The Case of the 500 Bbl Oilfield Fracking Tanks Failed Welds
Mobile, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) tanks for oil-well drilling operations were purchased by a leasing company for use in northern states throughout the USA. The steel tanks were intended to transport drilling fluids and store oil well liquids when at the wellsite. The tank manufacturer warranted the tanks to meet all regulatory requirements. The tank welds leaked and did not meet industry standards or satisfy any regulations. Manufacturing used an improper design code, welding procedures, welder certifications and inspection criteria. Many welds were defective, leaking and did not meet standards. The EPA requirements govern at all well sites in the USA.
After original fabrication, the structural steel welds and steel pipe welds were inspected by forensic experts on about 200 fracking tanks. Many welds were visually unacceptable and welds leaked. The tanks were fabricated in 2010. The welding code, welder certifications and weld inspection criteria was to have been ASME IX and it wasn’t. The documentation on the tanks was for an incorrect welding code. No detailed quality control records were available for the original construction.
Improper welding documentation, procedures and welder certifications were for an incorrect welding code. These errors were compliance issues for weld repairs, API acceptance and onsite repair techniques to comply with local regulations and EPA. The welds could not be repaired at drilling sites.
The tank manufacturer was responsible for compliance with all provisions of the standards. Inspections by the Purchaser or anyone else did not negate the manufacturer’s obligation to provide quality control inspections to ensure compliance with the correct codes, practices and standards.
The Lessons Learned:
Tank fabrication and repair standards must conform to legislated local, state and federal requirements. The EPA requires use of oilfield tanks that won’t leak and are environmentally safe to contain liquids. The authorities having jurisdiction and EPA have specific requirements and always govern tank welds. Adhere to the proper welding code for welds on any oilfield tank.