With hot tapping procedures now commonplace in many industries, there are a plethora of companies worldwide offering both hot tapping services and equipment. Unfortunately, as with any industry, there are accidents that result from improper hot tapping procedures or faulty equipment. Trained and qualified personnel, reliable equipment, and parts specifically designed to meet the needs of the line being accessed are all vital keys to a successful and safe procedure. Accepting a lower standard in any of these areas could result in a tragic accident.
Even though it is generally considered safe and reliable, it requires individuals who understand the process as well as all the potential problems. Right off the bat, an understanding of high pressure systems and how they operate is essential. This begins at the design phase where custom-built systems must be able to withstand the pressure and the environment where the hot tap will be employed. Even a slight miscalculation in this area could end up being a significant problem.
In addition, when hot tapping operations are manually operated or assisted, the integrity of the personnel involved is vital. Workers need to follow specific instructions to the letter as well as practice all safety procedures. This is especially true in deep water situations where the condition of high pressure lines is often unknown. Workers who are lax in procedure or safety regulations are simply inviting disaster.
Proper Equipment and Parts
Because each hot tapping scenario is different from the next, most companies providing equipment and parts do so on a customized, case-by-case basis. Parts and equipment must be designed to meet the specific needs of the project and its unique environment. Therefore, it is essential that these parts and equipment can handle the job. Using a supplier with a long standing reputation for quality is always a good idea.
At the forefront of this area is the actual hot tapping machine itself. Some materials are harder to tap into than others, and the machine used must be appropriate for the material. The machine must drill the hole, insert the valve, and then retract the bit; all while maintaining the integrity of the line. A machine incapable of doing this properly is an open invitation to disaster.
In addition, valves and sleeves rated it for the pressure and able to be sealed airtight are also vital. A soft seal sleeve, for instance, is necessary in an environment where using a standard welder would be impractical or dangerous. Such soft seal sleeves typically use a self-sealing liquid gasket material to ensure it is airtight.
If these procedures are done properly, they are relatively safe and easy to perform. Not only do they allow for the service of high pressure lines without having to interrupt those lines, the procedure can often be done in a matter of hours, if not minutes, per tap. The convenience and money-saving aspects of hot tapping only add to its attractiveness.