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Berkeley Process Control

Automatic Pipeline Welding System


Machine controllers from Berkeley Process Control, Inc., of Richmond, Calif., have increased throughput on automatic welding systems for pipeline applications, while also reducing the complexity of the control scheme and overall weight of the automatic welders. J. Ray McDermott, Inc., based in Houston, Texas, included Berkeleys eight-axis Bam tx Machine Controllers in the 1993 upgrade of its J. Ray McDermott Automatic Welding System (JAWS), which is used on offshore lay barges for oil and natural gas applications. McDermott chose Berkeley controllers because they afforded greater accuracy, speed and reliability than other control schemes. In other automatic welding systems, torch heads move along the outer diameter of the pipe and are positioned manually at the junction of two pipes by certified welders. The operator continually monitors the position of the weld tip and makes corrections to keep the weld tip centered on the desired weld path. In addition, the operator must monitor the weld tip's distance from the weld so as to achieve optimal weld bead. The Berkeley-controlled JAWS allows users to define parameters such as weld start sequence (including pre-purge time, current ramp-up and ramp-down, and post-purge time), wire feed schedule (start feed delay, stop, feed delay, rollback distance, primary and secondary speeds, duty cycle and synchronization with oscillation of current) and oscillation (excursion time, dwell, width and synchronization with current). All parameters are rigidly monitored in real time so that the welds are repeatable from joint to joint, regardless of the skill level of the operators. To effect a weld, the McDermott automatic welding system uses lasers to locate the juncture of the pipeline segments. The shared-state architecture of the Berkeley control system enables the JAWS to automatically plot the course of all six weld tips. The control system's General Loop Controller, a programmable auxiliary PID control loop, monitors each of the welding stations' arc voltages to main optimal distances from the weld tip to the weld surface. The controller inherently understands the position of each weld tip in real time, and can pulse the primary and background currents to the tip based

Berkeley Process Control

Each of JAWS five welding stations has six arc torches, and fourteen servo axes. Berkeley controllers provide coordinated, real-time management of welding machine, motion and process control.

on its position to the pipe. Arc voltage is controlled by modulating the distance of the weld tip according to real-time process feedback. The operator can intuitively jog the path of the weld on the fly while the Berkeley control system coordinates all weld parameters in real-time. Multiple passes are made at each location, which enables the center of the weld seam to be determined with extreme accuracy. As such, the JAWS is able to lay down higher quality beads than semi-automated systems relying on visual or mechanical monitoring. Another benefit to both McDermott and its end users is that the shared-state architecture of the Berkeley control scheme has minimized development and integration costs as well as hardware requirements. Most of the operating software for the controllers was written into the control platform before Berkeley and McDermott engineers collaborated on the JAWS project. With all but the highest level of control code already bundled into the controller platform, development engineers were spared the writing of potentially hundreds of thousands of lines of software code to integrate the JAWS components. The pre-bundled software, programmed solely in Parasol-II, also reduced the potential for software errors and debugging costs. All Berkeley controllers are designed to be compatible with future generations of Bam Machine Controller products without software modification. In addition, the shared-state nature of the Berkeley machine controllers permits immediate integration of all controllers in each JAWS unit.

Berkeley Process Control Using the Berkeley control scheme, the amount of space required by the JAWS control equipment was reduced by approximately 50 percent. Berkeley provided multi-axis USA servo amplifiers, high-density, remotely mounted Micro I/O racks and other compact control components to minimize the control footprint. Berkeley engineers used knowledge of control technology to develop custom mechanical hardware that was greatly simplified. Actuators were designed to perform multiple functions to minimize both cost and potential hardware failure. As an example, Berkeley designed intelligent devices to reduce the numbers of solenoids and brakes on the updated JAWS equipment. In doing so, five separate devices now are operated by only two motors. Similarly, Berkeley-designed quick release torch head mechanisms has reduced scheduled maintenance time, while comprehensive diagnostic software enables operators to test torch heads faster and more thoroughly than traditional visual inspections. The intelligence of the control system enabled the ability to remove unnecessary sensors and actuators. Each mechanism was reduced from 113 pounds each to 61 pounds, for a total weight reduction of 312 pounds per system. In operation, McDermott customers have benefitted from the enhanced reliability afforded by the single controller scheme of the JAWS equipment. The Berkeley sharedstate control platform has reduced risks of throughput fall-off due to equipment slowdown or failure. As a result, JAWS users have realized maximum throughput potentials. And because thirty weld tips are monitored concurrently, cycle times are greatly reduced, and production rates are dramatically increased. In its first application using the Berkeley controllers in 1994-95, McDermott's JAWS installed on a lay barge were used to weld 54 miles of pipe on schedule on the highprofile Shell Mars pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico. Nondestructive testing and radiography verified weld quality in the X70-grade pipe. The same equipment was used in the world record-setting Esso Production Lawit project in Malaysia project in 1996. JAWS units fitted with Berkeley controllers welded 30" x 0.787" wall thickness pipe on the project, which was completed in record time. In one day, the JAWS units welded 329 joints to set a world record for 30" single-joint production. A second world record was set by McDermott welders using Berkeley controllers in 1999 on the Premier Yetagun pipeline project in Myanmar. The one-day record of 424 single joint welds on 24" x 0.688" wall thickness pipe helped to complete the project far ahead of schedule. The West Natuna Transportation System pipeline project in Indonesia saw two more records established by the McDermott automatic welding system in 2000. In one day, 382 60-ft. joints (6.95 km) of 28" x 0.642" wall thickness trunkline were welded. Another

Berkeley Process Control production record later was set with the completion of 492 40-ft. joints of 22" x 0.508" wall thickness pipe. In my opinion, this system continues to be the fastest in the world for offshore pipeline applications, notes Clyde D. Noel, Manager, Automatic Welding, for J. Ray McDermott, Inc., in Morgan City, La. Projects scheduled for 2003 include the 24" x 95 km Conoco Belanak project in Indonesia and a 38" x 93 km pipeline in the Persian Gulf for Exxon-Mobil affiliate Ras Gas. ###