By Tom Goin,
Chief Executive Officer at WN Global
and President at U.S. Bolt Manufacturing
The universal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is truly astounding. In my almost 50 years of working in industry, I’ve certainly never experienced anything like the current environment. The pandemic event triggered near instantaneous collapse of social, consumer and B2B activity, causing the world as we knew it to lurch to a halt overnight. Virtually every company in every industry is being impacted in some way. Legacy supply chains have been broken, some permanently. Well-worn relationships recently enjoying the fruits of years-long process, service level and price negotiations are broken. Ultimately, we’re all being forced to find (or create) alternative paths to solutions to the problems and opportunities we are encountering in our businesses. The operations in our industry, Oil & Gas, are being severely impacted on all sides. Components as basic as fasteners will become the cause of disruption, leading to product shortages, expanded and unpredictable lead times, blown schedules, project and production order delays and, perhaps drilling contract cancellations. In these cases, lack of supply of the lowly fastener can be extremely disruptive and costly.
Within the Oil & Gas Industry, a “critical” bolting application is one through whose failure hydrocarbons could be released into the atmosphere. Drilling equipment stacks (Riser, C&K Manifolds, BOP, Flexible Joints, Well Head Connectors, etc.) fall into this category. Subsea production equipment, valves, flowlines, pipelines, etc., can also meet this definition of “critical.” Until just a few years ago, most bolting finding its way into this sort of equipment was very commercial and commoditized. The supply chains had effectively been driven to low-cost countries and the bolting was seen as anything but “critical.” With the failure of a number of critical-service bolts came a demand for high integrity replacements. API undertook the challenge of creating and publishing Specification 20E, which defined the requirements for the manufacturing and control of alloy steel bolting for use in the petroleum and natural gas industries. Over the last decade, we’ve seen a general migration to API 20E Bolting for all environments overseen by BSEE, and a widening demand for the same specification compliance across many Oil & Gas regions around the world. The process control requirements of Spec 20E are much more onerous than those employed by commodity manufacturers. There is no way to “inspect in” specification compliance of a commodity product--the bolting must have been manufactured with the specific goal of meeting the requirements. Commodity hardware won’t meet the spec and can’t be substituted. This creates a potential supply chain problem. The demand for API 20E Bolting is a rather new one. It’s only been over the past 3-4 years that the industry has made a significant shift from commodity bolting, so the supply chain isn’t yet robust. The qualified manufacturers are not in great supply, and qualifiable raw material and finished components are not readily available on the open market.
Our company, WN Global, is a key supplier of critical-service bolting to the Oil & Gas industry. Through our operating companies, TSP Mfg., U.S. Bolt Mfg. and Subsea Coating Technologies, we manage the supply of bolting used in virtually every aspect of Upstream and Mid-stream activities. In addition to providing engineered supply chain solutions to major Oilfield Service Manufacturers, TSP Mfg. produces precision shear screws and pins used in downhole tools. U.S. Bolt manufactures all nature of safety-related bolting for critical applications. Our in-house capabilities include hot forging, precision heat treatment, complete metallurgical and mechanical testing, NDE, CNC machining and inspection. Long recognizing the potential threat to quality and service reliance on outside suppliers represents, U.S. Bolt has continuously developed these in-house capabilities in order to control our destiny, as well as the quality of the processes. Our most recent expansion is the creation of Subsea Coating Technologies. SCT is certified as an applicator of phosphate coating, Xylan coating, Sermagard, multi-part epoxy and other engineered coatings. We’ve recently installed a state-of-the-art zinc-nickel plating line. All processes are performed as specified by applicable ASTM and customer-specific requirements, as well as those imposed by API 20E.
One of the most important considerations of API 20E is the basic raw material from which the bolting is produced. Only a tiny percentage of the alloy steel bars produced in the world is capable of being converted into 20E BSL3 Bolting. Only those steel mills audited and qualified by U.S. Bolt supply our material. At any given time, our raw material inventory contains between 7 and 8 million pounds of compliant material. Additionally, we inventory finished and semi-finished bolting complying to 20E BSL3. That allows us to satisfy quick delivery demands and mitigates customer risk associated with lack of availability. We are being as forward-thinking as possible to support an industry in need of our products. We could not have predicted the COVID-19 crisis, but we are prepared to meet the challenges it presents in our small corner of the world.
Manufacturing and Supply Chain Provider
High Integrity Bolting