We conceived and developed an innovative welding process that solved the problems caused by the magnetic interaction of two welding arcs in close proximity, enabling a substantial increase in welding productivity.

Key facts

    • BP estimated that our tandem arc welding process could save $0.5 billion from the projected $16 billion cost of constructing the proposed trans-Alaska gas pipeline.
    • The process has delivered a 400% productivity increase using less equipment and fewer personnel, saving as much as $400 million on a single pipeline.
    • The high quality and reliable joining technology delivers environmental benefits through savings in steel and energy.
    • Cost savings could rise to around 9% of costs if the industry also adopts other processes developed through the research.
  • Funded by BP, TransCanada and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Impact of our research

Conceived and developed by us, the tandem arc welding process is being adopted for the transportation and distribution of fossil fuel. The technology could yield savings of up to £1 billion per year. Subsequent development of hybrid laser / arc welding could reduce the cost of pipeline construction by a further £1 billion a year. Through cost reduction, better material utilisation and environmental benefits, our technology could transform many fabrication processes that manufacturing companies undertake.

The new Cranfield Automated Pipeline Welding System increased productivity by 400% by reducing the number of ‘fill passes’ required to weld together two sections of pipeline. We also developed sensors to allow full automation of the welding process and reduce reliance on manual welding skills.

Why the research was commissioned

The research was motivated by the demand for more efficient and effective welding technology for making oil and gas pipelines. Long distance pipelines are hugely expensive. For example, at the time the project was conceived, BP was looking at an estimated cost of $16 billion for the construction of a new trans-Alaska gas pipeline to link into the network in Canada.

The innovative tandem arc pipeline welding process built on research that solved the problems caused by the magnetic interaction of two welding arcs in close proximity.

Why Cranfield?

We needed to understand the key industrial issues before we could develop welding technology that would make a real impact on the industry. The strategic partnership allowed our researchers to identify both common and conflicting issues, to understand how the technology could be best implemented and provide all partners with the confidence they would benefit from the outcome.

Researchers modelled the tandem welding process in detail to optimise the process and minimise the possibility of welding defects, then worked with regulators and welding contractors to enable the rapid application and acceptance of the technology in the field.

Facilities used

Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre.