Pipeliners Podcast host Russel Treat welcomes first-time guest Jeremy Groover of Industrial Degauss to discuss the technology behind demagnetizing pipe for welding purposes.
In this episode, you will learn about why pipes need to be demagnetized, the connection to inline inspection (ILI), and how to demagnetize pipe. Jeremy also takes listeners inside the process of demagnetizing pipe quickly and efficiently, which alleviates the headache of costly downtime.
Demagnetizing Pipe for Welding: Show Notes, Links, and Insider Terms
- Jeremy Groover is the Principal and Founder of Industrial Degauss. Connect with Jeremy on LinkedIn.
- The World Gas Conference is an international gathering of influential gas industry leaders, policy-makers, buyers, sellers, and experts. WGC 2018 took place in June in Washington, D.C.
- Demagnetizing is the process of removing a magnetic field from a specific area of a pipe in order for a welder to properly service the pipe.
- Arc blow is the negative result of a welder attempting to service a magnetized pipe. The presence of magnetic forces will cause a magnetic reaction that leaves undesired deposits on the pipe.
- Magnetic flux leakage (MFL) is a magnetic method of nondestructive testing that is used to detect corrosion and pitting in pipelines.
- Pigging refers to using devices known as “pigs” to perform maintenance operations. This tool associated with inline pipeline inspection has now become known as a Pipeline Inspection Gauge (PIG).
- An electric power transmission line moves electrical energy from a generating site to an electrical substation.
- Cathodic protection systems are employed to protect the integrity of a pipe by reducing the risk of corrosion along the surface.
- Metallurgical Engineering is the study of metals. Specifically, extraction, design and processing of metals, and how metals react to environmental changes or stress.
- A Spectrometer scope measures light in an electromagnetic field spectrum.
- A Gauss meter measures the presence, polarity, and strength of an electromagnetic field coming from a source such as a transmission line, power line, or piece of equipment.
- NDT equipment (non-destructive testing equipment) are instruments and devices used in the field to test the condition of a particular piece of equipment, such as pipe.
- The Pipeline Pigging and Integrity Management Conference is held annually in Houston. PPIM is devoted exclusively to pigging for maintenance and inspection, as well as pipeline integrity evaluation and repair.
- The Pipeline and Energy Expo in Tulsa, Okla. is an industry gathering for pipeline engineering, construction, inspection, SCADA, maintenance, rehabilitation, safety, and integrity.
- The International Pipeline Show is an international gathering of pipeline professionals and decision-makers. The 2018 International Pipeline Expo takes place in September in Calgary, Alb., Canada.
- The POWER-GEN conference is the largest gathering of power generation companies, industry thought leaders, and decision-makers. The POWER-GEN 2018 Conference takes place in December in Orlando, Fla.
Demagnetizing Pipe for Welding: Full Episode Transcript
Russel Treat: Welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast, episode 37.
Announcer: The Pipeliners Podcast, where professionals, Bubba geeks, and industry insiders share their knowledge and experience about technology, projects, and pipeline operations.
Now your host, Russel Treat.
Russel: Thanks for listening to the Pipeliners Podcast. We appreciate you taking the time. To show that appreciation, we’re giving away a customized YETI tumbler to one listener each episode. This week, our winner is Michael Istre from INGAA. Congratulations, Michael, your YETI is on its way. To learn how you can win this signature prize pack, stick around to the end of the episode.
This week, our guest is Jeremy Groover, Principal and Founder with Industrial Degauss. I met Jeremy at the World Gas Conference as I was walking through the trade show. These guys had a really interesting technology — at least I thought it was very interesting — for demagnetizing pipe. Jeremy’s going to talk to us about why you do that, why it’s important for welding, and how they do it at Industrial Degauss.
Jeremy, welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast.
Jeremy Groover: Thank you for having me.
Russel: I’m really glad you’re here. First, I wanted to ask you, could you tell the listeners a little bit about yourself? Who are you? How’d you get into pipelining?
Jeremy: My name is Jeremy Groover. I’m a Principal for Industrial Degauss. I got into pipelining about 10 years ago. I worked at a small engineering firm who did some demagnetizing, mostly for generators and turbines at utilities. They did some pipeline work on the side. That’s where I first got into this.
About a year into that, actually when I got married, I met my wife’s uncle, turns out he was a welder for Williams. We got to talking. It turned out that the need for demagnetizing in pipeline welding was bigger than I had thought. I kept working at it, kept meeting more people. Now, say 10 years later, I started my own company in the business. I’m still in it.
Russel: That’s awesome. It’d be an interesting survey to do to find out just how much of what’s done, invented, or created in pipelining started with a family relationship or a conversation at a dinner or a conversation over a beer. I’m guessing it’s way more than 50 percent. [laughs]
Jeremy: It’s got to be pretty high.
Russel: It really is. It’s kind of a small community, right?
Jeremy: Exactly. Once you get in there, you meet some people. You realize they’re really great. You remember them, they remember you.
Russel: That’s really the whole reason I got anchored into the pipeline business. When I started meeting the people, I’m like, “These are great people. I want to make a career out of this. I like hanging with these guys.” I would say the same thing. I think probably the first question I want to ask is, why is demagnetizing important when you’re going to weld?
Jeremy: What happens in extreme cases, if your pipe is magnetized enough, you can’t weld at all. That’s the real bad part, is when a pipe can’t get put back together. The product can’t run. Nobody’s making money.
The basic science behind it is when you line up your joint and you have a magnetic field there, when you go to strike an arc, either you can’t strike the arc instantly because the magnetic field blows back the electricity, or what happens is as soon as you start melting that puddle down, you have liquid metal there. It gets blown out of the joint, or it only sticks to one side of the pipe.
It’s similar to if you take two magnets and put them close to each other. They repel each other. That’s the same principle going on.
Russel: Wow. You explain it really well. This is one of those things, we talked about this briefly before we got on the microphones here. This is one of the areas that I don’t know a whole lot about.
I tend to think visually. I’m sitting here. I’m thinking about a welder trying to weld, and if that liquid metal is getting pushed out of the joint because of a magnetic field, that takes a problem and makes it worse, I would assume.
Jeremy: The simple term you can visualize is they call it arc blow. It’s blowing back out. You’ll see some of the guys call it, it sounds like the Fourth of July and almost like a sparkler. It should have a nice sizzle, but it won’t. You’ll see the sparks flying. Then after they’re done, you’ll see little deposits about five, six inches away from the weld, where it should be.
Russel: Interesting. How does a pipeline get magnetized in the first place?
Jeremy: There’s a couple different ways. There’s a couple ways that make sense and a couple ways that are little crazy stories that you hear. The ways that make sense, it’s mostly through the inline inspection with the smart pigs, technically the MFL smart pigs, the magnetic flux leakage.
Russel: [laughs] You’ll appreciate this. I have done a number of episodes with a gentleman by the name of Marc Lamontagne. He’s an ILI guru. We did an episode on magnetic flux leakage. I was asking the question, what’s the drawback? He started talking about it could magnetize the pipe, but it’s not necessarily that big a problem. However, what I hear you saying is it can be quite a big problem.
Jeremy: Yeah. The hard part is a lot of times you don’t know until you run into it. A lot of the calls I get are you’re on a job site. They can’t weld. They’re down right now. They don’t know ahead of time.
Russel: That could be a problem. Now I’ve got the pipeline offline. I’ve got the crew mobilized. Everybody’s standing around, twiddling their thumbs. That’s not good.
Jeremy: Correct, no. That’s when I’ve got to rush, try to catch the next flight out, depending where it is. I call my wife, tell her I’m not coming home, [laughs] and then I go to work.
Russel: It’s kind of like “Who do you call? Mag Busters?” [laughs]
Russel: That’s interesting. You said there’s some simple ways. You mentioned MFL. How else would a pipeline become magnetized?
Jeremy: A lot of times, we see it when the right-of-way is in proximity to high voltage transmission lines. Also, you have the cathodic protection systems running on the pipelines. They send the current down it. That’ll magnetize it. Also, proximity to iron that’s in the ground. Here in the Northeast, we have a lot of iron, which ends up being magnetized naturally. That residual magnetism seeps into the pipeline.
Then in power plants, the pipelines work as a ground. You have energy going out. You need an energy return. They return through the pipelines and then down into ground. Those are the ways that make sense in your mind. You know the science behind it and you can see it in action.
Russel: What are some of the ways that don’t make sense?
Jeremy: They don’t make sense to me.
Jeremy: You’ll hear guys that say, “It traveled on a truck. The wind hitting it caused friction and that caused magnetism.”
Russel: Wait a second. Run that by me again. I put the pipe on a truck. I drive it. The wind’s blowing across it. The wind blowing across it causes it to become magnetized.
Jeremy: Correct. It doesn’t click in my mind. [laughs]
Russel: That sounds to me like something somebody made up.
Jeremy: That’s what you would think. Then you get into a discussion. I’ve met a couple, they’re old-timers so they’re a little set in their ways. They believe where you buy the pipe from makes a difference, if the pipe mill has higher standards.
Maybe that makes a little sense. I don’t know. To me, metal is metal. If it’s got the right mixture in it, it should all be the same.
Russel: You use a great term, the old-timers. My theory about that is when there’s some of this legacy knowledge, legacy experience…I know this because I’ve been doing it so long. My experience is there’s always some truth in that. The trick, from a science or engineering perspective, is to really understand what is that truth.
Jeremy: Yeah, you’re right.
Russel: What they’re saying is sometimes you get brand new pipe and it’s magnetized as soon as you drop it in the ground.
Jeremy: That’s what they’re saying.
Russel: That’s interesting. I’m curious what kind of engineering degree…Is this a metallurgy thing? What kind of engineering or science goes into the study of this?
Jeremy: I would say it’s metallurgy. I’ve been on a few sites where they suspected magnetism. I go out there and measure it, I don’t see it. They’ll take it out and take the spectrometer scope to it or whatever it is and find out the composition. I don’t know. It’s a little metallurgy. There’s a little electrical engineering in it, to know what you’re influencing into the metal.
Russel: Really, this discipline, if you want to call it that, is specialized enough that it’s not really the kind of thing that you study. I would assume that as long as you can demagnetize the pipe and weld it, you don’t really care.
Jeremy: That’s [laughs] how I’m going through it right now. You learn a lot through experience. There’s tons of welders out there. I’ve talked to young and old welders. Some run into it and know about it and are looking out for it proactively. Some welders have never dealt with a bad pipe at all.
Russel: Interesting. I guess I do a dig, I find out my pipe’s magnetized, and I need help. I’m sorry, I’m babbling here a little bit. I’m actually trying to process what that means from a construction or a maintenance standpoint about the realities of this. I guess in some areas, they come across it a lot. They’re looking at ways to fix it. In other areas, they never see it or rarely see it.
Jeremy: Typically, how I try to talk to somebody is if your line’s existing and it’s been pigged before and you’re going to cut into it, then you should plan for having magnetism issues there, whether it’s a delay or you get us on standby, something like that. Just be prepared. Any delays, 24 hour delay, it costs a lot of money.
Russel: Big time. Most of these guys that are taking pipes offline to do maintenance, they plan that stuff years, sometimes, in advance. They figure it out down to the minute so they minimize the amount of time that they’re going to be offline. To find a problem that you’ve got to fly somebody in, it’s going to take you an extra day. That’s a big deal.
Jeremy: Correct. If you’re one of those management that are lucky enough to have a completion bonus, I think you’d want to cover all your bases.
Russel: What I say when you’re planning that kind of work or, really, planning any kind of work, it’s not the thing that you think about and you don’t get the estimate right. It’s the thing you didn’t think about. That’s the one that causes you a problem.
As long as I have a contingency for what happens if the pipe’s magnetized, what do I do, and I’ve planned for it, that’s not that big a deal if my estimate’s off. If I don’t plan for it and I’ve got to deal with it once I get the ground open and the pipe split, that’s a big deal.
Jeremy: You get out there. In my experience, when I fly out there, either I get picked up right at the airport and the guy’s like, “Are you sure you can do this?” or I get to the site and everybody’s waiting for me. They say, “Here’s Jeremy. He’s the guy who’s going to fix this.”
Jeremy: They put a lot of pressure on you when you first show up there because they’re waiting. They’re chomping at the bit to get going.
Russel: Every minute they’re standing there, they’re losing money. The entire company has eyes on it. Probably a lot of the customers if they’re feeding a product to some kind of critical service. I’ve never been in that role in this life, but I’ve been in that role when I was in the military.
I’ve been in that role in some jobs I had, where I walked into a facility and the whole facility’s down. I’m the guy that’s got to show up and get the facility back online. We’ve been talking about the problem and how it manifests and how it comes up and such. Let’s talk about what do you have to do to demagnetize a pipeline so you can weld it effectively.
Jeremy: The basic thing you need to do is remove the magnetism.
Russel: How do you do that?
Jeremy: I think they know how. What you need to do is you’re basically injecting a opposite magnetic field into the pipe.
Russel: I’m an engineer, but I’m certainly not an electrical or metallurgical engineer. I’m thinking about this. It’s kind of the opposite of what you do when you generate power. When I’m generating power, I take magnets. I run them through a field. That creates power generation. This is kind of the opposite of that, right?
Jeremy: It’s the opposite, correct. You’re sending a current through a wire to create a magnetic field.
Russel: Conceptually, that makes sense. I need to put a wire around the pipe, put current through the wire and, bingo, I’ve demagnetized. What would be the old school way of doing that? You’ve got a savvy old welder and they’ve been welding for a long time. What would they do that would be the old school way of solving this problem?
Jeremy: The old school way is using your welding leads. What they do is they’ll wrap their leads around the pipe and then strike an arc. In that process, you’re sending a current through your welding leads. That creates a magnetic field.
Russel: That makes sense to me, that that could work, but I would imagine that’s using a sledgehammer when you might need a scalpel kind of way of doing it.
Jeremy: It’s not the right tool for the job. What you run into is there’s no clear cut procedure for that. You say wrap the welding leads. Then you get into differences. How many times do I wrap it? What direction do I wrap it, counterclockwise or clockwise? How far away from the weld do I put it? How many amps do I strike an arc at? How long do I run it? Then how do I know if I got it right?
Russel: Man, that’s a lot. [laughs]
Jeremy: There’s a lot of issues to it.
Russel: This is one of those things I say all the time. Everything is easy until you know enough about it. Everything’s complex if you know enough about it. That’s one of the things I love about having these kind of conversations because I learn so much.
I’m just sitting here and I’m thinking about this. The things that would probably affect me is how strong is the field, what’s the diameter of the pipe, what’s the wall thickness of the pipe. All those things would be variables that I’m trying to adjust for. All the things you listed are the things you would do to compensate, to try and take that magnetic field out to zero.
Russel: That doesn’t sound easy to me.
Jeremy: No and there’s a lot to it. It’s trial and error. Even if you know, even if you’ve done it before, every pipe is a new project here. It’s new variables, again, it’s just trial and error. That leads to costing time. There’s no guarantee that you’re going to fix it.
Russel: For the listeners, I ran into Jeremy and his company, Industrial Degauss, at the World Gas Conference. I guess it’s been about a month ago now. I was really fascinated, and I’ve been looking for people that could come in and talk about some of these subjects around welding and construction and so forth. I got really interested in what they were doing.
Jeremy was very kind to agree to come on and talk about this. I remember standing in your booth. You had a really interesting demonstration about your equipment, how it works and what you’re doing. Maybe you could walk the listeners through what you guys have and how it’s used.
Jeremy: Our equipment uses the same theory. It’s wrapping a cable around the pipe. What we’ve tried to do is make it as simple as possible to use and use the least amount of time to do the job. What you do is we have our Degauss cable. It’s a specially designed cable for this. You wrap that around the pipe, maybe about a foot away from your weld.
Then we have a power controller, you plug the cable into the power controller. Our controller, it’s only got three buttons and one knob. It’s simple to use. The equipment also comes with a Gauss meter. You need the Gauss meter, this is what measures your magnetism. Just like a thermometer measures temperature, this Gauss meter measures magnetism.
We take our Gauss meter and we put it in the joint. We measure the magnetism that we have. Say we have 100 Gauss. 100 Gauss is pretty strong. It’s not the strongest we’ve seen, but it’s higher than most any standards that are written, they’re company standards. Most call for 30 Gauss or under.
With 100 Gauss, we’re too high to weld. What we do is we turn the power controller on. We select one of the outputs. We have a negative and positive output. You press a button and you start turning up the knob. You watch your meter. If we start going higher than 100, all we do is press stop. Hit the other output, say the positive output.
Start turning the knob, and we’ll watch that meter come from 100 down toward 0. Once you get as close to zero as you can get it, you let your guys weld. This process maybe takes 10 minutes from opening up the equipment case, wrapping the cable to measuring and setting to zero.
Russel: Fascinating. The thing that was really fascinating to me when I saw you guys at the gas conference was two things. One, first, I knew that magnetism could be a problem only because of the conversation I had had with Marc Lamontagne about magnetic flux leakage as an inspection technology.
I didn’t really realize how big a problem it could be or how it impacted welding. Seeing that, it was kind of compelling. What’s interesting to me as well is that, at any of the shows I’ve gone to, I’ve never really run across something anywhere similar to what you guys are doing. What’s the nature of the market? Do people realize that tools like this are even available?
Jeremy: There’s two things here. One is the market should be expanding. Now that, at least here in the U.S., you have to inspect your lines more often, that means that these smart pigs are going to be used more times. Now, more pipelines should become magnetized.
As we go through time here, magnetism issues should become more prevalent. The other end is, and I think they see it in every industry. As I get older, you keep seeing this more and more, is the knowledge gap between the old-timers and the new guys coming in. The old-timers knew to wrap their leads to try to do it. At the worst, they battled through it. Now, these new guys, you have to teach them.
That’s why we’re out here at these shows, to try to educate that there is a product out here that can save you time, make the job easier, and get your weld completed.
Russel: I think that’s a really interesting point about the older guys versus the newer guys. There’s a lot that exists in our industry that’s experience, that just comes from years and years and years of doing something and coming across all kinds of problems and figuring out how to solve them.
Jeremy, I don’t know about you. The things I learned the best were the things that were problems that caused me to be out in the site longer than I wanted to be, with more people looking over my shoulder than I cared to have looking over my shoulder. Those are always the lessons that are the most well learned, I guess [laughs], would be the way to say it.
Jeremy: It’s that pressure creates diamonds or something like that. Not calling myself a diamond, but it’s a good memory that you’ll remember.
Russel: Stress will burn a memory in. Good stress, bad stress, it doesn’t matter. It burns the memory in. These older guys that have been doing it for a long time, one of the challenges is they’ve figured out how to do it, but they don’t necessarily know how to teach it.
Teaching it and doing it’s not the same thing. Not to mention I would assume that for you to get to a site, if you’re at a site, for you to get set up and get somebody ready to weld, it’s probably a fraction of the time than it would take doing it the old-school way.
Jeremy: Like I said, once you get to a site, if you’re through all your safety, your orientation, whatever and I’m ready to go, like I said, maybe it takes 10, 15 minutes at the most to get ready and have them welding.
Russel: Wow. That’s big deal. That’s big deal.
Jeremy: I’ve been on sites where they’ve been down for two weeks trying to mess around with bringing in other welding machines, bringing in NDT equipment to try to demagnetize it. Like I said, I’ll come in there. In a fraction of the time, they’re welding. They’re like, “I should have called you sooner.”
Jeremy: I say, “Yes.”
Russel: I’ll bet people don’t make that mistake more than once.
Jeremy: No. No, they don’t. That’s another key point of trying to educate people that we’re out here.
Russel: What would be the big trade shows where you find people that are doing pipeline construction or welding showing up? Have you all been able to identify that?
Jeremy: We’ve done a few so far. We did the PPIM show, the Pipeline Pigging Show in Houston earlier this year. We had a lot of attention at our display. We went to the Tulsa Pipeline and Energy Expo, again, this spring. Again, we got a good draw from there and got some good contacts.
The World Gas Conference, I didn’t know how it was going to be. It seemed very corporate, but we actually got a lot of attention there. I don’t know what it is, but we got a lot of attention there as well.
Russel: That’s interesting. I’ve actually had a number of conversations with various vendors and attendees about the World Gas Conference. That show was huge and there were some immense booths. The impression I came away is this is super big oil and gas companies talking to nation states about super big projects. That was kind of my takeaway from that show.
Jeremy: That’s the thing. We were joking around with my partner that was there. We’re looking for the guys wearing jeans because [laughs] those are the guys we figured we could talk to. We met a lot of welding managers, that case where they were probably there for the conference, for the actual courses, and then saw a piece of pipe and walked over to us.
Russel: Interesting. I would think that the pipeline construction companies would be a good target for you guys as well.
Jeremy: We’re going to try. In September, we have the International Pipeline Show up in Calgary. We’re going to try that out. Also, slightly different but in the power generation, in the power plants or refineries, we’re trying to hit that market. We’ll be at the POWER-GEN show in December.
Russel: This is awesome. We’re getting to the end here. I want to try and wrap this up a little bit. One of the things I try to do is sum up what I’m hearing into three key takeaways. For me, this is new information, new technology, stuff I’m not familiar with.
Here’s my three key takeaways. One is not all pipe is magnetized, but much pipe can be, particularly as it’s being inspected with MFL tools. That trying to weld magnetized pipe or trying to demagnetize pipe can be very challenging and can be very disruptive, particularly when you’re planning downtime.
You guys have a way to do it that’s pretty simple and straightforward. I think if I were involved in welding, doing dig plans or construction, I’d want to know more about what you guys are doing. Hopefully, we can help you get the word out a little bit.
I love guys that have an idea that they came up talking around the dinner table and just figured that they needed to invest in making that happen. I really appreciate you coming on board and certainly wish you the best. Who knows, we may ask you back because this subject may come up again.
Jeremy: I don’t mind.
Russel: Thanks so much being our guest. If the listeners wanted to find out more about Industrial Degauss, how would they get in touch with you guys?
Jeremy: The easiest way is our website, which is just www.industrialdegauss.com.
Russel: You might spell Degauss for those of us that don’t know about such things.
Jeremy: Sure. It’s D as in dog E-G-A-U-S-S.
Russel: Thanks again for being on the podcast. We look forward to running into you again.
Jeremy: Thanks, Russel.
Russel: I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of the Pipeliners Podcast as much as I did. I learned a great deal from Jeremy. I hope you did too. Just a reminder before you go. You should register to win our customized Pipeliners Podcast YETI tumbler. Simply visit pipelinerspodcast.com/win to enter yourself in the drawing.
Russel: If you have ideas, questions, or topics that you would be interested in, please let us know on the Contact Us page at pipelinerspodcast.com, or you can reach out directly to me on LinkedIn. My profile name is Russel Treat. Thanks again for listening. I’ll talk to you next week.
Transcription by CastingWords