There has been a significant upswing in the demand for Industrial Furnaces required for the manufacture of steel pipes and tubes which are utilized in a wide variety of applications. The bulk of the growth has been in OCTG welded and seamless pipe used primarily in casing applications, as well as automotive and mechanical tubing.
The OCTG growth in North America can be attributed to the shale gas and oil developments, combined with the U.S. victories in trade cases against Chinese supplied OCTG pipe in 2010. The result has been the recapitalization of existing tube production plants, as well as massive investments in Texas, north eastern U.S.A. and Canada. One of the most important API requirements is an upgrading of the mechanical properties from standard J55 to N80, L80, P110 and Q125. To achieve this, steel producers and end finishing companies are investing heavily in automated high volume continuous heat treatment systems. At this time there are at least (10) major new facilities either under construction or capital plans for investment in the geographic territories mentioned above, with Texas winning the lion’s share of the new investment. While induction heat treating is a viable option for certain locations at lower production rates, the preferred technology has been direct gas fired Walking Beam Furnaces combined with water spray quenching on the OD and ID of the pipe. Production rates up to 100 tons/hour are envisioned covering the size range 2.875” to 13.75” and wall thicknesses up to 2”. The majority of new installations have favoured the Industrial Furnace route for both the austentizing (AF) and tempering (TF) portions of the quench and temper cycle.
Precision Mechanical Tubing, used in everything from hydraulic cylinder to bearing production has seen increased activity. These applications involving annealed (softened) steel tubes, there has also been strong demand for high volume continuous Bright Annealing Furnaces. Recent installed capacities have been undertaken for systems up to 30 tph, operating under a variety of atmospheres including hydrogen, nitrogen, and manufactured gases from the controlled combustion of natural gas to result in atmospheres containing strongly reducing components of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. A number of these tubes are produced to exacting tolerances for diameter and wall thickness, and are subjected to significant cold drawn stresses during their production. As a result, the need to anneal the tubes prior to subsequent redraws, or prior to shipment is an important step in the process. To protect the surfaces from oxidation, reducing combustible atmospheres are necessary to ensure the surface finish.
Lastly, there are new installations underway for the production of large diameter (12” – 24”) heavy walled tubes (1.625”) utilized in the transportation of industrial gases. This very specialized market segment of high value goods, measures production rates in pieces per day as opposed to tons per hour. In the U.S.A., there are only two (2) domestic manufacturers of such highly specialized products that utilize seamless tubes, end spinning and finally quench and temper heat treatment to achieve the tight metallurgical and mechanical properties. Quenching systems for such applications are done in immersion baths that range in volumes from 50,000 to 100,000 gallons of special polymer solutions.
The importance of Industrial Furnace technology to the success of the Oil, Gas, Automotive and Machine Building Industries is of immense value, and manufacturers such as CAN-ENG FURNACES INTERNATIONAL have certainly reaped the benefits from the increased North American and Global demand.