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Pipeline pumping stations and pneumatic torque technology

Updated: Aug 1, 2021

Why are specific torque tools so popular in the Oil and Gas sector?

Image set 1: Oil from the source to the end-user

Pumping stations play a vital role in moving crude oil through the pipeline system. In general, pumping stations contain one or more electrically driven pumping units, and they are strategically located to boost internal pipeline pressure and flow within safe operating limits of the pre-tested pipeline. While the product begins its journey with significant force, it loses forward momentum over time and distance. In North America, there are thousands of miles/km of pipelines carrying crude oil and other petroleum products to destinations. The core areas for extracting the oil are Texas and Alberta. Oil is transported from the source to the refineries and then sold locally to the end-users or carried by vessels from one of the leading oil ports to destinations in other countries.

Image set 2: Inside a pipeline pumping station

The pumping stations need to be erected and then maintained continuously. An essential tool for the technicians, millwrights and engineers are aside from hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, and conventional wrenches, so-called hi-end bolting tools. They are used to apply significant forces (pre-determined OEM torque values) on fasteners when installing the equipment but also after replacements of components during regular maintenance activities.

Torque multipliers are popular, and nowadays, one has a wide range of driving options for those torque multipliers. There is a significant issue as the maintenance activities are taking place in a tremendously explosive environment. That limits the selection of tools, and one has to select an intrinsic safe technology to avoid any danger to the workers and their surroundings in the hazardous areas.

Traditionally hydraulic wrenches can be used, powered by air-driven (pneumatic) hydraulic pumps. The advantages of hydraulic tools are the low profile to access any spaces with obstructions. Furthermore, hydraulic tools can apply a significant force and reach high torque values. Multiple wrenches can run simultaneously with one pump, which comes in handy for flanges and similar machine parts. The disadvantages are that you always need a pump and hoses to drag around. Pumps have become lighter, but they can still be an inconvenience. Sizes are limited, and you might need several cartridges that are traditionally more expensive than impact sockets. Another disadvantage is the ratcheting effect of the hydraulic solution, which slows down the process and puts additional forces onto the nut.

Another solution to tighten or loosen heavy-duty fastening connections in these environments is the use of pneumatic torque multipliers. A pneumatic torque wrench is a planetary torque multiplier or a gearbox mated to a pneumatic air motor. At the end of the gearbox is a reaction device used to absorb the torque and allows the tool operator to use it with minimal effort. The torque output is adjusted by controlling the air pressure. Continuous rotation tightening or loosening is perfect for bolted applications in an environment with an increased hazard of explosion.

Image set 4: Pneumatic torque multipliers

Benefits of pneumatic torque multipliers

  • Higher joint quality than impact or hydraulic wrenches

  • Robust, long-lasting aluminum housing and compact design

  • Durable, high-performance gears that ensure fast operational speeds

  • A simple one-finger rocker switch for smoother, more comfortable operation

  • Tools designed for safety in explosion-prone areas

  • Optional: Noise reduction filters, 2-speed tools for even faster rundowns and assembly, etc.

Despite us living in times of an energy shift, the oil and gas industry still has a long future. Alkitronic is committed to providing the necessary support and tooling to make those plants run smoothly, safely and efficiently.

For more information, contact us at or 1 (833) 486-7783

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