Article By Joanne McIntyre
A key focus for Sandvik Materials Technology in recent years has been educating customers about the advantages to be gained by specifying H&I tubing in higher alloy grades.
“While a significant segment of the H&I business is perfectly well serviced with standard materials such as 316L and 304L, many applications would be better served by upgrading to a higher alloy. Examples include, for instance, SAF 2507TM, 254 SMO*, SAN60, or other higher alloys. Upgrading to these alloys will save the customer money in the long term by negating the need for maintenance. We refer to this strategy as sustainable purchasing. We’ve already seen many of our customers successfully go down this path; they are not chasing the cheapest solutions to achieve a short term purchasing target gain, but are focusing on the lifecycle cost within their maintenance departments. We work closely with both customers and directly with end-users to explain how much they can save by upgrading their H&I tubing to a higher alloy.”
Streamlining the supply chain
In addition to the emphasis of moving from standard to special grades, Sandvik is currently developing a revolutionary new grade which will be released commercially next year.
Andreas explained that many of their H&I tubing customers are forced by necessity to stock several grades of tubing; a standard grade such as 316L, and speciality higher alloy grades for the most demanding areas of their application. Higher alloyed grades include 904L, SAF 2507TM, 254 SMO*, Alloy 625 (Sanicro® 60), and Alloy 400. Sandvik is adamant that their new grade – a SANICRO grade – will change all this.
“Maintaining a range of speciality alloys is, of course, quite an expensive option for end-users. Our new alloy, due to be released in spring 2020, will enable customers to replace their entire special stock with just one grade. It will result in many advantages including more streamlined stocks, greater flexibility, and improved availability. It’s going to be a game-changing development and the results so far are very promising. We honestly expect this new grade to streamline the entire supply chain.”
The new alloy will initially be available in seamless tubes ranging from 6 to 32mm. “It’s a potential replacement for all of the higher grades, with the exception of SAF 2507TM.”
Markets: key applications
While the hydrocarbon sector has traditionally been a strong market for H&I tubing, demand is continuing to diversify, explains Andreas. “There are still plenty of oil and gas projects, but we are also pleased to have seen a steady increase in offshore windfarms which require higher alloys as well as an increase in renewable energy overall.”
The growth in renewables extends beyond the energy sector, Andreas continues. “Within the automotive industry, there is increased demand for H&I tubing, particularly for alternative fuel vehicles and more fuel-efficient vehicles. At this stage no single new market is leading, there is steady growth across all of them.”
Strong Asian market
Although the European market has flattened somewhat, Andreas explained that growth in India, Asia and China is continuing strongly. In July, Sandvik opened a state-of-the-art coiled tubing line for premium grades of seamless stainless-steel products in smaller dimensions at its Zhenjiang tube mill near Shanghai, China. The manufacturing of longer lengths of locally produced, weld-free coiled tubing will enable customers in the Asia-Pacific region to receive deliveries within 28 days, instead of waiting four to six months for longer length reels to arrive from abroad. The company has seen rising demand on projects within chemical processing, oil and gas, alternative energy, and other industries, for urgent local supplies of coiled tubing. Initially, the focus will be on Sandvik 3R60™ (ASTM TP 316/316L) tubing—an austenitic chromium-nickel steel with a minimum of 2.6% molybdenum and low carbon content—in outer diameters from 6.0 to 14 mm.
“India also continues to be a strong market for H&I tubing. The country has huge government-funded projects for infrastructure development underway across the country which is driving demand. Indians are also using an increasing number of CNG-fuelled cars, which is driving demand.”