Vallourec strives to shape the future of the energy industry by continuing to develop the production of more advanced products. Already, Vallourec’s site in Jeceaba, Brazil, has increased its global exports thanks in part to this strategic approach. Now, Vallourec Tianda, Vallourec’s branch in China, is building a portfolio of premium products for local and foreign clients. Rita Sheng, Bruce Bejm and Markus Pardun discuss their ongoing work to create the highest quality standard and premium tubulars for line pipe applications.
Vallourec acquired its Tianda branch, consisting of a plant in Chuzhou and another in Changzhou, China, in 2016. The following year, the sites began producing commodities for the Asian and Middle Eastern markets. Vallourec Tianda maintains API 5L standards, and performs comprehensive qualification audits of its steel suppliers in order to ensure the highest-quality end products.
Since 2020, Vallourec Tianda has drawn on its expertise in commodity manufacturing and on the Group’s global capabilities to begin a shift toward creating premium products.
Based on evolving customer needs, Tianda is industrializing new chemical compositions and steel grades to create pipes with superior mechanical properties. “When we first acquired Tianda, its product catalog wasn’t yet meeting the high expectations of major Oil and Gas and engineering companies involved in the pipeline business,” says Markus Pardun, Quality and Industrialization Manager of Vallourec’s Project Line Pipe business line.
“We’ve successfully industrialized new steel grades in Tianda,” he continues, “thanks to Vallourec’s decades of expertise in premium seamless pipe manufacturing and the involvement of our strong technical teams. Today, with its Tianda rolling mill, Vallourec China is able to offer high-quality seamless pipes that are best suited for onshore and shallow offshore line pipe projects.”
The Tianda team first produced the X52QS premium grade in 2020, for outer diameters (ODs) of 6” to 12” and 6 to 16 millimeter (mm) wall thickness. The following years, X60QS and X65QS premium grades were also industrialized and qualified. Moreover, the Line Pipe manufacturing range has now been extended to ODs up to 14”, and wall thickness up to 16 mm.
Through new alloying concepts involving less carbon, the line pipes offer an effective combination of strength and toughness, as well as high corrosion resistance in a sour service environment. For offshore applications, where improper material properties can cause pipeline collapse, these Vallourec Tianda premium products are proving to be a valuable and reliable solution.
Always pushing the envelope, the team intends to develop its offers even further, to provide a full-size range to clients. In 2022, for instance, it announced that its 14” OD pipes will have a wall thickness of up to 28 mm. Greater wall thickness means the pipeline can withstand greater pressure, and it offers clients the possibility to develop more complex oil and gas fields.
Premium products require premium raw materials. “To begin this new phase for Tianda, the team reviewed its list of suppliers,” says Bruce Bejm, Vallourec China Export Sales Director for Line Pipe & Process Pipe. “Once we had identified the two local steel mills most suited to meet Vallourec standards in terms of safety and quality, we secured special technical agreements with them.”
Creating a premium offer also means manufacturing products according to relevant industry standards. “When we began this process in 2020, in addition to API 5L and DNV FT101, the decision was made to follow Shell Design and Engineering Practices (DEPs),” says Rita Sheng, Technical Sales Manager. “This set of stringent standards guarantees that our premium products are of the highest quality, and ready to meet customer expectations.”
To ensure the Tianda mill’s positioning as a key manufacturing route for pipeline projects in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, Vallourec has also massively invested in new production and quality control equipment suitable for pipes as well as anti-corrosion coatings.
The result: for the past three years, Tianda has developed its own coating line. “Leveraging the expertise of the entire Group, Vallourec Tianda will now be able to deliver packages encompassing sour service line pipe grade as well as FBE, 3LPE and 3LPP coatings services,” Markus says.
As customer proximity is foremost in Vallourec’s mindset, the group also has controlling interest in finishing lines in Indonesia. Located in Batam, the PTCT mill is increasing Vallourec Tianda’s impact in the region with state-of-the-art heat treatment and Non-Destructive Testing capacities.
Vallourec Tianda has already begun to see its premiumization efforts pay off. Major oil and gas companies such as ENI have acknowledged the level of quality of Tianda's new product portfolio. ENI has in fact already qualified the mill for its line pipe needs.
Orders for its new steel and coatings are increasing, as well. This year, the mill will deliver a significant order of around 24,000 metric tons of equipment for line pipe onshore projects in Iraq. “This contract, the first in this new market for Tianda, represents a major victory for the teams,” Bruce says.
In another example of premiumization advances at the Tianda mill – and in line with Vallourec ambitions toward CO2 emissions reduction – the group recently installed solar panels. This enables the sites to operate with sustainable energy sources.
“The premiumization of our Tianda sites is an ongoing process,” Markus adds. “And one with lots of promise, both for our business locally in China and in the Middle East region.”