10 Tips For Leveraging Our ABSA-Approved Composite Repair Procedure

Composite Repair is a fibreglass pipe wrapping technology that can extend the life of your piping assets without requiring a shut down.

It’s an alteration that functions best as a way to extend asset life while providing resource flexibility.

It is a fully approved procedure in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and as you’ll learn in this document, can be approved in other jurisdictions once owners decide how they want to use the technology.

Discover 10 tips below for leveraging Composite Repair (Engineered Composite Systems) so that you can add flexibility to your maintenance strategy while reducing costly downtime by moving work away from your turnaround scope.

1. Why Use Composites?

Engineered Composite Systems(ECS) are a pipe wrapping repair technology where every application is custom engineered.

There’s no hot work involved, which means the work can be done outside of your turnaround. As a result, crucial resources can be allocated elsewhere.

It can be used in temperatures ranging from -75 to +220 degrees Celsius, and can withstand up to 3600 psi, making it flexible in usage.

As you’ll learn, it lasts as long as you need it to, and gives you more control over how you want to handle assets in your facility.

The lightweight fibreglass and epoxy technology provides you a high strength option for extending your piping life without interrupting operations.

2. How Long Composite Repairs Last

ECS Repairs can be designed to last however long you want them to last. A 2 year lifespan can be designed. A 5 year lifespan can be designed.

They can also be designed as permanent repairs with a 50 year lifespan. It’s just about understanding what the requirements of your unit are and how long you want the asset to last.

You select a date in the future that you want the asset to last until, and a design can be made to ensure it lasts until that date.

This means you can use Composite to make it until your next turnaround, or you can decide to extend the life of an asset with a permanent repair.

3. Getting Composites Approved

The ECS procedure is fully approved for use in Alberta. However, the process was tricky because of the way ABSA was willing to give the approval.

Instead of registering the design of a physical component, it was about registering the application of the repair - or more accurately, the alteration.

The industry came together with ABSA to develop an agreeable process for how the industry could leverage ECS - Engineered Composite Systems.

So today we have a document AB-539, which lists out what you need to do to register both the procedure and the application, and instructs you how to design, produce and manufacture the materials required to meet AB-539 for Engineered Composite Systems.

To get approval as an owner, it’s up to you to explain to your Pressure Authority how you intend on altering the piping with an ECS procedure.

Grabbing a copy of AB-539 will lay everything out for you, but the most important thing is that you include ECS into your Quality Management System as a type of alteration.

One of the biggest delays in getting the procedure approved was that no matter how many times it was asked, ABSA never gave us the go ahead.

It was because they didn’t want to tell us what to do. But, when we told them exactly how we planned to use it, we were able to get a procedure registered.

If you’re familiar with AB-521, the procedure for Pressure Enclosures, you can leverage much of what you wrote in there to transfer over to Composites.

However, getting it approved will depend on your root cause analysis and risk assessment(discussed in the next section).

That being said, ABSA has based their approval on what they’re familiar with, Engineered Pressure Enclosures.

So, within the regulation, Composites have a two year registration. But, it’s completely possible to extend it with a redone risk assessment.

4. Your Risk Assessment and Responsibility

As the owner, you’re responsible for a risk assessment based on your root cause analysis and integrity assessment.

Why is your pipe leaking or failing? What’s the root cause? Do you know if a Composite Repair will make any difference? This is where it starts.

Then it moves into the risk assessment before maintenance, monitoring and the removal date.

Inside of your risk assessment, you would identify what the risks of failure are within the next two years. You could look at the risks to personnel, or the risks to the environment.

These get accepted as part of the registration.

Then there’s a maintenance and monitoring plan. This means for example, “I’m going to perform a visual assessment at x frequency.”

The Pressure Authority won’t dictate that frequency for you.

You could do a tap test to feel for soft spots or bonding failures. Or you could do an X-Ray on the Composite if the unit is down and not scheduled for repair.

With these different inspection methods, you can determine how the defects have grown and whether it’s still within the parameters of the design, or is expected to grow outside the parameters of the design.

And at the end of the 2 year registration, you redo your risk assessment, and you either increase or keep your maintenance and monitoring program the same.

With this, you can apply for an extension and easily get another 2 years, and you continue that process until you can no longer demonstrate an equivalent level of safety within the repair.

5. Working With Your Installer on Approval

The ECS registration process is not just about you, the owner. There are two parts to it, and we refer to it as ECSPS - Engineered Composite System Procedure Specification.

Think of this like your welding procedure and PQR combo that has to get registered in advance.

When you decide you want to register a process, your installer would pick a Composite material and you’d look at a range of applications.

The great thing about Composites is that it doesn’t matter what the diameter of your pipe is. And it doesn’t matter what the pressure is.

However, the legislation has placed a 500 psi limit on what’s approved so that helps to narrow in on the procedures of how you can build it.

The first thing that needs to happen is an installer registering enough procedures to cover all the bases of what might be faced in the field.

The second thing is simply about the application for the owner, and it looks like this:

“We’ve got this specific application we want to repair, and we’re going to show the Pressure Authority that we can do it with Composites with an equivalent level of safety as a traditional means.”

And inside of that are all the steps that need to happen.

So it requires the owner and installer working together to achieve an approved process.

6. Competency

Competency is a big part of a successful ECS job, just like it would be in any other procedure.

No number of certificates is really going to demonstrate how competent an installer is.

It takes years to develop the competencies for successful ECS installation. If you’re not using a contractor who lives and breathes Composites, you’re not guaranteeing a high quality repair.

In the same way you wouldn’t hire a welder who has no experience or track record, Composites need to be treated the same way.

The early days of Composite Repair have a history of being a bandaid repair - firstly because of contractors performing ECS after a 2 day training event. Second because they’ve used it like plumbers tape to patch something up.

If you hire somebody who has only gone through a training course, you’re going to get the plumber’s tape, not an Engineered Composite Repair.

Make sure your installer has a proven track record of success with Composites before you hire them. Which leads into the next point...

7. Getting Consistent Results

If you have to really work with your contractor to understand how they prove competency and develop their procedures, you’d likely be doing yourself a disservice.

In Innovator’s case, with ECS being such a focus for us over the last 10 years, we have this documentation readily available. It’s already written into our Quality Management System.

It was written in before Composites were adopted in legislation in preparation for this.

You’ll get better results with Composites if you select someone at the forefront of versus someone reacting to industry changes.

It should be easy for the installer to produce Proof of Competency that’s acceptable by the Pressure Authority.

It should all be easy. If it isn’t easy, that’s a sign that the installer doesn’t have the competency to produce successful, consistent ECS results.

8. ECS' vs. ECE's

There’s a lot of similarities between what ECS(Engineered Composite Systems) can do and what EPE’s(Engineered Pressure Enclosures) can do.

You can use an ECS to repair a thinning section of pipe. You can use ECS to repair a pinhole leak.

But these aren’t the main advantages.

The best place to leverage ECS is with asset longevity. Focusing more on leak prevention, than leak repair.

One example where you might use ECS over EPE’s would be weight. If you have to put a 1000 pound leak repair enclosure on your large diameter piping, then Composites might be a better option.

But if during an inspection, you notice a section of pipe that is starting to degrade, then you have the option to extend that life with ECS. There’s still life left, but that asset is going to be elevated to another level of inspection with increased man hours and costs if left undealt with.

So instead of escalating inspection activities, you can just wrap that asset, remove it from the inspection loop, and focus your inspection activities elsewhere.

It allows you to be proactive instead of reactive. You can extend the life of your assets to move them off the turnaround to free up resources.

If for example, you knew you had a year left on a section of pipe, you could use ECS to extend the life of that asset so you can take it out of your turnaround scope.

ECS is best thought about and used as a way to extend asset life as part of a maintenance strategy, not as an alternative to leak repair.

9. The Importance of Surface Preperation

In the earlier stages of ECS, as already mentioned, installers were applying Composites like plumbers tape. There was very little understanding of what is involved in Composites, and the poor surface preparation led to Composites failing.

Proper surface preparation is the most important part of the Composite Repair process.

Yet as with many training events where conditions are ideal, the importance of surface preparation isn’t completely understood by someone who is new to Composites.

You’re given sandblasted components to wrap. But of course this isn’t the case in the field, and if they just try to apply what they’ve learned, it will lead to poor surface preparation, which has led to many failed Composite Repairs.

Because of this history, we’ve leaned heavily into the proper training and inspection of surface preparation.

For most Composite installation companies, surface preparation is a third party activity. This means you’re leaning on the client to bring in a third party blaster.

Or you’re seeking one and qualifying them in safety and quality. This all takes a ton of time and resources.

At Innovator, we’ve built our own grit blasting skid we take with us to any project. There is no third party surface prep.

This means you save money by eliminating two or three people out of the project and the complexity of coordinating, because the same team is doing the prep and the install.

This also increases accountability, since the same provider is doing both the surface prep and the installation.

Make sure you work with an installer that understands the complexities of Composite surface prep.

10. Replacing Pipe in 2022

The first thing to think about when deciding if Composites are right for you is weighing the cost of a permanent repair versus the cost of the alteration with ECS.

Obviously Composites will be less expensive, but there are things to consider.

If you have to spend 50% or 30% of the cost to do a permanent replacement, then it might make sense to leave that for the turnaround.

But if you have a resource crunch, or if there is a schedule conflict with your turnaround team, or there’s a lack of manpower, or a lack of inspection resources - there are many of these items that can be alleviated.

You could extract some of these either identified degrading pipelines and pull them forward in a scope, or let them go through a turnaround to then wrap afterwards.

Then you could take them out of the Turnaround repair scope.

With ECS, you’re completely restoring the integrity of the asset.

Think of the Return On Investment(ROI).

If you purchased an asset and expected to get 10 years out of it, and now you’re repairing it in year 6 or 7, then that’s 3 years worth of life you didn’t get, and it wasn’t a good investment.

If you use Composites to extend that life to 10 years(or longer), now you’ve made a small change, and you’re going to get a much better ROI for that asset.

If you want to impact your Turnaround schedule, identify pipelines that can be extracted out from that and repaired via Composite to be put back in operation.

Then you can push the full repair down the road and be very strategic about what you want to repair and how you want to allocate your resources.

If you’re replacing something every other turnaround, or more often than you’d like, maybe the answer is to instead use Composites to double or triple that life.

Look at where you can get the most value by extending the life of a particular asset so that you can focus resources on completing your critical shutdown tasks.

Engineered Composite Systems can add a ton of flexibility to your maintenance strategy, allowing you to shift resources around and focus on what’s most important at your facility.

With the ability to extend pipe life outside of a turnaround, you can get more value out of your assets and reduce shutdown time.

Innovator has been working with Composites for the last 10 years. It’s already written into our Quality Management System, even before it was adopted in the legislation.

As an installer who’s been heavily involved in Composites, we have the people who are familiar with the details that go into an ECS.

Because there are so many applications, there are different types of materials, surface preparation, different wrapping methods - it takes years to develop the competencies.

Unlike during the early stages of Composite, where failures were common due to lack of understanding, every aspect of ECS has been nailed down.

If you’re in a jurisdiction where Composite is not an approved process, examine your assets and determine where Composites can be safely applied to extend asset life.

Take it to your Pressure Authority and outline how it would be useful for your application based on your risk assessment and how you can show an equivalent level of safety that the Authority is used to.

Don’t wait for Composite to be worked into the legislation. Be proactive with your asset teams and tell your Pressure Authority how you want to use Composite.

Based on what’s happened over the past couple of years, we believe if you’re proactive, Composites can get accepted in any jurisdiction in Canada.

Get in touch with us to understand how you can use Composites to their greatest value at your facility.

Whether you’re looking to get ECS alterations done to extend the life of your assets, providing resource flexibility...

Or you’re looking for help getting Composite approved in your jurisdiction...

We can help.

Listen to Our Podcast Episode All About Our ECS ABSA Approval