A fight for a level playing field
Little-appreciated heat treatments play vital role in pipeline infrastructure safety.
A recent news release from Summit, Ill.-based Weldbend came across the desk of Oil & Gas Engineering’s editors. In full, it reads as follows:
In May 2017, American flange manufacturers Boltex and Weldbend filed a lawsuit against a Spanish company, ULMA Forja, and its US subsidiary. The lawsuit alleges ULMA deliberately and falsely claimed that it normalized its flanges in accordance with ASTM A105 standards. ULMA stamped these flanges “A105N”, issued documentation with each flange stating they had undergone the normalization process specified by the ASTM, and shipped the flanges into the US for use in our pipelines ─ all when testing showed the flanges were not normalized.
In response to the suit, ULMA told its customers, “Rather than fairly compete in the marketplace, the US manufacturers instead filed a lawsuit that met their desired goal of damaging ULMA Piping’s most valuable asset – its reputation.” It also said, “ULMA Piping intends to prove the allegations to be false.”
Boltex and Weldbend have now learned that in recent months ULMA has quietly contacted certain customers and admitted that prior to mid-2017 ULMA’s flanges marked A105N were not normalized according to ASTM standards. While ULMA now claims it used a supposedly secret forging process instead of heat treatment, the fact is, more than 99% of those ULMA flanges ─ flanges from all pressure classes ─ were not normalized to any recognized industry standard. ULMA also claims that by late 2017 it began properly normalizing all A105 flanges per ASTM standards. However, recent testing of ULMA flanges manufactured in 2018 and marked “A105N” appear to show that at least some of those flanges ─ like ULMA’s earlier flanges ─ were not normalized and do not satisfy ASTM A105 standards.
For years ULMA deceived its customers, along with pipeline companies, oil companies, and ultimately, the American people by claiming its flanges were normalized when they were not normalized. In so doing, ULMA compromised the critical pipeline infrastructure of our nation, setting the stage for a possible environmental catastrophe. In short, ULMA, did not “fairly compete in the US marketplace with US manufacturers.” Instead, ULMA lied to its customers and betrayed the trust of the American People. If anything has damaged ULMA’s reputation, it has been ULMA’s own greed, and Boltex and Weldbend believe that ULMA should be held accountable for that greed to the fullest extent of the law.