06/07/2009

Top performance under pressure

Increasing efforts are being made to tap new sources of valuable raw materials. Offshore oil and gas producers are drilling at ever greater depths, which places enormous requirements on both technology and materials. ThyssenKrupp VDM, one of the world’s leading suppliers of nickel alloys and special stainless steels, has further optimized some of its high-performance materials for use on drilling platforms and in pipelines. With experts forecasting continued high demand for oil and gas and long-term rising prices, this is also an interesting growth market for the Werdohl, Germany-based company.

It’s cold and dark at 2,500 meters below the ocean’s surface. The task: to lay pipelines for oil and gas production. Increasing pressure at ever-greater depths and the high salt content of the deep-sea water pose major challenges for the people and technologies involved and call for highly specialized products. For example, the pressure at a depth of 2,500 meters is 250 bar, or 250 kilos per square centimeter (by comparison: the air pressure on land at sea level is one bar).

ThyssenKrupp VDM has been supplying high-performance materials for oil and gas production for many years: high-alloy special stainless steels and nickel alloys for use on drilling platforms and in pipelines. They are used to manufacture oil and gas pipelines, power and chemical supply lines, pipe supports and sucker rods.

The safe exploration and production of raw materials for energy generation calls for very special materials, such as Nicrofer 4320Ti (Alloy 925), which ThyssenKrupp VDM now produces by an optimized process. “The introduction of new equipment in recent years has significantly enhanced our melting and hot shaping capabilities,” explains Dr. Rainer Behrens, project manager at ThyssenKrupp VDM. “The knowledge we have gained has now been transferred step-by-step to the highly complex production process for Nicrofer 4320Ti.”

Nicrofer 4320Ti is an established nickel alloy. What makes it special are fine particles distributed throughout its microstructure that make the material extremely strong. It is this high strength coupled with its resistance to hydrogen sulfide corrosion that makes Nicrofer 4320Ti such a valuable material in the field of oil and gas production.

“Safety and reliability are of immense importance here, as lives are at stake. Damage at depths of down to 2,500 meters is extremely difficult to repair, and accidents can result in heavy financial losses,” says Dr. Behrens. “That’s why the quality requirements on all components used in oil and gas production are very high.”

ThyssenKrupp VDM holds a significant share of this market segment, which it is looking to increase. “With most of the easily accessible sources already being exploited, oil and gas exploration is being carried out at ever greater depths and in increasingly aggressive environments,” explains Dr. Behrens. “As a result, demand for strong and corrosion-resistant high-performance materials is growing. And that is ThyssenKrupp VDM’s specialty area.”

ThyssenKrupp VDM supplies bar materials which are fabricated by customers into products such as flanges, valves and retaining bars in diameters of 150 to 400 millimeters. Nicrofer 4320Ti is a proven and reliable material for these applications.

“Our existing customers are very enthusiastic, and new customers have been attracted. The good mill products we have manufactured using the optimized production process have convinced even more customers of the advantages offered by Nicrofer 4320Ti (Alloy 925) ,” says Dr. Behrens.