Seal of approval
Since the early days of oil and gas exploration and production, pipeline and flange corrosion has been a major issue for those in the oil and gas industry, costing operators billions of dollars a year. In fact, some operators estimate that 60 to 70 per cent of maintenance costs are directly related to corrosion issues. With the oil and gas industry moving into deeper waters, these costs have been increasing as oil exploration equipment is based in harsher environments under greater pressures.
In response to this, GPT was created in March 2012 by the combination of PSI (Pipeline, Seal & Insulator) Pikotek and another company – three business under the EnPro Industries umbrella, to manufacture and supply reliable, high quality products to major international oil and gas operators, pipeline transmission companies, engineering and construction contractors. “GPT is currently the world’s leader in flange isolation products and pipeline accessories and was an evolution of the original Pikotek product, which was the development of a new isolation gasket to be used in the Alaska pipeline in 1979. Those original products are still there and many other new and advanced isolation products have been developed since then. Today our customers include Shell, BP, Chevron, Exxon, PDVSA, Aramco, Qatar Petroleum and many others,” begins Ian Morris, Subject Matter Expert for Oil and Gas at GPT.
From its two locations in Denver, Colorado, the US, and St Neots in the UK, GPT manufactures a full range of flange isolation kits that are made up of vital components; together these ensure the ongoing integrity and safety of piping systems. Designed to seal and electrically isolate complete flange assemblies, the flange isolation kits can control the current flow in cathodic protection systems, while also eliminating galvanic corrosion by removing metal-to-metal contact. A number of different flange isolation kits have been developed to suit varying applications and conditions. For example, the company manufactures systems that have a metallic central core with a high dielectric strength GRE (glass reinforced epoxy) retainer bonded to both sides to effect electrical isolation for critical service applications.
Within the company’s extensive portfolio are highly reliable, robust and innovative products, such as Electrostop® Monolithic Isolation Joints to provide electrical isolation for cathodic protection systems in transmission and flow lines, natural gas plants and pipelines. There are also Linebacker flange sealing and isolating devices, Ranger II® pipeline casing spacers/ isolators; the original LinkSeal® modular sealing system for piping penetrations through walls, floors, ceilings and bulkheads; Riser-Wrap® manhole filtration sealing systems; hole-forming products; and safety-related pipeline signage.
“One notable product is a fire safe isolating gasket, the patented VCFS (very critical fire safe) product; this is best-in-class for fire safe isolation and is used globally. To quote one of our customers, it is ‘the best gasket in the world, not only the best isolating gasket, but the best gasket, period,’” highlights Ian.
Discussing why GPT is relied upon by such a wealth of clients, Ian states: “There are three primary areas that give GPT a competitive edge. The first is the fact that GPT has been producing isolation kits longer than any other manufacturer for critical applications. This experience is immeasurable when it comes to product performance. The applications for the products are normally high pressure, environmentally sensitive, remote locations (where leakage could go undetected for extended periods), flammable and could have significant safety concerns. With GPT products, customers know that they are using robust, time proven designs that will last for years.”
He continues: “The second area is that we have the largest staffing of engineers for any isolation kit manufacturing company. Engineers provide technical support to our customers, develop new designs and offer regional support; this is extremely important to our customers because applications vary so widely in design, in media types, in temperatures and pressures, that having an engineer do the research on chemical compatibility, thermal limits, pressure ratings, corrosion activity, metallurgy and so on at no charge is a great advantage. The third area is new product development, with GPT known as the leader in new isolation technology. This effort is a combination of a super engineering group matched with strong marketing tools such as Voice Of the Customer and In-Depth Interviews (IDI). These tools ensure that products developed meet the current and future needs of our customers.”
The most recent example of the company’s drive for innovative solutions that will enhance the integrity of pipeline systems while also meeting the demands of tomorrow is the new VCXT high temperature flange insulating kit, which was launched in April 2015. “There have been higher temperature isolating products available by GPT and other manufacturers in the past, but the development of the new VCXT really puts it in a category by itself. The new VCXT has the highest temperature rating available, it has steam resistance and it has the best sealability of any high temperature isolating product on the market,” highlights Ian.
“The steam resistance may not sound overly exciting, but most high temperature isolating products do not fare well in steam. Steam use has grown in the extraction of oil globally and in fracking use, so this is an important attribute. Also, most high temperature isolating products don’t seal extremely well due to short fibre makeup. The VCXT has best-in-class sealability and pressure resistance. The VCXT has passed API 6FB fire testing, so it is well suited for installation in applications with flammable media,” he adds.
Key to the development of these solutions are the company’s R&D facilities, which include more than 6000 square feet of test laboratories, where an engineering group of over 23 engineers develop concepts, research new high tech materials and test products. Additionally, there is a functional test lab to replicate customer issues, tests include steam testing, salt spray testing, blow-out at high temperature testing and pressure testing.
While the oil and gas industry remains stagnant due to the price of oil, GPT is using this mild lull in activities to focus internally on boosting efficiency in manufacturing, standardising processes, training personnel and, of course, continuing to develop new and innovative products. “Over the next 12 months our internal people will continue to be trained on the many aspects of isolation products in pipelines, but we will begin to train our distribution and customers with a new training programme we are calling ‘GPT University’. This is a very hands-on training program where participants will learn proper installation methods, electrical isolation, sealability/permeation and many, many other useful tools in the constant battle against corrosion,” says Ian.
“Meanwhile, over the coming years, we will re-invent the isolating kit. Customers have been very helpful in describing their issues with gaskets in general and GPT intends to address all of these issues and wishes so that our customers can rest assured that their isolation systems are operating perfectly,” he concludes.
Services: Sealing, connecting and protecting the world’s pipelines