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Driving safety improvements in hot bolting vs the “way it’s always been done”

For safety professionals, one of the most dangerous phrases in industry is “that’s the way it’s always been done”. It's a sure-fire way of keeping your company parked at the roadside instead of journeying to its next milestone.

There are numerous examples of companies which have failed to embrace change and many are now in the rearview mirror or on the scrapheap.

At Hydratight, we work in industries where hot bolting practices are becoming increasingly common and show good results, but customers, technicians and teams using these processes should understand that improvement is always possible.

Reliance on external guidance from industry bodies without tailoring it to be company specific can mean that proper maintenance practices are poorly taught and implemented, affecting understanding and safety.

Hot bolting is the process of replacing corroded or damaged bolts fitted to live pressurized flanges, and is a widely used method in oil and gas to extend the life of aging assets without disrupting operations. Work on live plants, containing dangerous fluids or gases, demands the highest standards of not only care and attention, but knowledge and experience too.

In many cases, technologies which are now considered obsolete for hot bolting by reputable practitioners are still used. Hydraulic or mechanical G/C clamps, for example, are proven to be unreliable as they can slip, cause gasket damage or suffer load transfer failure. Crucially, they are not recommended as a best practice by the American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME).

The industry recognized MorSafe™ Flange Clamp is one tool which greatly enhances safe working practices on bolted joint assemblies. It is covered by ASME’s PCC-2 Repair of Pressure Equipment and Piping standard alongside the G/C restraint clamps, but Hydratight has proven MorSafe as the safest of the industry accepted options and uses it as a default hot bolting practice.

The clamp, which fits the majority of applications, is an example of our constant drive for increased safety and simplicity in design. It is designed in segments which encase the flange and maintain gasket stress, allowing the bolts to be removed and replaced while the line remains active, avoiding costly shutdowns.

It has become a recognized solution globally and is independently certified with DNV GL Type Approval for offshore applications, such as securing pressurized flange connections with degrading bolting and for maintaining integrity during live bolting.

Hydratight works to standards set out by ASME, Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) and Step Change in Safety for mechanical joint integrity technical training and testing. Combined with our tailored rigorous processes, competent technicians and preferred equipment, this ensures all safety standards are met.

We are in regular contact with standards bodies, providing our feedback on techniques and technologies. For all international standards we adhere to, we ensure through our own rigorous processes that our people and equipment provide up-to-date, approved advice and solutions.

An industry business that takes the initiative and challenges the status quo has the chance to improve working practices and safety. We are committed to asking questions and working to identify and implement better procedures.

Hot bolting is not a process that can be parked at the roadside and forgotten about, it must progress with understanding of the hazards and constant risk that exists. If processes are questioned and standards are improved at a global level, there will be a smoother ride for all.