The hose must handle higher pressures, tougher terrain and extreme environmental conditions.
As the need for fracing water increases, access to fresh water is getting harder to find. And often, the source of the water is far from where it is needed. As a result, there is an increasing need to reuse produced water for use in fracing and to transfer both fresh water and produced water longer distances over a wider variety of terrain. Both factors are increasing the demand for lay-flat hose to transfer water.
Lay-flat hose is the most commonly used method for transferring fresh water to frac sites and is becoming the method of choice for transferring produced water in areas where it is allowed.
Along with the higher demands for water and the need to convey long distances comes the need for high-quality lay-flat hose that can handle the higher pressures, tougher terrain and more extreme environmental conditions. As produced-water transfers become more common, the water will sometimes be at a higher temperature and have more corrosive chemicals.
The concern for many companies is that in the push to meet these increased demands, there is an increased potential for failures that could cause injuries, harm to the environment and be costly to mitigate.
Specter of Regulations
If enough of these failures occur, we could see regulatory agencies take action to impose regulations in an attempt to limit accidents. These regulations have the potential to make getting the water to the frac sites harder and more expensive. If the regulations are not carefully written and implemented, they could potentially cause other problems.
Using lay-flat hose is the most versatile, efficient and cost-effective way to temporarily transfer large volumes of water over long distances. When flat hose is used properly, it is safe and has a low impact on the environment.
To meet the demand for water to do fracs, there has been an increased desire to use produced water to supplement fresh water. Where it is allowed, lay-flat hose is heavily used to transfer the produced water a long way much more efficiently than trucking the water or putting it in a temporary hard pipeline.
There is still a legitimate concern in some states and counties that is preventing the use of lay-flat hose to transfer produced water because of the potential for harm to the environment if there is a failure in the hose.
Much of the hose that is being used has been in the field for many years and is reaching the end of its effective life. This has resulted in a growing amount of hose with compromised quality, and it is increasing the chances for failures that may be costly and cause injury to people and the environment.
Art and Science of Hose Making
Making high-quality hose is a science and an art, and manufacturers don’t like to share trade secrets that they consider to be a strategic advantage. Because of the high demand for large-diameter lay-flat hose, several new manufacturers have entered the market to produce the hose to meet the demand. The newer manufacturers are still learning the art and science of making a high-quality hose, and sometimes the quality suffers.
Some manufacturers are focused on producing large volumes at the lowest cost possible. Some will use cheap raw materials, and some will take shortcuts in their manufacturing processes to save time and money.
These two practices can reduce the quality and longevity of the hose. A low-quality hose often fails to meet the manufacturers’ specifications and can have a wide variety of problems. And the chances for problems increase with the age of the hose.
Lay-flat hose is the most commonly used method for transferring fresh water to frac sites.
It is hard to tell whether a hose is well-made just by looking at it. Even when it is pressured up, most hose will look fine unless there is an obvious leak or if the hose elongates so much that it snakes back and forth a lot. Most of the issues with poor quality hose and fittings don’t show up until there is a failure of some sort.
All hose wears out over time, but a poorly made hose will break down more quickly than a high-quality hose, and its effective life may be less than half that of a well-made hose.
Lack of Standards
Since there are no standards for largediameter lay-flat hose, manufacturers can make inappropriate claims about their hose. For example, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has a standard that says a hose must have a 3:1 safety margin for the proven burst pressure to working pressure. Since there are no standards for largediameter hose, some specify a working pressure that is only 2:1. When tested, some hoses burst at lower pressures than what the manufacturer claims.
A well-made hose should last up to eight years in the field if it is cared for and handled properly. Of course, there are many ways to damage any hose. There should be training to make sure people treat hose properly to help avoid damaging it.
Need for Good Couplers
While most of a water-transfer line may be lay-flat hose, there are other components to consider to make sure there are no weak links in the line. A critical part of the hose assembly is the couplers on the ends of each hose segment.
Some couplers don’t hold the hose very well, and they are often tightened very tight to keep them from slipping, which can damage the hose by biting into its inside with sharp edges on the grooves, which are intended to hold the hose better.
A bite on the inside of the hose can allow water to get through the inner liner and then travel through the woven jacket until it finds a weak spot in the outer liner and then shows up as a small leak as far away as 25 yards from the coupler.
A good coupler should have a large surface area that holds the hose with smooth surfaces. This will not only hold the hose well, but also protect it from damage. There are many fittings, pigging equipment and other things that are often part of a water-transfer line that need to be considered to make sure there are no weak links.
Standard Operating Procedures
Standard operating procedures should include good planning and proper training of personnel. The right training for all workers who will be laying out the line and running the transfers is important to limit the risk of human error.
It is also important to teach awareness to others who will be working near the lay-flat hose to ensure they don’t damage any part of the transfer line. Of course, the appropriate safety training should be provided to all people who will be near any part of the water-transfer line.
Currently, there are no standards for the manufacturing of lay-flat hose or for the use of lay-flat hose that is larger than 6” in diameter. Frac-water transfers use lay-flat hose that is up to 12”. The NFPA has standards for fire hose that dictate the standards for lay-flat hose that is 6” in diameter and smaller, but until recently, there has been no effort to develop standards for lay-flat hose larger than 6” in diameter.
The ideal solution for developing the right standards is for the experienced experts who have spent years successfully transferring water in a wide variety of extreme conditions to come up with a set of standards for lay-flat hose to meet, as well as standard operating procedures that should be followed when doing a water transfer. This will significantly reduce the chance of failures in the future.
History of Setting Standards
There is an effort underway to develop the standards for the manufacturing of lay-flat hose, as well as for standard operating procedures for working with lay-flat hose. Here is a brief history of this effort:
• FracGard Initiative started in 2015 by Hammerhead Industrial Hose and included several operating companies to develop standards for lay-flat hose, couplers and fittings.
• Energy Water Initiative (EWI) started in 2017 and led by several operating companies, adopting the work done by the FracGard Initiative as the starting point to develop standards with the goal to have API adopt them.
• API Standards Initiative started in 2018 using EWI as a starting point to develop standards for manufacturing lay-flat hose, as well as standard operating procedures for working with lay-flat hose. At this time, the API Standards Initiative is well underway, and we will likely see standards completed and published within the next several months.
Until recently, there has been no effort to develop standards for lay-flat hose larger than 6” in diameter.
Once the standards are completed and published, it is important for all lay-flat hose users to get behind them and use only hose that meets the standards being developed, as well as follow the standard operating procedures being developed. This way, the whole industry will benefit from standards that make transferring water safer and more efficient with minimal impact on the environment.
These standards will also help to avoid costly failures that may result in regulations being imposed that will could make it harder to use lay-flat hose effectively and efficiently in the future.
Authored by Bob Morrison, VP, Hammerhead Industrial Hose