A Cut Above

Dec. 15, 2020
New pipe cutter reduces job times, increases worker safety for refinery contractor

For Brian Wood, superintendent at George Gradel Co., working with 4-, 12-, 16- and sometimes even 20-inch water and ductile iron lines is the norm. In fact, through a partnership with the BP-Husky Toledo Refinery, George Gradel Co. performs anywhere from one to two ductile and cast pipe jobs per month. “The contract for BP-Husky Toledo Refinery goes up for grabs every five years," said Wood. "We’ve been the house team for 40 years — underground for 10 years. If anything breaks in the refinery, we get it first.”

The BP-Husky Toledo Refinery, with over a century of operations, can process up to 160,000 barrels of crude oil each day, providing the Midwest with gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, propane and asphalt. So if a water line leaks or a pipe breaks, George Gradel Co. needs to fix the problem as soon as possible.

But working in a refinery does have its challenges. For one, in the past, when a water line or pipe needed to be replaced, workers risked their safety by using spark-producing saws. In a refinery, as you can imagine, sparks don’t mix well with petroleum. For Wood and his crew, the ICS pipe cutting power cutter with PowerGrit® Diamond Chain has changed the game. Not only does the power cutter and chain combination reduce sparks but it can do what their previous saw did in a fraction of the time.

“To cut 15 inches of pipe, it would take six to seven hours, and we’d go through around 20 blades. With the ICS power cutter, the same job takes four minutes,” said Mike Sandwish, foreman at George Gradel Co.

During a recent 15-inch cast iron pipe repair at the refinery, George Gradel Co. used the ICS 701-A power cutter with a PowerGrit Diamond Chain. The previous platform used would have taken the Gradel crew two days to complete the job. With the ICS tool, it took only two and a half hours. Wood said, “We’ve seen tremendous cost savings with the ICS equipment. Before, if we were cutting 15 inches on a pipe, it would have taken three days with a five-person crew. That cost alone would have been $2,000 a day. Now, it would take us 20 minutes with a five-person crew.”

The ICS power cutter is made for smooth portability, efficiency and agility. It is considered a jack-of-all-trades. With its unique versatility, users can cut through walls, floors, pipes and columns, in addition to concrete, brick, block, concrete pipe, ductile and cast iron, natural and more. The power cutter’s adaptability makes it a favorite among companies like George Gradel.

Specifically, the ICS 701-A power cutter is built tough to withstand harsh environments that include concrete and utility pipe cutting. Outfitted with an integrated water delivery system, water continuously flows to the blade during the cutting process. While performing a job, workers won’t have to worry about making and lining up multiple cuts. The PowerGrit Diamond power cutter allows for more accuracy when making deeper, cleaner and quicker cuts, all within a single pass.

The power cutter has a more enhanced and rigid interface, which reduces vibrations and impact loads significantly. This factor, along with added stability in the cut, means that it won’t contribute to an operator’s fatigue.

Wood and Sandwish have been using the power cutter at George Gradel Co. for two years now. With 15 years of performing similar jobs, they’ve seen their fair share of injuries when using a cut-off saw, such as a significant facial injury and leg damage resulting in more than 50 stitches. With the ICS power cutter, they haven’t had any injuries to date.

“We prefer using the ICS power cutter over a cut-off saw for our projects," Wood said. "Simply put, it does the job for us in a lot less time and with a lot less backache. In this industry, it’s important when a tool does what it’s supposed to.” Sandwish added, “Because of its efficiency and versatility, the ICS power cutter is the preferred cutting method not only inside the refinery but even outside of it as well.” WT

About the Author: Erin O’Brien is the VP for O’Brien International, the association management company for the Concrete Sawing & Drilling Association (CSDA), and CSDA's executive director. She has worked in the concrete renovation industry for over 10 years. She can be reached at [email protected].

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