This article appeared in The Herald e-edition of 22 January 2016, written by Riaan Marais.
AFTER 15 years of research and testing, an innovative maintenance and repair technique developed by Port Elizabeth researchers is ready to be rolled out globally.
It could potentially save the international energy sector billions of rands.
WeldCore, developed at NMMU with the help of Eskom, has received the nod for industry application from the American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME), the world’s leading engineering body.
WeldCore is a technique used to test the condition and integrity of high-pressure gas lines, like the ones used in boiler systems in Eskom’s power stations.
In the past, testing involved taking a surface or shallow sample from the piping.
This leads to inaccurate results and very conservative estimates on the life-span of a line, causing lines to be replaced long before it is necessary.
WeldCore, on the other hand, drills a deeper core sample, giving much more accurate estimates on when lines need to be replaced.
The hole where the core sample is taken is repaired using a unique friction welding technique called friction taper hydro-pillar processing, so the high-pressure line’s integrity is not compromised.
ASME acceptance allows for the unconditional application of WeldCore on high-integrity plant and equipment designed in accordance with the engineering body’s Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (BPVC).
This is the first innovation by a South African institution to ever receive ASME BPVC approval, according to Eskom.
Professor Danie Hattingh, director of NMMU’s engineering and technology station eNtsa, said: Acceptance into the ASME BPVC is like conquering one of the highest mountains in engineering terms for us.
“It’s a major step forward as this is proof that the local welding solution survived international scrutiny at the highest level.”
Application of WeldCore has already saved Eskom more than R1billion in deferred expenditure since the process offers reliable feedback on its ageing power stations.
Eskom chief welding engineer Phillip Doubell said the journey towards “less guessing” when dealing with fatigue damage in high-value components was over as WeldCore allowed engineers to extract relevant data from material for more accurate analysis.
“In South Africa we have a competitive edge. We are multi-skilled and that’s what makes us world class from a success point of view – and at NMMU we had a partner committed to technology transfer and not just research,” Doubell said.
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