At Edmonton Exchanger, the production of pressure vessel components takes a dynamic leap into the 21st century, thanks to a long heritage of expertise and a penchant for taking action when it’s needed. Lorie Greenspan tells the story.
A young farmer in Alberta wondered one day about pressure vessel components. As with so many entrepreneurs, the wondering soon gave way to doing and the farmer, who worked as a welder in Edmonton and asked why such components couldn’t be made in Alberta, instead of importing them, founded Edmonton Exchanger. That was over 30 years ago and Henry Gusse, CEO, founder and “visionary” still comes to work every day, along with his son, Larry Gusse, who is the company’s president. The penchant for doing has stayed with the company and its employees, who have become quite resourceful at not only making pressure vessel components, but at building the equipment necessary to make the components.
Edmonton Exchanger started in refinery services, in which it specialized in shut downs and maintenance. In the 1970s the company built a small heat exchanger shop. In the mid 1980s it added a fabrication shop to make shells and heads for pressure vessels. Initially these products were marketed primarily in Alberta, but the decade of the 90s ushered in a period of phenomenal growth, in which Edmonton Exchanger supplied most of the shells and heads required by fabricators in western Canada’s energy sector.
“We’re a one-stop shop for fabricators,” notes Ernest Reimer, sales manager. “We supply shells and heads to pressure vessel fabricators throughout the world. During the 1990s we started growing in the U.S. and overseas markets.”
Edmonton Exchanger has built a solid reputation for strong customer service, innovative design and production methods, and an ability to adapt to changing market conditions. The company has become a leader in the custom manufacturing business by providing value to its customers. Its plant in Edmonton encompasses approximately 65,000 square feet under roof in four separate shops and an additional two million square feet of outside area.
“In 2004 the price of steel doubled after being a stable commodity for years until a wrench was thrown into the market – China was the wrench that made prices go up,” Reimer says. “Our company now has a supply of steel that’s unique to us. We have allocations with some of the best steel mills in the world, such as ArcelorMittal, a new steel giant that took over steel producers like ISG in the U.S. and Arcelor out of Europe, and now produces about 10 percent of the world’s steel. We’ve aligned with mills in Japan, Korea, and have access to a mill in China which has some of the most advanced steel plate production equipment in the world.” Such partnerships have given Edmonton Exchanger a great position in the global market, enabling it to get premium steel at prices that keep it competitive in the marketplace.
Through a custom formed steel products division, Edmonton Exchanger maintains some of the most extensive steel forming capacities, specializing in the fabrication of large-scale pressure vessel components. The company’s large-scale machining facility is located in close proximity to its main plant and offers a wide variety of machining services. It was specially designed to handle large diameter components.
The company’s steel plate forming capabilities range up to an eight-inch thickness for pressure vessel head and shell production. Heads can be formed up to 28 feet 6 inches in diameter and shells up to 144 inches in length.
The company also supplies a very extensive product line of flat plate, most of which is sold processed in the form of shells, heads, discs, rings and shapes. “We can provide both shells and heads, which is unique in the industry,” says Reimer. “We’ve got the best steel available in our inventory – it’s Charpy impact tested for cold temperatures and has chemical restrictions well beyond ASME code requirements.” Impact testing proves the steel can maintain its strength at temperatures as cold as -50F and the extra chemical restrictions make the steel well suited to sour service applications. “It helps us sell our steel. We order steel to the most stringent specifications to meet high standards in the energy, oil and gas sectors.” These are Edmonton Exchanger’s biggest markets.
Edmonton Exchanger’s capabilities also include four sets of plate rolls, with a large press that can hot-press heads up to 192 inches inside diameter from a single blank. “Our large press is completely unique,” Reimer says. “No one forms heads in this fashion up to 16 feet inside diameter. Other companies have to weld formed pieces together.” Using dishing and spinning equipment the company can also make heads up to 28 feet 6 inches in diameter in one piece. In addition, the company’s thick wall cylinders for steam drums used in power generation have earned Edmonton Exchanger the reputation for producing these products to the highest standards in the industry.
The company’s general machining equipment consists of two lathes and two drill presses. Three vertical boring mills of various sizes are available, the largest of which can handle components up to 24 feet in diameter and 10 feet high, as well as a large-scale horizontal boring mill that can handle components up to 13 feet high by 30 feet long.
To support this large-scale milling equipment, the company maintains a 50-ton overhead crane that spans the entire length of the machining facility and enables transport of large components throughout the shop. In addition, the company constructed for itself a 27.5-ton overhead crane to meet increasing production demands, which it installed in the east yard (Plateland) area of its main plant. The crane was designed, constructed, tested and installed entirely by personnel at Edmonton Exchanger.
Using a CNC tube sheet drill, Edmonton Exchanger recently drilled tube sheets almost 14 feet in diameter and nine inches thick – the largest ever drilled in Western Canada. These went to Shell Oil to support its activities in the Alberta oil sands. Edmonton Exchanger can handle components for drilling up to 200 inches in diameter and can drill material up to 17 inches thick.
Edmonton Exchanger’s steel components go to the U.S. and western Canada and some have made it as far as Malaysia. “Through offering one-stop capabilities we cater to our clients’ needs and make it easier for them to order from us. Our expertise is unique,” Reimer stresses. “We have a guru running drills whose ingenuity is unique, and has helped us to develop custom tooling. Many customers come to us to perform drilling because they don’t have the confidence in their shop for such tight tolerances. We’ve streamlined and improved efficiencies, and completely designed our presses in house. Often times we don’t buy parts, we make them ourselves. Our rolls are upgraded and modified in-house and all of our presses are built in-house.”
With the oil and gas market heating up in Canada, and Edmonton Exchanger garnering prestige as it continues to provide value-added products, Reimer doesn’t say lightly, “It’s been a very exciting year for us.” By all accounts, that excitement will continue to build as the company continues to deliver its unique combination of products and services.