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Weld Inspection Keeps Energy Flowing and America Safe


When most people look up at a towering wind turbine, read about fracking in the Bakken region, or discuss construction of a nuclear plant, the last thing they think about is welds. Yet, safe welds are one of the most important elements keeping oil, gas or power flowing to their destinations. Given that I am a Certified Welding Inspector (CWI),


welds are pretty much all I think about during work hours. No matter the project and its status—a pipeline, power plant, wind turbine, oil or gas refinery and nuclear facility; being


Ivan Winkler Certified Welding Instuctor TÜV Rheinland


and then across the country. Te paperwork and organization- al aspect of keeping a running tally of welds was not included in training. I was fortunate to have an experienced colleague on site who showed me the ropes with this part of work. No matter the project, a weld inspection runs along the


same lines. I watch welders put in welds and make sure that everything is done to an appropriate code. When a pipe is being laid, I need to confirm that the pipes themselves are handled with appropriate care to prevent any damage. In the


We are in the business of upholding quality and must sustain quality standards in our profession as well.


built, renovated, or shut down for repair—they all involve welds and must be overseen by a CWI from the very begin- ning. If one weld fails the potential effect can range from an oil pipe corroding and bursting to a power outage leaving millions of people in the dark. Tousands, oſten millions of dollars in repairs is a given in these cases, saying nothing of potential damage to people’s health and the environment. It was when I understood the need for various quality tests


and how a multifaceted inspection process helped ensure quality that I decided to get certified as a CWI. I wanted to understand the welding types, concepts and processes. Te AWS training and examination is a grueling process—one comes out with a head full of welding codes, weld types and sizes, schematics, parts, sides, structures… Part of the course is devoted to the hands-on training with tools to demonstrate how to inspect a weld. Aſter almost six years as a technician, I finished my training well equipped to evaluate a weld and with all the associated procedures and processes. Of course, training does not provide for every situation.


Recently, some oil and gas companies began requesting that CWIs create a weld map when a pipeline is being laid. Tat includes logging in the number and location of welds, the number of welders working on particular welds, and how welds are put in. Te new requirements make sense: When a 600-mile (965-km) pipe is laid, records make it easier to locate the welds in the event of an integrity dig a few years later. Te digs intend to ensure the pipe has not corroded over time and the welds are still healthy. Some project managers began doing integrity digs following the reports of pipelines bursting now


88 Energy Manufacturing Year


nuclear energy sector, oversight of processes is particularly stringent. Te inspections take longer to complete and only the best inspectors with many years of experience are engaged. While some welding variation may be permitted on an oil pipe, all welds must be perfect at a nuclear facility. In my opinion, 100% quality must be a given on any job.


Some welding inspectors have been known to visually inspect a weld without using any of a CWI’s tools and gages. How they can do that is a mystery, given that I have not yet met an inspector with a “perfectly calibrated” eye able to measure tolerances on a weld up to ¹⁄8" (3.2 mm) without a mechani- cal ruler or gauge. We are in the business of upholding quality and must sustain quality standards in our profession as well. Energy project managers and developers should under-


stand the role a welding inspector plays in their process. Some don't realize they need the services of an inspector before they begin work. Both workers and procedures must be certified and a lot of paperwork must be done ahead of starting the job. Once, I was called in to inspect welds in the middle of a


power plant project, with quite a lot of welds already complet- ed. What the project managers did not know was that welding was being done using an incorrect procedure. In another, similar situation, the welders turned out not to have correct qualifications. In both cases, welds had to be redone and 100% of welds had to be inspected instead of the customary 10%. Overall, I enjoy inspections on energy projects. It is satisfy-


ing to leave the job site knowing the pipe is free of defects and damage, welds are robust and to code, and my day’s work helps keep the project operating safely.


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