Booming Alberta Oil Sands Industry Increases Efficiency Through Automated Pipe-Cutting Technology
The fabrication demands of the Alberta oil sands supply chain are staggeringly large. Miles of pipeline, hundreds of processing modules, and a steady need for new buildings, helical piles and support structures are all fueling a fabrication boom in the oil-rich center of Canada’s expanding energy industry.
The volume and pace of fabrication work in Alberta is pushing large fabrication companies to seek out new, efficient and precise automated machinery that can speed the fabrication process, increase efficiency and reduce costs.
Ganotec West in Acheson, Alberta operates a five-axis, automated VERNON Tool MPM-5 pipe-cutter fitted with Oxy-fuel and Plasma torches to increase the company’s fabrication output and dramatically reduced the need for secondary processes.
Before purchasing the VERNON Tool machine, Ganotec was hand-cutting all of the pipes, tubing, and metal needed in their fabrication processes, using magnetic travel arms to guide cutting. All material had to be hand loaded and manually off-loaded from the cutting location.
The introduction of the VERNON Tool MPM-5 condensed the time-consuming process of layout, material loading and cutting into one automated step. The machine can handle up to 48-inch pipes and can load and unload up to 45-foot lengths of material.
After the pipe is cut, the machine continues to save the company time because of the precision of the cut. After hand-cutting, Ganotec workers spent significant time grinding, brushing or cleaning cuts before welding, but the precision of the automated cut eliminates the need for these secondary processes.
Ganotec builds pipelines and fabricates and assembles oil sands processing modules, as well as working on some power generation projects. Approximately 98 percent of the company’s work deals with piping.
Much of the work is building the structural frame, internal piping and pipe connections of oil sands processing modules used to convert the raw bitumen of Alberta’s oil sands into a crude product that can be shipped through pipelines.
Other oil and gas companies active in oil sands processing have also invested in new automated machinery, including Syncrude Canada, one of the largest private sector employers in Alberta.
Fabrication work in the supply chain of the Alberta oil sands is only projected to increase. According to the Canadian Energy Research Institute, capital investment in the regional industry is expected to total $218 billion over the next 25 years. Total economic activity generated by oil sands development is expected to equal $1.7 trillion.