A New Solution for an Old Industry 

Praxair Helps ND Company Meet Oil and Gas Industry Demand

Booming demand for production and storage equipment in the oil- and natural gas-rich Bakken Basin of North Dakota has also meant a potential bust for area suppliers. The Williston, N.D., branch of Cameron Industries saw huge demand for oil and gas pressure vessels, storage tanks and other custom-built equipment in the fields. The problem: the team didn’t have the proper welding, forming or material handling equipment to come close to keeping up, according to Brian Phillips, Cameron Project Manager.

“We started out doing a load of 12 tanks a week,” Phillips said. “We increased that to 40 with what we had. The market said we needed to be building 75 to 80 a week, and so I started investigating how we could get there.” Cameron already had an established relationship with Praxair in Williston, where Phillips initially inquired about purchasing an automated cutting machine. One contact led to another, and soon Chris Vihnanek, Director-Metal Fabrication for Praxair, was on his way to the northern Great Plains to check out the situation. “Cameron had purchased a medium-sized metal fabrication company to fulfill orders, but it was using old technology, very old technology,” Vihnanek said. “They were turning out a lot more tanks than anyone would have expected, but they weren’t close to keeping up with demand.” After conducting a StarSolver® productivity enhancement audit of the Cameron facilities and seeing the breakneck pace of drilling going on, Vihnanek suggested that Cameron needed a completely new, automated welding process to meet its business goals. Praxair created a team of engineers and managers from companies around North America to develop a solution:

  • Praxair – ProStar® welding and metal fabrication equipment
  • LJ Welding Automation (Edmonton, Alberta) – tank welding and positioning equipment
  • Panasonic Welding Systems/Miller Welding Automation (Appleton, Wis.) – custom robotic cells

“We all worked together to refine equipment designs and customize material flow that traditionally had been done manually in the tank industry,” Vihnanek added. Following planning meetings across the United States and equipment inspection trips to Edmonton and Chicago, the facility started to take shape. Technicians from Praxair, LJ Welding and Panasonic arrived in Williston to help installation go as quickly as possible. Praxair is also providing the Cameron team with the necessary training to maximize this large capital investment. “Sometimes the simplest solution isn’t always the best solution, and working harder doesn’t always get the job done,” said Vihnanek. “But by combining equal parts innovation and automation, our team at Praxair can help almost any size shop increase their productivity.”

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