The following is a brief synopsis of how Bob Janisch helped a major oil company solve one of the most difficult technical challenges we’ve ever faced …
In December, 2013, we had a very expensive and complicated piece of fabricated offshore oil and gas production equipment, a subsea Gas Lift Umbilical Termination Assembly (GLUTA), sitting on a shipping dock in the Gulf of Mexico. It had taken close to two years and thousands of man hours to get this unique piece of kit from design to dock.
In a post-final inspection document review, we discovered that our prime manufacturer had used the correct material but in the wrong heat treated condition for our two core GLUTA manifolds. The Nickel alloy material was cold drawn (read: way too hard) rather than annealed (read: soft and resistant to fracturing). This would almost assuredly have caused a field failure of the unit in relatively short order. Re-heat treating of the manifolds was the only option. Conventionally, this would have been a matter of cutting out the manifolds, re-heat treating, and reinstalling. If expedited, this would have minimally required four months because they were welded in place and surrounded by a myriad of cabling, piping, control tubing and instrumentation. The challenge was that the installation boat was scheduled to pick up the unit in six weeks and install it, and if this schedule was missed, aside from the heavy fines and penalties, rescheduling the boat would have meant missing the Holy Grail of any offshore project – the first oil/gas production date! Simply stated … a conventional approach was not feasible.
Enter Bob Janisch, a highly respected and exceptionally technically competent heat treat expert and friend of mine. I called Bob straight away to explore options. He suggested that we consider heat treat in-situ. This was highly irregular because while heat treating the removed manifolds to 1950°F would not have been difficult in a shop, they were welded in place and were located near some very critical one-year lead time subsea valves that could not see temperatures higher than 150°F without being functionally damaged … and these valves were less than one inch from the manifold.
The icing on this cake was that this issue was discovered on December 21st when most of the free world was on Christmas holiday vacation. On December 22nd, Bob met with me and my project manager. He clearly spelled out his proposal. His confidence and my own faith in his capabilities resulted in the green light being given to prove feasibility. While I was responsible for the overall engineering team, Bob was my technical lead, heat treat expert and the person I counted on to pull this off. He spent Christmas Eve in the heat treat lab with me developing a heat treatment procedure which we proved out on a full size sample piece. The day after Christmas, the metallurgical lab confirmed the results. His procedure worked, and worked well.
During the next four weeks, special insulating materials were purchased, cold Nitrogen liquid-to-gas cooling systems were developed and fab’d, valve protection gas-chilled sheet metal cooling was designed and fab’d, water cooling was added in specific locations, and dozens of temperature sensing thermocouples were attached to all critical locations.
It required five people to operate the various parts of this complex arrangement, while Bob conducted the orchestra that played the instruments he had just put together. This complex and unconventional heat treatment procedure was practiced and “dry run” over and over like a military exercise until everyone knew their job.
The results … the first heat treat day resulted in manifold number one being perfectly annealed and nothing around the intensely white hot manifold being raised by more than a couple degrees. Day two repeated the same with the second manifold. Four weeks of intense preparation culminated in complete success! All of Bob’s system operated perfectly, his coordination was without fault, and his unconventional heat treatment in situ resulted in us meeting our boat schedule and making first oil/gas production. Saving the late boat penalties alone was worth millions of dollars. However, we will likely never know how much money was recouped and how many jobs were saved simply by helping us meet our first-oil/gas production schedule.
Bob is a leader, a team player, an exceptionally bright heat treater, and has proven himself to be capable of rising to those momentous occasions that require that special combination of artistic creativity and solid technical knowledge. He is an artist with his heat treating craft. I would have him as a leader on my team any day.
Former Lead Welding Engineer for a major Oil & Gas Producer, Houston, TX
Copyright © 2019 Tenet Process Improvement, LLC - All Rights Reserved.