Whether planned or not, plant outages are common in the industrial community.
When it comes to energy, oil refining, and other liquid and gas processing facilities, even with today’s modern industrial practices and operators’ emphasis on safety, there are consequences tragic events occur in the maintenance, repair and inspection of systems. Documented cases are scattered throughout the media and on YouTube showing collapsed piping systems from faulty materials, explosions ignited by steam releases, public exposure to chemical fumes from open lines, and even faulty products. used to isolate and test lines which resulted in immeasurable financial losses. losses, injuries and deaths.
Every incident that occurs provides an opportunity to learn and improve existing processes and technology. These opportunities should be used to rethink the processes and technologies used to isolate and test these systems with the aim of improving the safety and reliability of tools and systems. As part of this, USA Industries Inc. has completely redesigned the essential gripping technology used in pipe insulation and test plugs with its brand new line of GripSafe® pipe plugs.
The first registered patents for pipe plugs date back to the 1890s, and it wasn’t until 1945 that a more modern grip pipe plug was introduced. After more than half a century of various industries using the same basic technology, with known incidents of catastrophic plug ejection, USA Industries realized that there was a critical need to improve type plug technologies. gripping and then designed the GripSafe Pipe Capping System. Today’s modern metal alloy piping systems allow high pressure containment and large diameters. These factors require a gripper plug to safely hold up to several million pounds of force during hydraulic testing. Earlier socket designs do not safely withstand these aggressive demands.
Modern gripping pipe plugs use one of two retention modes, jack bolts or serrated pliers. Plugs using jack bolts have a polar array of threaded holes aligned radially inside a pipe. For each threaded hole, a bolt must be installed by an operator who must tighten each one evenly. This type of gripping system is limited to maintaining substantially lower pressures than the serrated gripping design. Failure to accurately tighten all bolts evenly significantly reduces the pressure-holding ability of the plug. In addition, the holding capacity of this system is also reduced if the plug is inadvertently installed on a slope. Further reduction in holding capacity is seen in harder and stronger alloy piping materials.
Undeniably, the serrated gripping system is a huge improvement over cylinder bolts. Plugs with this system incorporate a solid cone with metal clamps that move up and out, inside the pipe wall via clamping compression bolts. As with the screw jack solution, this system has shortcomings. When a force is applied to the plug, the initial energy exerted on the clamps inside the pipe is exceeded by many due to the mechanical advantages of the angular geometry of the cone. Therefore, as pressure is exerted on the plug, the clamps drive deeper into the wall of the pipe, thus allowing greater pressure retention than the initial installation forces. The deep, sharp grooves of these pliers dig into the wall of the pipe, leaving heavy scars even though the cap has not been subjected to any pressure.
Pipe manufacturing practices reveal that the pipes are not perfectly round and often have irregularities inside the wall such as weld seams. With the serrated clamp design, the clamps are driven up the cone by a single plate; collectively, they all share the same relative position with respect to the cone. This geometric constraint can limit the number of contact points the clamps have when engaging with the unrounded pipe wall, effectively reducing the holding capabilities of the plug. Since the serrations must sink deep into the pipe wall for proper engagement, the holding capabilities of these systems are also reduced when applied against harder and stronger alloy piping materials. A recognized manufacturer of grip caps designed a transverse serrated pattern in their grip design. While this improves corner-to-wall engagement, customers have noticed that it also increases the depth of pipe wall penetration damage. Scars left in the pipe often need to be removed by grinding or removing the affected sections entirely, reducing the benefit of using a plug. Additionally, once put into service, serrated edges should be carefully inspected between each subsequent use, as damage from previous uses can significantly reduce the holding capabilities of this type of plug.
The new GripSafe plugging system solves these problems by using an independently actuated wedge system with a proprietary long-lasting surface coating called Gritlock ™ which is durable and stronger than the steel piping it engages with. Independent actuation works by using heavy duty springs to propel the wedges up an inclined plane and then into the pipe wall. After proper preparation of the plug for installation in the pipe, the wedges automatically engage when inserting into the pipe wall, ensuring that the plug is properly secured in the pipe before a single bolt is tightened . This automatic locking feature provides the highest level of security currently available in the industry.
In addition, independent actuation of the wedge system allows the gripping mechanism to adjust freely to all pipe eccentricities, including weld joints, voids, areas of runout, etc. Plus, against harder and stronger alloy piping materials, the plug’s Gritlock coating clings powerfully to the pipe wall without leaving scars or deformation. Like the single cone serrated wedge solution, the inclined planes of the GripSafe wedge system provide the same mechanical advantage; with more force applied to the plug, Gritlock engages a stronger grip on the pipe wall. Unlike the Serrated Wedge Solution, GripSafe’s Gritlock Coated Wedges do not need to penetrate deep into the pipe wall to utilize superior adhesion. This is accomplished by having a larger area at the contact area of the pipe wall. In the worst case, the inner wall of the pipe is left with negligible marks, like what would be left after using a large piece of sandpaper. However, in most scenarios, there is no discernible indication that an outlet has been installed.
USA Industries has taken pipe plug gripping technology to a whole new level of user safety and reliability beyond competitive products. Upon inspection, you will see that USA Industries’ massive investment in its redesigned and professionally designed GripSafe line of pipe insulation and test plugs stand out from the crowd. Stay tuned for more interesting information from USA Industries Inc. on its new line of isolation and test plugs, including news on GripSafe’s superior Tri-Ply ™ seal technology.
For more information on GripSafe and all of the best products made by USA Industries, visit www.USAIndustries.com/GripSafe-BIC or call (866) 254-1902.