their hands. So I think on a on a really fast schedule. That might be four weeks and realistically that’s eight weeks or 12 weeks depending on if we have tough lead times on things like flange materials or as you mentioned, tension cables. What else are we talking about? What other kinds of questions other than Can you do it and and how long? I think it’s important for us customers to understand the process of what it takes to design and test and make ready a custom tool. So they have good expectations about delivery. You know, we’ve got some projects going on right now with those Greylock connections. But now the client, we worked with them for, they came to us with three or four different jobs and wanted the tool in their hands in two weeks. And, you know, we finally had to go ahead and build a demo tool to show them that it could be done. And gather all the stakeholders and explain it. This is a six or eight-week process, maybe even 12 weeks, if we’ve got to wait on Greylock to provide the hubs. So if you want to do 20 of these on your next project, you know, we really need to be starting to talk about them and getting commitments in December or January if you want to do these kinds of hydro tests on a maintenance turnaround come May or June so that you can actually be ready for them. I think that’s a really important thing for clients to understand. Certainly, you guys have been great to be able to do bespoke work in two or three weeks for me sometimes, but those are the extreme situations, I think not the norm.

Allan Barker 46:21

Now, another thing I find, along with everything you said has been the problem is when there’s a new product or a new concept, I always found the clients seem so detailed engineering drawing, when it’s something we’ve not done before, we’re not going to spend a week 10 days doing a detailed engineering drawing, and everything and say, Actually, we don’t want it now. That’s a lot of time and expense. And we see this a lot. So we’re happy to do general general arrangement drawings, and we’re happy. But yeah, we are constantly getting people asking for the detail, you have to explain to them, obviously, in a nice way. But there’s a balance here between what we can do up front and what we can do once we’ve received an order because it’s hard time and money.

Don Cooper 47:06

Yeah, I mean, a lot of the time, you know, with those two kinds of clients in terms of the role, whether it’s the planners or it’s the engineers, the engineers like the details, which means, you know, their way of making decisions is show me as much detail upfront so that I can make a decision. And, you know, when it’s an R&D project, the fact is that, you know, as we’re developing a new tool, there might be a few different versions. So giving you a detailed design of something that we haven’t prototyped and tested and maybe come in, I had to make three modifications through our experimenting in the shop, it’s not the right way to make the decision. What I find with planning planners and sort of the field execution clients is they want to see it, touch it, and feel it, they actually want a demonstration. Show me this tool. Well, the tool doesn’t exist. And then it’s a bit of a chicken and an egg thing, you know, with this one client with the Greylock connectors. And similarly with what we did with building reverse tension testers to help another client, they wanted to see it and feel it. And so, you know, they weren’t able to make a decision until we did that. So what we did together is we just committed to building some of these tools ourselves, specifically on the thinking that if we build it, they will come. And, you know, the Field of Dreams were Kevin Costner thing, anyone in each case, it’s speculating that, you know, we’ve got a client that has a lot of need for doing hydro testing that is both radial. And actually, that’s why we built these flange tension testers, and now we own a fleet of about 80 of them, specifically for one client that has that specification. And now the Greylock ones, similar, we were talking with that client for probably two years, saying that, yes, this can’t be done. But each time they would call, they’d say, “I’ve got a job in two weeks. Do you have a Greylock tester?” No, we have the ability to build them, but we need a job. And it was kind of that chicken and an egg conversation for quite a long time. And then my sales and my operations team came to me and said, “Look, we’ve got to speculate on this a little bit.” And so we did, and we worked with you guys and we built, I think it was a six-inch Greylock flange tester, and we built a test rig and went to their site and had 30 of their people in the room and demoed that, “Yes, where your locks are, your hub connectors can be plug tested.” And the minute we had that demo, all of a sudden they had like 30 flanges that they needed to do in the future. It’s quite interesting, you know, whether it’s the detailed engineering that you need to provide or if it’s the demo, those two paths seem to be the way to move forward with building new technology. And I think it was kind of similar when we built the elbow test plugs a number of years ago. Everyone said they wanted it, no one wants to buy one until I bought a fleet of them. What are they asking about costs? Like, how does that conversation go?

Allan Barker 50:49

Again, it’s a new product. It’s a difficult one. As we all know, every customer wants everything for nothing. So when it’s a new product, it’s obviously not just the cost of the materials and engineering, but it’s the test rigs, especially, you know, you mentioned Greylock. We ourselves are starting to see this a bit more commonly. Most of our in-house test rigs we have do not have locks on them, sure they were.

Don Cooper 51:18

And it’s not very cost-effective unless you have a need for them. Because, you know, I’m sure clients know this when they’re installing them on actual piping systems, but hub connection flanges are not cheap, or certainly an order of magnitude more expensive than weld neck, raised face flanges. And so building testing rigs just to be able to prove the tool, you know, those are thousands of dollars, those flanges. So it’s a process for sure.

Allan Barker 51:53

Yeah, I mean, we recently had a client who was after a smaller size test unit but with a greater price allowance. That was fine. As soon as we put the Greylock on it, they just changed it completely and decided not to go ahead because, as you said, there’s a lot of expense. So it is a fine line for us. And even when it comes to the test your exit, it’s a common size, and we’re afraid it’s something we’ll be used many, many times, and we can try and reduce that cost and then spread it over multiple jobs. It’s quite common for these tools that are used often. That cost nearly most of that cost initially is passed on to the first client. I think the trick is not to be the first one, but the second one, get it cheap.

Don Cooper 52:45

When it’s a rare job, the first one pays for all the capital costs because you can’t in all unless they’re buying the tool themselves. If they simply want to use it for one test, it’s speculative. I know we’ve got with the Greylock connections, I think we have a client right now that has, I think, six 18-inch tests to do. So they are the first client for that tool. When they give us the order, they say it’s in the queue. But they’re able to spread the cost of that 18-inch tool over six different tests on the one project, so that certainly makes it a little more affordable to do those jobs. What about the idea of, you know, has it been done before? Is it proven? You know, how do you address that with clients?

Don Cooper 53:49

Obviously, when they’re new to it, the answer has to be it hasn’t been used before. But we always assure them that we do lots and lots of in-house testing. And we do. I mean, this flexible test has had numerous amounts of testing in and out with a test suite, different ways, different ways of lifting because we’re not prepared to let anything leave our facility unless we’re 100% sure it’s going to work and it’s going to be safe to use. So that’s all we can really do, is give them a bit of verbal confidence. That also, you know, we could end up testing some things that in six weeks doesn’t work. It’s never been used before, it becomes a major problem. So we try our best to make that meet their timelines and give them the confidence that even though it’s not been done, we can do it. We have guys in over the weekend where we thought this tool is going to work. And at the last minute, the back this flexible was a perfect example. It was due to ship out on a Friday. It seemed to be fine. And then all of a sudden, it just started to leak. We had a problem and the guys in our weekend crew, they’re good to go. They’re used to working. So everybody knows they lost the time or they lost the weekend, but we still managed to get the tool out there. And that’s all they can do. You can just try and give them as much confidence as possible and try our best to achieve the end objective.

Don Cooper 55:14

I think what I see and how I address that with clients, that’s probably different than what they’re used to, at least in North America, is factory assessment testing. Well, you know, what I love about engineering in the UK is factory assessment testing for bespoke engineering is common practice. It’s just how you do things there. So, you know, the idea that, yes, it’s a new tool, but by the time you get it, we’ll have already tested it in a test rig and proven it. I think that builds a lot of confidence that when the client gets the tool, at that point, it’s been used because it’s been proven. Not necessarily in the R&D part, it hasn’t been proven, but, you know, a long track record of designing tools with similar types of seals and ideas and components. The FAT is the confidence builder. You know, what I really love about that, in particular, you think about a tool that’s one-use high risk in terms of making sure it works, is when we work together to design nozzle testers, the nozzle test plugs. And, you know, whenever we, and we’ve built a lot of nozzle test tools with you guys over the last three or four years, and the nozzle test tool comes housed in the test rig so that you can literally, it ships with it. And so you can show the client, you know, we built the test rig to match your exact nozzle conditions for your pressure vessel, for your situation. And being able to demonstrate that, you know, to actually literally use the test rig to show them that the nozzle tester is going to work is a major confidence builder for them because a lot of the time when a client is testing a nozzle on a pressure vessel, it’s got to work. Like, there isn’t, you know, it isn’t, you know, by the time that they do the welding and they fit that nozzle, they don’t have, they can’t, you know, there’s no golden well done an awful No, no pressure authority is going to sign-off on a golden weld if they can’t either test it. The alternative to the tool not working is to have to fill the entire pressure vessel and hydro test it. And a lot of the time, when they’re doing that, it’s not water. They’re having to use methanol or some other much more expensive solvent to do that hydro test. So the end, and it could throw the entire cost and schedule of the project into disarray. So the test rigs and the FAT is the other two things that, for me as your client and partner, builds a lot of confidence for me. And it’s exactly how when we’re building custom tools for our clients, that we give them confidence that by the time the tool gets there, it’s tried and true and proven. I think that’s a really great standardized practice that you guys have. And I know I get a lot of value and confidence from it. I would rather it take three weeks longer because there were some issues on the FAT than to ship it on schedule and test it on this side of the pond.

Don Cooper 58:45

Right, yeah.

Don Cooper 58:50

What about what kinds of questions do you get about pipe schedules?

Wyatt McPherson 58:56
Yeah, well,

Allan Barker 58:57

personally, can you do it to the schedule? Now, the schedule generally isn’t the problem. If we tie it up with factors, we can make anything to any size. It depends on exactly what you want to do and how you want to do it. We can make a big flange to fit a big hole, we can make a small prototype on a small hole, but what’s its purpose and what’s easiest to do? It’s when you extract the information from them and you end up with the whole picture of what’s going on. Then that then starts to there’s eyeballs and there’s problems. But also, we can’t have a tool for every single schedule available. So we’ll try to design them to cover one or two schedules at a time. And again, if you’ve got to design for the very large wall thickness and they go to the extreme of that schedule to wall thickness, we’ve got quite a large area we need to seal and extrude. So the problem there, then it’s okay, we can do one that would go into format shed standard, which will accommodate schedule 20-something, excursion. But we then think, well, that affects the purchasers because then now instead of only making up a gap with a couple of millimeters from the size of the tool to the wall, we’re trying to make up maybe 5 to 7 millimeters. And that has further implications on the tools. You know, maybe in time, if there’s enough demand and requests for these tools, at some point, we may have one for every single schedule, or maybe just a couple for one or two schedules. But at the moment, it’s trying to cover events and then as best we can.

Don Cooper 1:00:39

Right now, you’re talking specifically about the newer flexible tool in terms of what schedules you’ve got, because I know you’ve done a lot of work with a lot of your other tools and have a broader range of schedules and some of the more standardized tools that you’ve gotten in your fleet now, right?

Allan Barker 1:00:56

Yeah, because there’s been a large demand for them, then there’s a justifiable case to make, you know, a large fleet of these. And we don’t just have one to cover your schedule, we may actually have 10 to cover your schedule. It’s a large fleet. And it would be the same with this. If demand picks up and it’s worth investing to have more tools available. Because also, we can have customers asking us for the product and every single time saying, “Well, we need six to eight weeks to develop the test.” We want to be able to say, “Yes, we’ve got one on the shelf that has in-house tests, and we can get it out in a day or two.” And that’s what we’d like to be able to do.

Don Cooper 1:01:38
What about what our customers asking about test pressures? Like, what kinds of things are you getting there?

Allan Barker 1:01:43
Yeah, so

Allan Barker 1:01:43
So that leads on from the previous question. It’s dependent on the schedule, design of the tool. The test pressure has a big implication on the seals, which is our London stock exchange, and we want to make sure it seals. But also, with this particular tool, as we spoke about earlier, then high pressures have major implications with the joints and the integrity of the joint, flexible joint, kind of, whole thing. So, again, it’s something since we’ve experienced the problems with this, it does get looked at. But we can’t spend too much time suddenly thinking like, “How’s this going to affect its ability to install something tomorrow?” And the question has to do with, “Can it be installed?” And we’re looking at in detail for this first application of this tool, it has made us more aware of something which we didn’t really think was going to be a major problem. And I think that’s just because all our tools we have on the shelf, the ones that got to high pressures, are solid body tools. So we didn’t appreciate the issue we were going to suddenly see, which we have. So that, yeah, it’s a challenge that’s created. It doesn’t have a separation for us because both sides of the seals are tied together. Whether it’s a valve tester or an internal weld tester or a tie tool, they all have a fixed body that it’s pushing against itself, not against a flexible population or chain or cable.

Allan Barker 1:03:19

With any type of tools we do, though, you know, pressure is always a challenge because we like to be able to achieve what the customer wants, but it has to be done extremely safely. So it’s always going to be a challenge. We don’t want anyone getting hurt, and we don’t want tools exploding inside any paperwork, which then has its own problems as well. So I was asked about ours and prayed about, and then I was taken very seriously.

Don Cooper 1:03:45

You know, I think we’ve got tools that we’ve used up to a range of 8,000 psi, which is the highest end that we’ve used. We’ve got a lot of our standard tools, such as the internal well testers, which are schedule-specific. Out of the box, they tend to be around 3,350 psi. I see Gavin quickly doing the math on bars. I don’t know who said it, but Winston Churchill said Britain and the Americas are two nations separated by a common language, right? I know that’s true in my household because my wife being from Aberdeen and me being from Canada, specifically originally from Newfoundland, Canada. We both speak only one language, and it’s supposed to be English, and I don’t think anyone in the world would agree that either of us speak English, other than the two islands that we both come from. And, and we’ve got this beautiful daughter who is a hybrid between a Canadian, a Newfie, and a Scot. So she’s got a really quirky accent. So yeah, the bar to psi is just one of the thousands of different terminologies that we speak differently about. What about availability? Obviously, if it’s a custom tool, and they’re asking how long we kind of have that conversation. What availability for standard tools do you have? You have a fleet of tools in your facilities that you’re offering for hire. You say hire, I say rent. You’ve got a hire fleet in Newton Aycliffe, right?

Allan Barker 1:05:53

Yeah, we’ve got quite a large hire fleet. But the availability is purely down to the demand of customers. It depends on when shutdowns are going on or tasks are being done. You guys call them over there. When the shutdowns, short turnarounds are on, it seems to happen due to level of climate, it seemed to happen around the same time, and there was a turnaround or shutdown at the same time and all want those at the same time.

Allan Barker 1:06:23

Exactly. And that’s what happens. Everything goes out at the same time. So even though we do have a large fleet, it’s constantly running out. It’s an extremely busy time for the guys in the workshop because nothing ever leaves here until it’s tested. It doesn’t matter if it goes out, gets shipped, not used, and comes back in the following day. It will be tested again before it leaves here.

Don Cooper 1:06:45

You’re testing the plugs to confirm their integrity and capability before they go out on each hire.

Allan Barker 1:06:51

Every single time, they’re tested because we don’t know what’s happened to them. And obviously, it’s our responsibility to make sure that they’re safe for the people using them, but also to ensure that the tool does what it’s intended to do. We’re not going to send out a tool to the customer that doesn’t work. And that turnaround time could be critical to the planning of a shutdown. So that keeps us extremely busy. We try our best to meet the demands. Some customers are very good when they take our tools. They tell us how long they’re going to use them for. So if somebody says, “I need a 10-inch weld tester,” we can generally have an idea if one is due to come back in, and we can try to chase it up to meet their demands. But sometimes it’s just impossible. The turnaround of tools from here is just immense, sometimes with so much going in and out constantly.

Don Cooper 1:07:49
Now you’re servicing all of the UK and the North Sea out of Newton Aycliffe. Or I know you have offices up in Aberdeen. Do you have any hire fleet up there, or is it mainly a sales office? How do you handle that?

Allan Barker 1:08:04

Everything is kept here. There’s hopefully not all caps here in the UK. And we serve as global. You get people from all over the world as customers. For example, Canadians form a part of our customer base. So my good friends, our customers, their application is global. It’s more about purchasing or manufacturing purchases. Sometimes we have short timeframes to the Middle East. We get quite a few requests for events or to send tools over there. And we do have a small office in the Middle East that has an office set up since 10 o’clock. But they are mostly sales offices. The hire fleet is kept here.

Don Cooper 1:08:40

Well, of course, if any of your customers in North America want a hire fleet, I’ve got lots of them. So I probably own more of your tools than you do, I bet.

Allan Barker 1:08:55

We haven’t had any customers in North America ask for this flexible tool yet. But I think they could benefit from it. I think they would like it a lot.

Don Cooper 1:09:03

Yeah. Alright, let’s shift gears and think about what customers should really be thinking about or asking, but they aren’t. What do you think they should be thinking about?

Allan Barker 1:09:33

Well, a lot of times they don’t even give us the full information of what they’re doing. For example, they might say, “We’re doing a 10-bar test on a 12-inch integrated pipe work. Can you do it all for us?” And I think they disconnect us from what they are doing. Maybe they see us as just a manufacturing facility, which, yes, we are predominantly for oil and gas companies. And having worked in the oil and gas industry myself for 18 years, I understand their needs. There’s a lack of information and communication. And I think it’s because they don’t realize that we have the same experiences and have done the same things as them. So it can be difficult to extract information from them. We also sometimes receive a lot of material just a few days before putting together quotes and communicating with the customer. And then something important suddenly gets mentioned, and we’re usually told about it much earlier. So there’s often a disconnect between us and the customers. They’ve never met us; we’re just somebody on the other end of the phone. So I can understand that mentality. I’m trying to create a relationship with the people I speak to, rather than just having a standard conversation. What I have found is that the better the relationship, the less information you get. You can read their minds.

Don Cooper 1:11:07

Yeah. I think the key, particularly in our business, whether we’re doing the testing for them or hiring the equipment to them, is to have a checklist of questions to ask them for information that they’re not going to share unless you ask. For example, with test plugs, there are maybe a dozen questions that you need to try to extract from the client. What are you doing? What are the obstructions? What is the test pressure? Where is the weld relative to the opening? What elevation is it at? Is it vertical or horizontal? Often, clients are thinking, “I need a 10-inch schedule 40 plug, can you ship it?” And then you ship it, and they call back saying it didn’t fit or it didn’t hold the right pressure. Well, it turns out it wasn’t the right schedule. It’s almost always a misalignment in terms of getting the right information to ensure that we provide them with the right tool or send the right crew with the right equipment.

Allan Barker 1:12:24

Another one that’s often forgotten is whether it’s vertical or horizontal. They always forget to tell us that. Yeah. Then you get told, “Oh, I always like the inverted vertical ones, where they’re installing the plug overhead.”

Don Cooper 1:12:34

When they forget to tell us, they’ll tell us it’s vertical, but they forget to tell us it’s overhead. And all of a sudden, there’s a problem because the lifting eyes aren’t in the correct place.

Allan Barker 1:12:42
Exactly, and the tool wants to flip. You know, they say it’s vertical, but we set it up to have gravity on our side, not gravity against us. Yes, I’ve seen that many, many times. The distinction between vertical, horizontal, and inverted vertical is equally important.

Don Cooper 1:13:34

What else do you think clients should be asking us and thinking about when they’re looking to either build or hire plugs?

Allan Barker 1:13:48

One thing we’ve found is that many clients come to us asking for an existing product to have. But when we start speaking to them and extracting information, we realize that we can do more, we can try different things to make their lives easier. So we have variations of our tools, sometimes small variations, that provide better solutions for the client. For example, they might say, “I want a 10-inch test plug.” But as we dig deeper, they reveal the pressure requirements, and as we dig even more, we discover additional aspects of the project that they hadn’t mentioned before. And suddenly, we can offer alternative solutions that better suit their needs. Additionally, we often encounter situations where a customer asks for a product that, after gathering information, turns out to be the wrong one. We can offer them an existing product from our shelf, which is a far better and quicker solution. So instead of telling us what they want, clients should focus on sharing what they’re doing and allow us to propose the best tools to solve their problems.

Don Cooper 1:14:47

You’re spot on. They should rely on us to tell them the best solution instead of trying to decide what tool they want. Some clients are already familiar with our equipment and know exactly what they need. But the best approach is to uncover their challenges and tasks, and let us diagnose and recommend the most suitable solution. That’s key.

Allan Barker 1:15:25

Yeah, definitely. When that happens, we have very happy clients because it makes the whole job easier and faster.

Don Cooper 1:15:39

What about seal surface and pipe?

Allan Barker 1:15:45

Yeah, again, I think some clients assume that anything will seal anywhere at any point. We need to be sure about what’s going on. One problem we don’t often see but occasionally encounter is when there’s a seam weld or pitch angle inside a pipe that they don’t inform us about. They’ll provide us with the information they can, we’ll give them the tool based on that, and then they come back saying the tool isn’t sealing properly. But when we dig deeper, we realize they’re up against a seam, something that could be easily solved by adjusting the shore hardness of the seal. So it’s important for us to receive accurate information so that we can provide the right type of sealing and tooling. We have tools that can accommodate more than one seal, so if it’s extremely pitted or dirty, or if there’s a seam weld, we can include an additional seal that might help them achieve the desired result. Otherwise, they might end up shipping the tool to the UK, trying to use it, finding out it doesn’t work, sending it back, and then we have to send another one, resulting in a loss of several days just because they didn’t provide us with complete information about the conditions and requirements.

Don Cooper 1:17:22

I regard that key is really having good conversations with them around the conditions of the piping, seams or protruding roots from the welds. A lot of pitting crevice corrosion is a big issue that I’ve seen, you know, particularly on the bottom of the pipe if they’ve got crevice corrosion, and they’ve they’ve actually got a channel in the bottom of the pipe that they don’t tell you about that, you know, those are, and I’ve you know, in terms of being able to hydro festivals, we’ve been very creative and being able to overcome those things if you know about them, whether it’s finding ways to fill that crevice to be able to help the seal accomplish the seal or changing changing it from you know, a lot of the time when I get a lot of pitting we may switch from using a schedule specific narrow internal weld test tool to just a tire tool and that that gets the job done. But it’s really key to understand piping conditions

Allan Barker 1:18:25

laminations we found a problem as well as corroded on the inside they’ve not cleaned that the tool goes in it seals wonderfully well. Obviously that pressure creeps should the split lamination on the corrosion what you’re doing if you’re not going to clean that surface that too isn’t going to work and that is another problem once the communication starts and we can advise them generally they do achieve the end result it’s just taken a bit longer than required

Don Cooper 1:18:58

What about weight weight issues to be considered?

Allan Barker 1:19:02

I will say on this stood in particular. But on any tools weights is the problem and the handling the manipulating a bit of this tool in particular to produce the flexible joint this one was difficult to handle and move around from thing we were looking at and addressing how can we make it better to handle the ship in future maybe in some sort of handling frame which they can meet up to the pipe whilst they can push it in we need to look at it for all of these tools either as we just discussed using different or international plans you know that global vertical down the flanges are very, very heavy these days. Hung level right

Don Cooper 1:19:52

Are you on the backing plates on the seals? Are you using steel or are you using aluminium?

Allan Barker 1:20:00

Most of the tools I’ve seen, it’s nearly all steel, it’s all come sail from the ground a bit hefty, but it’s all hardened carbon steel, mostly because we need the strength that goes with it as well. And also, it’s treated as we call it blackening. And it’s treated them to prevent any corrosion that goes on with it. So and if we use aluminium, I think to get these strengths require would be getting bigger and chunkier. So we’d still be getting heavy. I don’t know how it would handle but, you know, the guys on site and gentle with this equipment, you know, it gets thrown about all over the place. And yeah, aluminium isn’t the strongest product either. So, yeah, we could build it with aluminium to make it lighter and easier to manipulate. I think the cost effectiveness, and just keeping the integrity of the tool, I don’t think it would work.
Don Cooper 1:20:53
We’ve had to build a lot of our tools with X 70 aluminium that we were able to find. And it was a cost issue, you know, the material cost goes up. But you know, for us in particular, it was actually cost neutral. Because the weight that we saved with, sorry, the increase in cost and the material we saved in the shipping costs, because of the weight reduction coming across the pond. It was actually, it was actually cost neutral. So you know, it was costing us effectively the same, the same delivered at our doorstep, building the amount of aluminium because, you know, we’re air freighting all that equipment, a lot of the time, we don’t have time to put it on an ocean liner and wait, you know, eight weeks to get it where you guys are building us a fleet of tools or tools and it’s going in a crate, and it’s going to Heathrow and it’s flying across the Atlantic at, you know, two or $3 a pound shipping weight. So that we found that to be a valuable thing for some of our applications, not all.

Allan Barker 1:22:04

I think you must be fed into the twin tire tool. So most of the twin side tools there are about a million. But that’s because they’re not seeing high passes. And we did

Don Cooper 1:22:15

We do it. We do it with the backing plates on the IW T’s but not the body. Okay, yeah. Yeah, there’s the backing plates for the seals on the IW TS we’ve been able to. So we kind of got a hybrid on our IWC tools where we got a steel body. And then the steel backing plates are aluminium. Okay, that the activation not is still steel, but the plates in between are around, I think I think it’s reducing the weight of 30 or 40% of the tool. So what about tool length and the length of the joint?

Don Cooper 1:22:54

The specifications of the tools are highly dependent on the application. For our rental fleets, we offer a range of bodies that can be customized to meet the client’s specific needs. This allows for easier handling and shipping. We often receive unique requests, such as a recent inquiry about a world 12 meters down. While we wouldn’t back down from such challenges, it requires thorough planning and tailored solutions. In cases like these, it becomes a bespoke job, involving additional materials and close collaboration with the client to ensure success. When it comes to tool orientation, whether it’s vertical, horizontal, or inverted, there are numerous limitations to consider. Piping engineers have a knack for designing unconventional weld placements, requiring us to find ways to isolate and test in those positions. It’s a complex process that demands careful thought and adaptation.

Allan Barker 1:25:58

Our primary hurdle with the flexible tool is using it in a vertical position. We face difficulties when attempting to employ this tool horizontally, let alone vertically. Holding it in place and directing its movement becomes a challenge. We are currently working on solutions to overcome these obstacles.

Don Cooper 1:26:29

Indeed, inserting a flexible joint tool vertically poses unique challenges. The tool’s flexibility is hindered by gravity, making it difficult to position it correctly. Striking the right balance between flexibility and rigidity is crucial. The length of the design also affects usability, with shorter lengths offering greater flexibility.

Don Cooper 1:27:37

The selection of a flexible tool depends on various factors, including the type of joint (standard elbow, three, five, or seven D band) and the location of the weld. Each application requires careful consideration to determine the appropriate tool version.

Allan Barker 1:27:58

Yes, the flexible twin tire tool is often preferred. However, it does have pressure limitations. For instance, our nuclear power plant clients have used it successfully for lower-pressure tests. We have conducted FFTs (Fast Fourier Transforms) and demonstrated its effectiveness in our shop. However, it’s essential to evaluate the loads and forces on the tool and ensure the safety factor and ratings of the chains or cables used in the flexible tools are adequate.

Allan Barker 1:28:57

For this particular project, we encountered unexpected challenges with the chain used to support the tool. Initially, we didn’t anticipate the stretching and elongation of the chain. We explored high tension cable as an alternative, but it wasn’t readily available. We had to consult a lifting company to find a suitable solution. We explained the forces involved and determined the appropriate chain to accommodate the weight. The chain itself was quite heavy and almost overshadowed the flexibility of the tool. We had to find the right balance to ensure the tool could still be used effectively. The chain consisted of only three links, each approximately 300 millimeters long. It resembled an anchor chain and provided enough weight for manipulation without causing significant issues. However, for future applications, we plan to use high tension cable to address this challenge and investigate ways to enhance its rigidity while maintaining usability.

Don Cooper 1:31:04

It would be interesting to experiment with different hardness levels of encasing the cable in polyurethane to find the optimal balance between flexibility, load retention, and overall usability.

Allan Barker 1:31:20

We also discovered that the orientation of the links on the joints created joint action issues due to the chain pulling at an angle. In future designs, we plan to incorporate a tapered universal joint with a ball fitting, allowing movement in any direction. This unexpected observation highlights the value of thorough testing and refinement in the shop before deploying tools in the field.

Don Cooper 1:32:11

Indeed, the rigorous R&D and shop testing processes help identify and resolve potential issues before the tools are used in real-world applications. This investment in testing ensures customer confidence and can save them significant costs and complications.

Don Cooper 1:33:10

Customers often request engineering calculations and design calculations for their tools. In our design processes, we involve the clients at every stage, providing them with drawings and calculations for approval. This iterative approach allows for feedback and adjustments to ensure everyone is satisfied with the final production.

Don Cooper 1:34:22

Regarding diameters, based on the current design, I would estimate that the flexible tool could potentially accommodate sizes up to 20 or 24 inches. However, further exploration is needed to determine the specific handling, loading, and manipulation requirements for larger sizes. If we can develop a reliable solution that works in both vertical and horizontal orientations, the limitations would mainly be the weight, as is the case with any type of tool.

Don Cooper 1:35:09

For our other standard and custom tools, the smallest size we have worked with and continue to refine is around 16 inches. As for the largest size, it remains to be determined as we explore various handling and manipulation techniques.

Allan Barker 1:35:28

Our smallest tools include half-inch flange weld testers and very small internal weld testers, such as three-quarter inch or one inch. These tools are capable of testing at very tiny dimensions, with seal sizes around 400-500 thousandths of an inch. They are designed to handle high pressures, even in such small packages. The effectiveness and efficiency of these compact tools are quite impressive.

Don Cooper 1:35:44

Yes, I recall having three-quarter inch double extra strong internal weld testers built by your company. These tools can handle pressures of around 3,000-4,000 psi and have a very small imprint. The difference in size between half-inch 160 and three-quarter inch double extra strong is only a matter of thousandths of an inch, but those differences are crucial for achieving the desired test pressures. It’s remarkable how capable and efficient these small tools are.

Allan Barker 1:36:22

Indeed, they work well for their intended purpose.

Don Cooper 1:36:28

I recall having several of those three-quarter inch double extra strong internal weld testers on the shelf, as they are frequently requested. We might have also built a smaller half-inch tool, possibly for schedule 160 applications. When working with such tiny sizes, even the slightest differences in dimensions matter significantly for achieving the desired test pressures. These tools require precise engineering to be both small in size and highly capable.

Don Cooper 1:37:23

Regarding larger sizes, they are less common in our rental fleets. For stadium events, our largest punch plug tester is 36 inches, but it’s not frequently utilized. As for internal weld testers in the fleet, the largest size is typically 16 inches. However, the most commonly requested sizes are 10-12 inches. We have a large inventory of 6-9 inch twin tire tools to meet the high demand.
Don Cooper 1:38:01

Customers’ needs tend to revolve around pipe sizes up to 16 inches, and there is less demand for larger sizes like 20, 24, or 30 inches. Although we may have these larger tools available, their usage is less frequent. For example, I have a 42-inch twin tire tool and several 36-30 inch tools on the shelf, but they haven’t been used in the past five years.

Allan Barker 1:38:39

Well, if I ever need them, I’ll reach out to you.

Don Cooper 1:38:44

They are patiently waiting, made of aluminum. It took me quite a few years to get used to saying “aluminium” instead of “aluminum.” Now, I can say it easily, but it still gets a chuckle when I say it in Canada.

Allan Barker 1:38:50

Aluminium, imagine that. I probably learned that while I was in your offices.

Don Cooper 1:38:53

Yes, it’s been a journey. Now, let’s talk about how we’ve developed a wide range of tools together, both custom and standard. We have collaborated on various tools, such as the elbow grip plug tools known as the “long ball” and the reverse grip test tools for ExxonMobil. We have also worked on the Greylock test tools, flexible tire tools, and the new flexible higher-pressure tool currently under development. Our range includes schedule-specific and multi-schedule dual tools, as well as high-pressure internal weld test tools (IWTT). It’s essential for clients to understand that we offer a comprehensive toolbox of isolation and test tools to tackle the diverse and challenging piping configurations they encounter in the field. Using a single, one-size-fits-all tool often falls short, leading to incomplete work and additional testing requirements. By providing a wide range of capabilities and offering the flexibility to address unique challenges, we aim to enhance safety, productivity, and cost-effectiveness for our clients. We encourage clients to explore our services and reach out to us with their specific requirements.

Don Cooper 1:38:39
They are sitting here waiting and they’re made of aluminium. Do you know how many years it took me to be able to say that word?

Allan Barker 1:38:50

Aluminium? Imagine that. I probably learned that while I was in your offices.

Don Cooper 1:38:53

Yes, it’s been a journey. Now, let’s talk about how we’ve developed a wide range of tools together, both custom and standard. We have collaborated on various tools, such as the elbow grip plug tools known as the “long ball” and the reverse grip test tools for ExxonMobil. We have also worked on the Greylock test tools, flexible tire tools, and the new flexible higher-pressure tool currently under development. Our range includes schedule-specific and multi-schedule dual tools, as well as high-pressure internal weld test tools (IWTT). It’s essential for clients to understand that we offer a comprehensive toolbox of isolation and test tools to tackle the diverse and challenging piping configurations they encounter in the field. Using a single, one-size-fits-all tool often falls short, leading to incomplete work and additional testing requirements. By providing a wide range of capabilities and offering the flexibility to address unique challenges, we aim to enhance safety, productivity, and cost-effectiveness for our clients. We encourage clients to explore our services and reach out to us with their specific requirements.

Don Cooper 1:38:39

They are sitting here waiting and they’re made of aluminium. Do you know how many years it took me to be able to say that word?

Allan Barker 1:38:50

Aluminium? Imagine that. I probably learned that while I was in your offices.

Don Cooper 1:38:53

Yes, it’s been a journey. Now, let’s talk about how we’ve developed a wide range of tools together, both custom and standard. We have collaborated on various tools, such as the elbow grip plug tools known as the “long ball” and the reverse grip test tools for ExxonMobil. We have also worked on the Greylock test tools, flexible tire tools, and the new flexible higher-pressure tool currently under development. Our range includes schedule-specific and multi-schedule dual tools, as well as high-pressure internal weld test tools (IWTT). It’s essential for clients to understand that we offer a comprehensive toolbox of isolation and test tools to tackle the diverse and challenging piping configurations they encounter in the field. Using a single, one-size-fits-all tool often falls short, leading to incomplete work and additional testing requirements. By providing a wide range of capabilities and offering the flexibility to address unique challenges, we aim to enhance safety, productivity, and cost-effectiveness for our clients. We encourage clients to explore our services and reach out to us with their specific requirements.

Don Cooper 1:44:00

Indeed, it’s been a pleasure talking with you.

Don Cooper 1:44:06

Thank you! I hope you both have a wonderful Christmas season. I’ll be heading to Mexico for a couple of weeks to enjoy some sunshine. It’s hard to believe that we only have one month left in this decade. Here’s to the brand new 2020s. Who would have thought we would be talking about this decade?

Allan Barker 1:44:42

It feels like yesterday when it was the Millennium.

Don Cooper 1:44:46

I was just thinking the same thing. I remember the anticipation leading up to the millennium and the Y2K concerns. Wyatt, I’m sure you’ve heard of it, although you were quite young at the time.

Wyatt McPherson 1:44:59

Yes, I was just a few years old at the time. I don’t have the best memory of it.

Don Cooper 1:45:07

Well, you’ve probably heard stories about it, just like I hear war stories from my dad.

Wyatt McPherson 1:45:17

Exactly. But let’s not end it here. If you haven’t already, please follow us wherever you listen to podcasts. Don’t forget to check out Don Cooper and his company, Innovator, as well as our guests by following the links in the description.

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