By Frederic Bernard, Harold Evin and Ralf Hojda
At Vallourec, we’re confident of the strong footing we’ve established with our longtime core businesses: OCTG, Industry and Project Line Pipe (PLP). But the energy landscape and our customers' needs are evolving rapidly, expanding the range of innovation opportunities. The Group is thus working on solutions combining products and services that harness the full power of digital technology. Through our collaborative approach to innovation, including Front End Innovation workshops, the Winnov internal platform, Open Innovation and Booster methodology, we’re keeping our eyes on the future. Working together, we can stay firmly at the forefront of technological advances.
Although our core businesses are still very much tied to our traditional markets, our approach is much more forward-thinking. Vallourec regularly surveys the industry to be aware of all relevant technical trends and challenges that arise within it. Our innovation objectives are to reinforce our positioning in traditional markets at the same time as we enrich our tubular solutions by leveraging the potential of new technologies. In this way, we will offer our customers the products and services of tomorrow.
CLEANWELL® coating, new VAM® connections, new grades of steel, low-carbon products, pipes augmented by additive manufacturing or intelligent pipes are just some examples that demonstrate how our core businesses have embraced innovation.
Innovation at the heart of our customer positioning
For each new offer, innovation is a key element that helps us and our clients better understand their needs and challenges. It also allows them to stand out from their competitors.
For example, the Intelligent Pipe Solution, developed with OpenField as part of our Open Innovation challenge, addresses the growing need for automation in the oil and gas sector. This cutting-edge solution is designed for well monitoring.
Also in OCTG, the Group is using additive manufacturing technologies, Thermal Spray and Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) to improve the future of the metallic components value chain. Developed through Booster methodology, these technologies allow us to dramatically decrease lead times, manufacturing costs, waste and inventories. Our clients can also use a digital warehouse with file instructions for printing each part, thus reducing stock and eliminating the need for a physical warehouse.
Meanwhile, in Industry we are embracing cutting-edge applications for our seamless tubes. We have developed a new, easy-to-weld steel grade in yield strength class S690 / X100. This paves the way for our special structural hollow sections to be widely used on Wind Turbine Installation Vessels (WTIV) for constructing legs and cranes. Both of these structures are essential for the erection of extra-large turbines in for the next generation of windfarms worldwide. We have also combined our structural hollow sections with a unique digital design offer partly based on the PREON® box software for wide spanned photovoltaic substructures. This enables a huge range of uses, including in industrial halls, hangars, parking areas and for agricultural applications.
Recently, Industry provided 340 tons of pipes in various shapes to suit the specificities of the Hywind Tampen project, the world’s largest floating windfarm to date. In this way, our core business is also helping to support the most advanced projects of the energy transition.
At the same time, PLP is embracing some of the exciting digital solutions from Vallourec.smart that have come out of our digital booster. These include a digital portal that sup2021ports project execution and leverages product data with customers. It has also led to the creation of high-tech sensors and Smartengo Best Fit, a new digital solution for traceability, fit-up and pipeline construction. All of these solutions help clients make the most of their onshore and offshore equipment.
Our culture of open innovation empowers all employees, regardless of their unit, to think like entrepreneurs, inviting them to share their novel ideas and potentially turn them into high-value solutions. This collective effort, more powerful than traditionally siloed approaches, has already produced some great results. To give just one example of a positive outcome, Vallourec and TotalEnergies recently conducted successful initial tests on the Intelligent Drift solution.
In addition, the Innovation department holds meetings with the product line referents where they present their challenges and ask for feedback from all attendees.
And, as part of our Open Innovation challenge, we are always seeking to collaborate with start-ups and SMEs in strategic areas for our core businesses. This has led to offers such as Smart pipes and pipelines, as well as field and remote services enhanced with digital and artificial intelligence.
The sky is the limit
Thanks to our strong expertise, the potential in our core businesses is limitless. The key to staying at the forefront of industry is to actively leverage this expertise with an openness to new applications—in both traditional and new markets.
For example, we are adapting tubes typically used in our core business for hydrogen capture and Carbon Capture, Utilization & Storage (CCUS). We have also modified tubulars for use in pressure vessel applications up to 1,000 bar (about 14,500 Psi) in Hydrogen Fuel Stations. By monitoring the entire industry, including competition, and by cultivating a culture of collaboration and innovation, Vallourec is on course to provide solutions that will shape the future.
Frederic Bernard holds an Engineer’s degree in Materials Science and has been working for 20 years in leading Sales, Marketing, Project and R&D positions. Since 2009, he has held several R&D and marketing positions with Vallourec in France and Brazil, with a focus on OCTG applications. In 2020 he became Marketing & Development Director at Vallourec.
Harold Evin holds an Engineer’s degree in Materials Science and has been working for 20 years in leading Sales, Marketing, Project and R&D positions. Since 2009, he has held several R&D and marketing positions with Vallourec in France and Brazil, with a focus on OCTG applications. In 2020 he became Marketing & Development Director at Vallourec.
Ralf Hojda holds a Diploma degree in Materials Science and Business Administration and has been working for almost 30 years in leading R&D, Technical Marketing, Application Engineering and Sales positions. He started his career with high corrosion resistant materials (ThyssenKrupp VDM) followed by components for electric vehicles (Diehl Metall). Since October 2012, he has been responsible for the development of Vallourec’s Industry product line portfolio.