World’s biggest machines need strongest components at OTC

Alongside the oil companies marketing some of the largest and most powerful machinery on Earth this week at the Offshore Technology Conference were others with the world’s strongest of components to make them possible.

The exhibit floor is officially closed. But there was the heavy metal — one marketed by a Chinese company is 15 times stronger than typical steel — the hydraulically powered handheld tools that can move 25 tons and even lengths of rope that can carry 1.6 million pounds.

“Titanium is strong, but not as strong as carbide,” said Cindy Shan, president of Seed Cemented Carbide Co., of Hunan, China.

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The company makes steel carbide, which it says are 15 times stronger than steel, though twice as heavy. The carbides Seed makes are also four times heavier than titanium and may also be more costly, Shan said.

But their weight and sheer strength make them ideal for harsh environments deep under the ocean floor, where oil companies face extreme pressures and temperatures that could make weaker components falter, Shan said.

The carbides are used for drill bits, valves, nozzles and other components that would meet harsh elements straight on, she said.

Also on display was a massive synthetic rope from Washington-based Samson. The rope is made from petrochemical-based fiber, made from polyethylene, and is 33 percent stronger than Kevlar fibers and 40 percent lighter, said Danielle Carlson, marketing coordinator for Samson.

The rope has been used to lift and lower oil field equipment and also offshore wind turbines, with one of its 4-inch diameter ropes capable of handling up to 1.6 million pounds, Carlson said.

The rope weighs 85 percent less than wire rope, which is widely used and considered reliable in the industry, she said.