Colorado, 2006 — Squeezing off polyethylene (PE) pipe to stop flow is nothing new to the Natural Gas Industry. The industry has been utilizing the procedure for over 20 years to control the flow of gas in their lines. Now larger gas producers like XTO Energy are looking at the technology to help them become more efficient in their larger diameter pipe operations. The added environmental benefits of the procedure are also winning accolades from the industry and the result for companies like XTO is a bottom line that is the same color as the pipe — black.
PE pipe has the unique ability to be squeezed similar to that of pinching down on a water hose. The material is resilient and the procedure does not damage the integrity of the pipe or in any way affect pressure performance. The proper tools must be used however. Squeeze Tools allow for the safe control of gas & fluid within the line similar to that of a valve, but the tool can be used almost anywhere on the line. Most of these tools are used every day on small diameter service lines and smaller diameter main lines for tie in work and third party line breaks. But until recently, many in the gas industry did not know larger diameter squeeze tools were even available.
XTO Energy is a Natural Gas Production Company with drilling and producing operations in the Rockies. While looking for ways to reduce the lost gas when bringing on new wells, XTO found big savings with a technology they had been using for quite some time but didn’t know existed for larger pipe.
It is like putting your finger in a vice and tightening until the blood stops verses continuing until the bone crushes
“When our supplier, John Trimble with SECOR, told us that we could squeeze off our large diameter lines and not loose any gas, we became intrigued,” said Tim Hare, Superintendent of XTO. “In order to safely accomplish a tap on a larger diameter line in the past, we would have to shut down our main lines from the compressor and wells. Now we just squeeze it off and add the tap.”
Some gas producers and their contractors have made “homemade tools” that do not have any safety gap stops to prevent over squeezing of the HDPE pipe. “It is like putting your finger in a vice and tightening until the blood stops verses continuing until the bone crushes,” said Trimble of SECOR. SECOR is a polyethylene pipe and McElroy Fusion Machine distributor as well as a fittings manufacturer based in Houston. They have locations in seven states and serve every industry that uses polyethylene pipe. “XTO had a need and we had the solution,” says Trimble. Trimble is speaking of SECOR’s involvement in the implementation on the use of an 18″ Mustang Squeeze tool that XTO was eager to use on future projects.
XTO’s first set of tools was the Mustang MFG. DBH-1200 which handled their 6″, 8″ 10″ & 12″ HDPE pipe with great success. On the environmental side of the equation they noticed a substantial reduction in methane being released during blow down of the lines or purging after the work was completed. But when XTO wanted to stop the flow on a 16″ main line, they discovered it was possible with a squeeze tool. The largest production squeeze tool made at the time had been a DBH-1800, which can squeeze up to 18″ IPS HDPE pipe. The original set was made for a Gas Utility for emergency use around the Pentagon.
“We looked at options of shutting down our system and bleeding down all of the gas in the 16″ main lines and felt that we could safely eliminate not only the loss of production, but also the loss of gas by not having to bleed the whole main line down,” said Hare. XTO, didn’t hesitate to take advantage of another set of tools to accommodate any and all sizes of HDPE in their system from 2″- 18″.
“Given the economic nature of the gas market these tools easily justified there purchase price in the simple equation that gas left in the pipeline is money in the bank,” said Hare. XTO were experts in using the 12-inch and smaller tools and were also experts in the McElroy Butt Fusion Procedure so all they had to do was jump to the larger size. “Success is measured in many ways and by using the Mustang Squeeze tools it shows how we can look after our system in a reliable and safe way,” said Hare.
“After the success of the DBH-1800, SECOR is actively discussing designs on a new larger 24-inch squeeze tool,” said Trimble. “We are eager to find out how large we can go with the tools and with the increased use of larger diameter HDPE pipe in the Water industry; we see a big need there. The long proven techniques of squeeze-off will help end users not only control flow within their pipelines, the additional environmental and economical benefits will more than make up for the cost.”