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New Equipment for Tube Manufacturing in the USA

DUESSELDORF/GERMANY, July 1, 2014 - Fracking is a highly controversial topic and the subject of numerous discussions – not only in Germany. You don't have to be a bona fide environmentalist to be horrified at the idea of pumping highly toxic chemicals into the earth to mine oil and gas. While the pros and cons of this method are being discussed intensely here in Germany, fracking is already so widespread in the USA that is has an immense impact on the oil and gas supply there, not to mention the reported environmental damage.

The new mining methods for oil and gas in the USA have led to a boom in the demand for steel pipes that an increasing number of foreign manufacturers with plants in the USA are looking to satisfy. American companies are also increasing their capacities in order to satisfy the expanding demand. For the Düsseldorf-based machine and plant builder SMS, this development led to the USA being the most stable market for their products in the year 2012. The demand was especially high in the area of tube plant construction.

According to company statements, SMS Meer was able to secure a large share of the market with the PQF (Premium Quality Finishing) rolling technology. One highlight of the new 10 ¾" tube mill for TPCO America in Corpus Christi, Texas, is the so-called BCO (Bilateral Change-Over) construction method. With this technology, the stands on both sides of the mill are changed, so that the rolling force is distributed evenly across the mill. The compact and easily accessible construction makes the mill much more user-friendly. In addition to short changeover times, BCO also ensures significant improvement of wall thickness tolerances.

The plant will produce oil country tubular goods (OCTG) for the crude oil and natural gas industry in the region beginning in October 2014. The PQF mill is designed for a maximum capacity of 534,000 tons per year and is capable of producing tubes with diameters up to 273.1 mm.

Seamless Tubes with improved Tolerances

In early December 2013, the world's largest pipe manufacturer, Tenaris, ordered a 9 5/8" PQF mill with BCO technology for their Bay City, Texas facility. Tenaris' first seamless pipe plant at a US production facility produces seamless pipes with improved tolerances. Among other things, Tenaris plans to satisfy the heightened demand for precise, high-strength pipes for shale gas extraction in the USA with the new plant. The plant has an annual capacity of 600,000 tons and is scheduled to go into operation in 2016.

One of the non-American companies that are building a new tube mill in the USA is Benteler International AG. With the project, the company plans to "position our steel/tube business area more internationally than previously, and strengthen its presence in one of the major growth markets in international oil and gas exploration," states Chairman of the Board Hubertus Benteler in the company's 2012 business report. The seamless tube plant in Shreveport, located in northwest Louisiana, is scheduled to begin production in the second half of 2015.

To implement the project, Benteler Steel/Tube (BSR) in Paderborn, Germany, signed a contract with Danieli & C. in Buttrio, Italy. The 4 ½" seamless tube mill is dimensioned for an annual capacity of 320,000 tons and is designed to produce high-quality steel pipe with excellent tolerances and impeccable material properties according to API and ASTM standards once it is completed.

Within the framework of their cooperation with Danieli Centro Tube, the Hilden-based German company Friedrich Kocks GmbH & Co KG will deliver an EXB 315/3 extractor and an SRB 315/30 stretch reducing block for the hot rolling line – the heart of the new plant. With that, BSR has chosen rolling blocks with a modular design featuring adjustable and non-adjustable roll stands. The stands are freely interchangeable and operate with individually driven rolls. Both types of stands can be used in the extractor or the stretch reducing block in any desired stand position. The design also features, for example, a pass remote control system for the adjustable stands, as well as a quick-change system for stands and rolls. These features allow a considerable reduction in the number of stand changes and thus the investment and operating costs otherwise required for optimal production flow.

The automation system enables the visualization of the measured data of the rolling mill, as well as the control of the process in order to minimize heavy ends and wall thickness variation. This in turn ensures a consistently high level production of premium quality seamless tubes, while simultaneously reducing operational errors to an absolute minimum.

Higher Product Quality and Less Required Maintenance

The contract to deliver a cross rolling mill for the Multistand Pipe Mill (MPM), located in Youngstown, Ohio, comes from Vallourec & Mannesmann Star.  With the new mill, the company plans to improve product quality while reducing the amount of maintenance required. Outstanding features of the new barrel-type piercer include increased rigidity, a state-of-the-art disk arrangement and an exit side with the latest generation of three-roller guide pedestals. The Youngstown plant is Vallourec’s primary production facility in the USA for hot-rolled seamless tubes, which are used chiefly for oil and gas exploration. Installation of the new equipment is scheduled for the 4th quarter of 2014.

Danieli Centro Tube, a company of the Italian Danieli Group headquartered in Milan, is also involved in V&M STAR's new Youngstown plant. Kocks delivered an extractor and a stretch reducing block of the latest generation. The hot-rolling line is a critical part of the new tube mill. Among other components, it consists of an FQM elongator, an EXB extractor and an SRB stretch reducing block. Once completed, the mill will be capable of producing up to 450,000 tons of high-quality seamless tubes with excellent tolerances and flawless material properties per year.