A recent quality scare over the heat treatment of duplex steel fittings underlines two distinct issues for the petrochemical industry. First, that parts made and released into the market may be in stock for years before they are used ” both exacerbating the problems associated with quality recalls and also contributing to inertia in price reductions when markets fall (distributors are often much better at raising prices for stock material when the market is on the up). The second is that even after all these years of progressively improved quality standards, faulty products still slip through the best of QA systems and can go on to be widely incorporated in operating plant and equipment before plant operators realize there is a problem.
This recent issue was flagged up by the Petroleum Safety Authority of Norway (PSA) who issued a warning to operators after StatOil became aware that fittings made from duplex steels produced by Tecninox in Italy had not been properly heat treated. The firm blamed new heat treatment facilities three years ago, and presumably the parts were manufactured shortly thereafter, because Tecninox produce some 600,000 such parts a year for sale worldwide. The compromised batch is said to number some 20,000 about half of which are installed in equipment mostly in the North Sea, the balance with distributors to be recalled and sent back to the mill for heat treatment and re-testing.
The situation starkly underlines why plant operators have strict lists of approved OEM’s they allow their engineering contractors to use. It also shows one potential risk in holding and selling old stock. In this case, Tecninox is a a well respected firm but it does make one wonder what kind lot tracing/QA systems the firm has in place.