Martin Toutant sees each custom butt-weld pipe fitting his plant manufactures for the pipeline industry as a masterpiece. “People have no idea just how much work and attention to detail goes into making these parts,” says Toutant, the General Manager of Canadoil Forge Limited in Bécancour, Quebec.
Canadoil Forge has been working with TransCanada for over 30 years, supplying a number of our projects with critical parts such as elbows, tees, reducers and caps that connect pipeline sections. This partnership has helped sustain a constant growth at the plant that employs 100 – mostly locals from the Trois-Rivières area, located half way between Montréal and Quebec City – and Toutant hopes orders from the proposed Energy East Pipeline Project will help Canadoil Forge develop further.
Ensuring the safe transport of oil by pipelines is at the core of everything we do at TransCanada, and this focus on safety starts with selecting high-quality materials and suppliers with a proven manufacturing track record.
Making a pipe fitting is a long and precise process. Each part starts with a big flat sheet of steel that is heated and molded into a custom-shaped tube. It is welded – following specific procedures set by the client itself – and cut to the precise dimensions requested by the pipeline company.
Then starts a “heat treatment” to reinforce the strength and elasticity of the steel. The fitting part is heated inside a giant furnace, at a temperature of 920 degrees Celsius, before being taken out and immediately quenched in water. The process is repeated in a second furnace, at 625 degrees this time, before the part is air cooled. The extreme treatment results in the precise grade of yield strength required by the client.
Kathy Durand’s eyes sparkle when you get her to talk about steel strength testing. The metallurgical expert has been with Canadoil Forge for nine years. She oversees quality control, working mostly from an underground high-tech lab where pipe fittings are submitted to various tests to ensure their strength.
“TransCanada’s quality specifications are the most stringent in the fitting industry,” Durand says. “There is not a part we produce that is released for shipment before an inspector from TransCanada checks all the quality documents relative to this specific part.”
This constant attention to details includes verifying the quality of each weld by X-ray, to spot any potential defect, and carrying out traction testing in the lab to check the maximum pressure the steel can be submitted to without breaking. Another strain test is called the “Charpy impact test” and involves cooling a sample of steel to minus 46 degrees to assess the level of energy the steel can take at extreme temperatures.
“From start to finish, a team of highly-skilled workers is required to manufacture our fittings,” Toutant says, estimating that new business from the Energy East project would translate into hiring 30 to 40 new staff at the Canadoil Forge plant.
“We’ll need more qualified workers such as welders, machinists and people specialized in metallurgy,” Toutant adds. “Trois-Rivières has several metallurgical schools and training facilities, so thanks to Energy East, these young graduates will be able to work here rather than move out of the province to find a job.”