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Fracking Boom in U.S. Sparks High Demand for New Tube Manufacturing Equipment

The new mining methods for oil and gas in the U.S. have led to a boom in the demand for steel pipes that manufacturers with plants in the U.S. are looking to satisfy. German machinery and plant builder SMS has been able to secure a large share of the market thanks to its rolling technology.

One highlight of the new 10¾" tube mill for TPCO America in Corpus Christi, Texas, is the BCO (Bilateral Change-Over) construction method. With this technology, the stands on both sides of the mill are changed, so that the rolling force is distributed evenly across the mill. The compact and easily accessible construction makes the mill much more user-friendly. In addition to short changeover times, BCO also ensures significant improvement of wall thickness tolerances.

According to company statements, SMS Meer was able to secure a large share of the steel pipe market with the PQF (Premium Quality Finishing) rolling technology.



The plant will produce oil country tubular goods (OCTG) for the crude oil and natural gas industry in the region beginning in October 2014. The PQF (Premium Quality Finishing) mill from SMS is designed for a maximum capacity of 534,000 tons per year and is capable of producing tubes with diameters up to 10.7 inches.

Seamless Tubes with Improved Tolerances

In early December 2013, the world's largest pipe manufacturer, Tenaris, ordered a 9 5/8" PQF mill with BCO technology for their Bay City, Texas facility. Tenaris' first seamless pipe plant at a US production facility produces seamless pipes with improved tolerances. Among other things, Tenaris plans to satisfy the heightened demand for precise, high-strength pipes for shale gas extraction in the U.S. with the new plant. It has an annual capacity of 600,000 tons and is scheduled to go into operation in 2016.

Tenaris, the world's largest pipe manufacturer, recently ordered a PQF mill for its Texas facility.



One of the non-American companies that are building a new tube mill in the U.S. is Benteler International AG. With the project, the company plans to "position our steel/tube business area more internationally than previously, and strengthen its presence in one of the major growth markets in international oil and gas exploration," states Chairman of the Board Hubertus Benteler in the company's 2012 business report. The seamless tube plant in Shreveport, Louisiana, is scheduled to begin production in the second half of 2015.

The 4½" seamless tube mill is dimensioned for an annual capacity of 320,000 tons and is designed to produce high-quality steel pipe with excellent tolerances and impeccable material properties according to API and ASTM standards once it is completed.

Germany's Benteler Steel/Tube (BSR) has implemented a project designed to produce high-quality steel pipe with excellent tolerances.



Friedrich Kocks GmbH & Co KG will deliver an EXB 315/3 extractor and an SRB 315/30 stretch reducing block for the hot rolling line -- the heart of the new plant. With that, BSR has chosen rolling blocks with a modular design featuring adjustable and non-adjustable roll stands. The stands are freely interchangeable and operate with individually driven rolls. Both types of stands can be used in the extractor or the stretch reducing block in any desired stand position.

The design also features a pass remote control system for the adjustable stands, as well as a quick-change system for stands and rolls. These features allow a considerable reduction in the number of stand changes and thus the investment and operating costs otherwise required for optimal production flow.

The automation system enables the visualization of the measured data of the rolling mill, as well as the control of the process in order to minimize heavy ends and wall thickness variation. This in turn ensures a consistently high level production of premium quality seamless tubes, while simultaneously reducing operational errors to an absolute minimum.

In November 2013, Benteler Steel/Tube of Salzburg, Austria, ordered a TemperLine system from SMS Elotherm for its new seamless tube mill.



New Technology Reduces the Capital Expenditure

SMS Meer further developed their process and equipment technology for a new 24" HF tube welding line for California Steel Industries (CSI) of Fontana, California. The manufacturing line is designed for tube production at a speed of 35 m/min, and will produce up to 400,000 tons of tubular goods -- primarily line pipes according to API 5L.

In addition to increased production capacity, the new mill will enable CSI to expand their product range to include outer diameters of up to 24 inches and lengths of up to 80 feet. Moreover, the mill will include an inline and offline quick-change system for the URD stands. This solution offers up to 30 percent higher productivity compared to conventional changes using a shop crane.

SMS Meer's quick-change system ensures that product quality can be reproduced and improved over time.



The quick-change system is supported by the CSS-Quicksetting® system developed by SMS Meer, which uses a database-supported plant setting to ensure that product quality can be reproduced and improved over time. According to the manufacturer, an additional advantage is the travelling MF seam annealing system. In case of a line stop, this system ensures that pipe sections not sufficiently annealed, and therefore not able to meet the quality standards, will be re-annealed. This significantly increases the yield of prime material compared with a conventional seam annealing system. The mill is scheduled to go into operation in 2014.

Higher Product Quality and Less Required Maintenance

The contract to deliver a cross rolling mill for the Multistand Pipe Mill (MPM), located in Youngstown, Ohio, comes from Vallourec & Mannesmann Star. With the new mill, the company plans to improve product quality while reducing the amount of maintenance required.

Outstanding features of the new barrel-type piercer include increased rigidity, a state-of-the-art disk arrangement and an exit side with the latest generation of three-roller guide pedestals. The Youngstown plant is Vallourec's primary production facility in the U.S. for hot-rolled seamless tubes, which are used mainly for oil and gas exploration. Installation of the new equipment is scheduled for the 4th quarter of 2014.

Borusan Mannesmann's new mill in Baytown, Texas produces thick-walled, high-tensile steel pipes for natural gas and fossil oil production.



Danieli Centro Tube, a company of the Italian Danieli Group headquartered in Milan, is also involved in V&M STAR's new Youngstown plant. Kocks delivered an extractor and a stretch reducing block of the latest generation. The hot-rolling line is a critical part of the new tube mill. Among other components, it consists of an FQMÖ elongator, an EXB extractor and an SRB stretch reducing block. Once completed, the mill will be capable of producing up to 450,000 tons of high-quality seamless tubes with excellent tolerances and flawless material properties per year.

Number of Stand Changes Reduced

The 3-stand extractor and the 24-stand stretch reducing block are both based on the "Star Drive" design with individually driven rolls. Both blocks use 3-roll stands with a nominal roll diameter of 360 mm.

The International Tube and Pipe Trade Fair will present technological advancements in the production and processing of tubes at the fairgrounds in Düsseldorf, Germany from April 4 - 8, 2016.



The EXB is operated with non-adjustable stands, whereas the SRB will be equipped with the non-adjustable stands for the reducing passes as well as the adjustable ones for the finishing passes. Special features of the concept include the quick-change system for the stands, as well as the roll shop with quick roll changing system and the remote-controlled pass adjustment for the adjustable stands. This leads to a significant reduction of the stand changes normally required for optimal production.

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