Pipeline welding is a process that must be executed with precision. Lives and investments must be protected from any kind of leakage or accident that any activity involving oil or natural gas is prone to produce. Because these fuels are highly flammable and toxic to our health, the joints must be welded within strict governmental specifications. Thankfully, pipeline companies, western pipeline corporation included, are dedicated to the safety and efficiency of their pipelines to ensure safety.
Once a pipeline trench has been dug along the right of way, the pipe sections are temporarily supported along the side of it and aligned together. Pipes are then lifted by specialized pipeline rigs, known as side booms. These machines lift, support, and align each pipe to the next piece through the first pass of each welding. The welding itself is controlled by extremely strict specifications. Semiautomatic and automatic procedures are required, and on larger projects, no manual welding is used at all. The pipeline sections must obviously be welded into one continuous length with now room for leakage, so as part of quality assurance, each welder is required to pass qualification tests to work in particular jobs, and every weld job must be approved under federal welding standards.
The qualification process for a welder occurs before a project starts. Every welder under consideration for a new project must weld the same type of pipe that will be used in the project, completing several flawless welds. Each of these welds is evaluated under a test of force. The weld is put under extreme pressure to measure what is required to pull the weld apart. The requirements are so intense, that the weld must actually be stronger than the actual pipeline.
On the pipeline construction site, quality assurance continues upmost scrutiny. A dark room with qualified X-Ray technicians examines pictures that were taken of the various welds to guarantee federal quality standards. X-Ray technicians process the film inside the portable dark room and if any flaws are perceived, the weld must be repaired or destroyed. New innovations with ultrasound technology are bringing new possibilities to weld examination.
The art of welding is at its finest in the oil and natural gas pipeline industry. Government regulations along with intense private interests protect pipelines from malfunction or defect and keep our communities and environment safe. Becoming a pipeline welder is a prestigious level of the metal working industry, requiring precision and perfection.