Chromalloy’s Drilling Division produces ground barite (barium sulfate) at a plant in Houston, Texas. Barite is an abrasive material that was causing premature wear and plugging problems with the conventional elbows being used to transport it pneumatically from the plant’s grinding mills to its storage tanks.
The high-density barite was wearing through the conventional elbows in approximately 90 days. Chromalloy engineers tried different ways of extending elbow life — including placing larger elbows over smaller ones and encasing the space between them with concrete and other materials — but nothing made an appreciable improvement to the short elbow life. Elbow replacement was expensive and time-consuming, requiring frequent plant shutdowns.
Barite also plugged the conventional elbows frequently because of the way conventional elbows work. In a conventional elbow, materials hit the outer wall and slide along, or impact it, as they are routed in their new direction. This impact can destroy a conventional elbow. It also causes material to slow down as it passes through the elbow, causing plugging problems. Frequent barite plugs in Chromalloy’s line were so dense they required sledgehammers or dismantling of the line. Enter HammerTek’s Smart Elbow deflection elbow, whose patented, spherical chamber creates a soft, rotating ball of product that deflects it without touching the elbow’s walls, greatly reducing or eliminating both problems.
Chromalloy replaced its conventional elbows with cast-iron Smart Elbow models in 4- and 5-inch diameter sizes. Since the replacement two years ago, there has not been one case of pipe plugging. In fact, no maintenance of any kind has been needed. On top of that, the plant has found that less system pressure — and therefore less energy — is required for the barite to turn the bends in its line.
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