Pressing: Speed, Ease and Reliability for Piping in the Power Industry

Overview

In the power engineering industry, especially in MRO situations, time is of the essence. Every second of downtime represents lost revenue. A shutdown during repair or modification of a piping system at a power plant can be harmful to a power plant’s bottom line.

However, recent innovations in press technology have made it possible to overcome many of the obstacles faced by the industry, from the shrinking supply of skilled labor to the balance of quality and efficiency.

This article will explain the benefits of Viega’s press technology and how the technology’s speed, consistency and ease of use can favorably impact a power plant by allowing contractors to complete more quality work in a shorter amount of time when compared to other joining methods.

Introduction to Pressing Technology

Viega pioneered pressing technology in North America in 1999 and has since become the new standard in pipe-joining technology for the industry.

Press technology minimizes the costs associated with other pipe joining methods, and in terms of installation time alone, press technology provides a savings of 50 to 90 percent. Viega offers several press technology systems designed for efficiency, ease-of-use and safety, including Viega ProPress® for copper and stainless, Viega MegaPress® for stainless, carbon steel, copper and copper-nickel and Viega MegaPress XL® for carbon steel, all of which expedite pipe installation on both the repair and new construction fronts.

Viega innovations continue to improve efficiency for more applications than ever before with new sizes and materials regularly being introduced for a broader range of applications. Continued innovations help keep projects on time and on budget.

Pressing, Welding and Threading Compared

Currently the typical incumbent technologies used in the power market for joining pipe are welding and threading. Each has their own challenges.

Welding is time consuming and requires skilled specialists with heavy-duty equipment and may require fire watches and hot work permits. Additional materials, filler metals and associated expenses are often required.

With welders, there is a variable skill set. Rarely is the same quality achieved every time a weld is made. The labor aspect is not the only factor. Weather and environmental conditions like high winds or extreme cold can slow the process and lead to lesser quality welds.

Like welding, threading is also very time and labor intensive because each of the pipe ends must be reamed and threaded using oil and thread sealant. Because the threading process requires cutting out portions of the outside of the pipe, the integrity of the pipe is compromised. (This is also true of grooving, a similar process to threading, but general used for smaller pipe sizes.) There is also the potential for contamination by cutting oil or filings from the threading process that can require flushing of the lines after the work has been completed.

Threading and grooving equipment are also quite costly investments, more expensive than a pressing tool. Couplings can also get very expensive, especially if specific zero-flex couplings are needed.

Threaded joints, over time (especially with stainless steel), will leak due to the constant pushing and pulling on each other that naturally causes them to loosen.

Piping takes time, time is money

Press fitting technology can reduce installation time significantly compared to welding and threading—all while providing a more secure, reliable joint. 

As a comparison, Viega’s MegaPress Stainless system completes a connection in seven seconds or less, which translates to 50 percent to 90 percent faster than welding or threading. For installed cost savings, pressing technology is approximately 30 percent less expensive in the total install cost when comparing pressing versus welding and threading. In labor costs, pressing is 80 to 90 percent more cost effective compared to welding and 30 to 50 percent more cost effective compared to threading, and up to 60 percent against grooving.

The speed at which Viega MegaPress allows workers to install piping means that more repairs and installations can be completed in the same amount of time, keeping projects on schedule and allowing installers to move on to the next project.

When factoring pressing technology versus welding and grooving, the cost of the pressing fitting becomes negligible, especially when considering the cost of plant shutdowns often far exceeds the repair costs. Reduction in downtime saves enormously on the overall costs for MRO projects.

No draining needed

Another benefit of the press system is that connections can be made wet or dry. The pipe system does not have to be fully drained or fully dry in order to be pressed, making it ideal for maintenance or emergency repair situations, and reducing costly downtime by decreasing plant shutdowns. With welding, a fully drained system, in dry weather (if outside) is required. With pressing, piping can be installed in the pouring rain and with condensation flowing out of the ends of the pipe.

No flames, no fumes

Since pressing technology is flameless, it is safer than traditional systems and eliminates the need for hot permits. There is also no need for flux, flammable gases or fumes, which makes the system easier and safer to setup than traditional pipe-joining methods. The pressing tools eliminate the need for expensive and cumbersome equipment including welding tanks and threading machines. The pressing system is also cleaner, since it requires no welding rods or cutting oils.

With pressing, the structural integrity of the pipe is also maintained, as no pipe material is removed. Pressing leaves no joining material buildup, exposed threads or tarnish, creating a clean, professional appearance.

Time savings (based on MCAA labor times and estimated XL install times)

 

Time Savings

Product

Weld (sch. 40)

Grooving

Threading

MegaPress

85-95%

40-60%

75-85%

MegaPress XL

80-92%

30-60%

60-75%

MegaPress Stainless Steel

80-95%

40-60%

75-90%

MegaPress Stainless Steel XL

88-95%

20-50%

75-85%


Pressing Consistency and Reliability

When it comes to new buildings in the power market, the consistency achieved with pressing is a huge benefit. Installers who use pressing technology make the same connection on every application, so the system maintains the same level of consistency, regardless of the technician’s experience or skill level. Minimal training is required to install press fittings, so installers in the field can make reliable connections with little experience. This leaves experienced welders the opportunity to focus on tasks that absolutely require welding and gives inexperienced installers time to hone their skills while still being able to immediately contribute to a project.

On new builds, where companies strive for the best possible estimate, one of the largest variables affecting the estimate is the variable labor cost. One welder could take an hour to weld a joint, while another, more experienced, welder could perhaps complete the weld in 45 minutes. That 15 minutes calculated over multiple fittings–often hundreds of fittings that are potentially being installed–becomes hours and hours, and the cost variable becomes a large number. By having consistency and reduced installation time, as with pressing technology, that variable labor cost number can be shifted into a computable fixed material cost.  

Viega MegaPress family of products for stainless steel, carbon steel and copper-nickel

Press technology is available for multiple metals, stainless steel and carbon steel (most prevalent in the power engineering industry), as well as copper and copper-nickel.

Available in ½” to 4″ sizes, Viega MegaPress is the first press fitting system developed for carbon steel pipe suitable for process water, compressed air and gas applications.

The MegaPress family of products also includes MegaPress Stainless, Viega’s offering for connections with Iron Pipe Size (IPS) stainless steel. MegaPress Stainless fittings are available in 304 and 316 stainless steel and are approved for use with Schedule 5 through Schedule 40 pipe. Currently Viega’s MegaPress Stainless system is designed for sizes ½” through 2″, but by the end of the year, a capacity for larger sizes, up to 4″, will be available.

Viega MegaPress®G fittings in sizes ½” through 2″ are the first press fittings on the market designed for Schedule 5 through Schedule 40 carbon steel pipe use in fuel oil and natural gas applications.

Viega MegaPress XL line is the newest extension of the Viega MegaPress family of products. Connections can be made on larger diameter Schedule 10 to Schedule 40 carbon steel pipe from 2 ½” to 4″ using the MegaPress XL PressBooster, specially designed to make the larger-sized connections. On average, MegaPress XL makes easy, secure connections in 16 seconds, saving up to 60 percent in installation costs and up to 90 percent in time compared to other joining methods.

In terms of pressing, Viega’s MegaPress technology is the only system on the market that can press standard Schedule 40 piping in stainless steel and carbon steel and the first to do so in carbon steel.

More than 600 Viega MegaPress fittings are available ranging in sizes from ½” to 4″ that include elbows, couplings, reducers, tees, reducing tees, threaded adapters, caps, flanges and unions. The fittings use a stainless steel grip ring with an EPDM sealing element for the Viega MegaPress system, or HNBR for the Viega MegaPressG, along with a stainless steel separator ring that ensures the sealing element and grip ring perform at maximum capacity. Viega MegaPress XL fittings feature an FKM sealing element that allows it to be installed in higher temperature (up to 284 degrees Fahrenheit, with spikes up to 356 degrees) applications.

Using the same versatile pressing tools already used by many contractors and maintenance staff, the Viega MegaPress system completes the press using modern cold press connections. One set of tools presses all MegaPress fittings.

Smart Connect Assurance

Another added feature of Viega’s pressing technology to ensure quality and reliability is its Smart Connect® technology, a patented design feature in all Viega’s metal fittings. The technology helps installers easily identify an unpressed fitting, providing added confidence in their ability to confirm the integrity of their connections. Welded joints must be x-rayed in order to receive similar assurance.

Certifications for power engineering piping

Viega’s pressing systems meet or exceed the most rigorous testing required by codes and standards in North America that govern the power process piping industry. The wide variety of certifications, codes and standards that Viega systems are compliant with include: ASTM A403, MSS SP-25, ASME B1.20.01, ASME B31 (31.1, 31.3, 31.9), ICC-ES, IAPMO PS-117, NSF 61 compliance (316 stainless) and FM and UL.

Conclusion

For power plants looking to improve their business, one obvious solution is to minimize critical plant downtime and the corresponding piping installation time to get the plant up and running. Using innovative pressing technology for faster pipe connections rather than traditional welding and threading technologies can be a key factor to keep revenue flowing and protect profitability, as well as keeping projects on schedule.

About the Author:

Dominic Kung is the Product Manager, Metals at Viega LLC. In this position, he is responsible for Viega’s heavy metal product lines, which includes Viega MegaPress for carbon steel and stainless, as well as oversight of new product development and product portfolio management.

Prior to joining Viega in 2016, Kung worked as U.S. Product Development Manager at Pason Systems USA. Kung earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Colorado-Boulder, Boulder, Colorado.

 

About Sponsor

The Viega Group, with a tradition of innovation for more than 115 years, has more than 4,000 employees worldwide and is among the leading manufacturers of pipe fitting installation technology. In metal press systems for industrial, commercial and residential projects, the company is the global market leader. In the U.S., Viega LLC employs more than 600 people and offers more than 3,000 products. These include Viega ProPress® for copper and stainless, Viega MegaPress® for carbon steel and stainless pipe, the Viega PureFlow® System including PEX and fittings in high-performance polymer and Zero Lead bronze, as well as MegaPress CuNi and SeaPress® systems for marine applications. Viega also specializes in the design, production and installation of ProRadiant heating and cooling systems, and offers In-Wall Flushing Technology including carriers and flush plates.

 

 

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