Steel Coatings Articles

Nerves of Steel: Coating New Tanks for Saltwater Disposal Facility

Photos courtesy of ENXL, LLC and Wasser Operating
Vendor Team

Safety equipment manufacturer
3M Center
St. Paul, MN 55144
(888) 364-3577

Graco Inc.
Equipment manufacturer
P.O. Box 1441
Minneapolis, MN 55440
(612) 623-6000

Coatings manufacturer
600 Conroe Park North Dr.
Conroe, TX 77303
(936) 523-6000

Pitts Oilfield Products and Services LLC
Coatings contractor
P.O. Box 351
Big Spring, TX 79721
(720) 320-0333

Wasser Operating
Coatings client
203 W Wall St., Suite 304
Midland, TX 79701
(432) 238-3588

As any oil man or woman knows, when you are creating oil and gas in an oil field, there are several byproducts that need to be dealt with. One of them is salt water.

Oil companies usually get rid of salt water by injecting it into wells, rocks, or other natural formations. But first the fluid has to go through a disposal facility. There, tanks collect the salt water and other oil and gas wastes. As long as the well is producing oil, salt will be created and require disposal.

When the waste reaches the disposal facility, it goes into steel tanks where the various byproducts are separated out. From there, the facility uses pumps to inject the waste into its disposal sites.

Curtis Pittman earns his bread and butter by working on these types of disposal facilities. He is the manager of Big Spring, Texas-based Pitts Oilfield Products and Services, LLC, and he has worked in the oil industry for a long time.

Making Connections
Pittman’s entire company employs 28 people, from clerical to field jobs, including work in manufacturing, blasting, coating, painting, inspecting, and delivering.

“The whole team did their part to make this project a success,” Pittman said of the work with Wasser Operating, LLC, a Texas-based company that has several oil field leases. The project in front of Pittman and his team would be big: They were working on a new salt water disposal facility, which meant manufacturing tanks to the customer’s innovative design criteria. All in all, the project would cover 45,000 square feet (4,180.6 m²) of new SA 36 Carbon Steel Plate.

Pittman said the key to landing this job was his company’s willingness to be flexible and work with the engineer on the project, Bruce Johnson from Wasser Operating.

“We went through a bidding process and developed a relationship with Bruce,” Pittman said. “We were willing to be open-minded and look at alternatives, new ideas, new coatings, and work with him, giving him input from our side of the business versus the engineering side, discussing pros and cons. That created the relationship that stimulated the thought process on both sides.”

Pittman said it was a challenge to make customizations on the planned job, but he was happy to do it to land the work and make the customer happy. “I needed to come to the understanding of what he was trying to achieve, but also that it was going to limit us in manufacturing,” he said. “Bruce Johnson came to understand we’d have limits where we’d have to build certain things, so he adjusted to make it easier for us to do our side.”

Johnson’s systems “are totally unique, totally different,” Pittman said, and they require an automation process with a lot of stainless steel fittings and pipings “that are designed in a specific way.”

Putting It All Together
After the bid was won, Pittman and his Pitts Oilfield team began work in June 2015. 

They spent three months on the job, which included fabrication of all the tanks, stainless steel connections, and internal stainless piping. They began work by blasting the substrate. They had an on-site inspection to ensure the profile was what the infill process required.

Next, they applied Hempel’s Versiline TL-45 S, a two-component coating. The team first did a pre-coat stripe coat on certain areas of the tanks at the connection joints. Then, they put down a full coat using a Graco sprayer in one pass with a thickness of 20 to 22 mils (508.0–558.8 microns). This was a heavier coating with 100 percent solids, and it required inspection at each step of the process so the customer could receive a warranty, Pittman said. That included ensuring the proper thickness after the stripe coat was applied.

Pittman said that Johnson provided the exact dimension layouts and tolerances so the premeasured stainless piping would connect the tanks together in the field. For example, he needed a quarter inch (6.4 mm) tolerance between the tanks and fittings. “The layout had to be exactly the same to connect it to the piping, to ensure the piping would fit between the tanks,” Pittman said. 

Along with the normal fittings and connections, the stainless connections, flanges, and internal piping added some additional time to the job because of the effort it took to find the correct product, he said. “Bruce wanted a very tight tolerance on all of his fittings with projections, so we were trying to find the products — locate them — and that was a challenge,” Pittman said.

Size and weight constraints on the internal piping also challenged Pittman’s team to meet the customer’s needs and wants. “Most manufacturers seem to shy away from projects like this that seem to require thinking outside the box,” he said. “Because we were willing to offer that from the manufacturer’s side of things, I believe we were chosen for this project.”

Rain and More Rain
Most of the work was done inside the shop before transporting the piping to the field. “We were fortunate to have an indoor facility, but we have to have humidifiers,” Pittman said. 

Then, when the crew took the tanks to the site, they encountered another problem. “As most West Texans will attest to, we have had a very rare occurrence this year called rain and lots of it,” Pittman said. “Texas was in a drought, but when we ordered the tanks it stopped the drought. I just ordered another set, and the rains came again.”

“I told Bruce we have to capitalize on this somehow,” Pittman joked.

The rain meant a lot of rescheduling, and it created some additional work because of oxidation build up from the blasting, Pittman said. “We had the profile, but we had to re-blast because of oxidation. But every facility has its challenges; this one was just a challenge from the environment.”

A Common Goal
The team pulled together and got the work done. When the job was finished, “it looked fantastic,” Pittman said.              

Looking back on the job, Pittman said he is proud of his team’s success in working with the customer and coming up with a plan together. “Not a lot of engineers are very willing to let you give them input; it’s their way or the highway,” he said. “But Bruce wanted to pull together and create an environment of everyone working together for this common goal, for fitting piping, or a valve, or a certain technique. It wasn’t, ‘this is how this is going to be, but about a team giving input.’”

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