The global classification society, DNV, has recently bestowed CE certification upon Shell and Bonney Forge, a US-based manufacturer of fittings and valves, for a groundbreaking 3D printed valve. This achievement represents the culmination of a collaborative effort between Shell and Bonney Forge, with the 3D printed valve being manufactured using stainless steel alloy UNS S31603. The production took place at the 3D Printing Center of Excellence (CoE) and Workshop situated at Shell’s Energy Transition Campus Amsterdam.
Shell’s Pioneering Journey in Additive Manufacturing
Angeline Goh, the head of digital supply chains at Shell, disclosed that further insights into the production of this innovative gate 3D printed valve will be shared during ASTM’s International Conference on Advanced Manufacturing (ICAM) in 2023, slated to be held in Washington DC from October 30 to November 3. Goh, a prominent oil & gas sector figure, has spearheaded the sector’s gradual foray into additive manufacturing (AM) over the past few years.
In 2021, Goh played a pivotal role in achieving a significant milestone when Shell became the first company to attain CE certification for a 3D printed oil & gas component, a pressure vessel, produced in-house. Building upon this success, in early 2022, Shell took another stride by installing 3D printed impellers on a centrifugal pump at the Shell Energy and Chemicals Park in Rotterdam, a collaborative project with oilfield services giant Baker Hughes. The newly certified 3D printed valve, created in partnership with Bonney Forge, will also find its place at the Rotterdam site.
At the Formnext 2022 event in Berlin, Shell showcased a demonstration part—an oxygen hydrogen micromixer—crafted through collaboration with GE Additive. Furthermore, in January 2023, Shell joined forces with four other major players in the oil & gas industry to embark on a two-year agreement aimed at establishing a digital inventory ecosystem for spare parts in the sector. In discussing this particular partnership, Goh underscored the industry’s commitment to not just prototyping but embracing the utilization of digital inventory as a fundamental aspect of modern material management.
Paving the Way for Digitalization in Oil & Gas
The oil & gas sector, traditionally characterized by meticulous adherence to stringent regulations and significant capital investment, has been somewhat cautious in its adoption of additive manufacturing. However, this deliberative approach is essential given the industry’s unique challenges, including regulatory constraints and the evolving energy landscape.
Each certification milestone achieved, such as the CE certification for the 3D printed valve, signifies a substantial leap forward in this landscape. Shell’s strategic initiatives, spearheaded by Goh and her team, underscore the industry’s shift from prototyping toward integrating additive manufacturing into broader long-term strategies.
Certification of 3D Printed Valve
In essence, these developments of 3D printed valve signal that oil & gas companies have the potential to accelerate the digitalization of their spare parts inventories. This shift holds significant importance, particularly as the world seeks to transition to renewable energy sources while ensuring a consistent supply of oil & gas at stable prices. This underscores the growing importance of maintenance operations for oil & gas infrastructure in the short term. These companies are increasingly reluctant to halt operations for repairs during periods of high demand, yet simultaneously wary of investing in new capital when faced with uncertainty regarding the future of fossil fuels.
For instance, Shell’s recent decision to significantly reduce the downtime of its Australian liquified natural gas (LNG) platform, Prelude, highlights the significance of efficient maintenance practices in a volatile energy landscape. In 2024 and beyond, we will likely witness similar efforts across the oil & gas sector as digital supply chains play an increasingly pivotal role in optimizing operations and ensuring reliable energy supplies.
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