We’re In: Why the Major Oil & Gas Companies are Adding New Bolting Vendors for the First Time in 20 Years


  • In the past 20 years, no major companies in the oil & gas industry have added new bolting specifications to their Approved Manufacturer Listings (AML). Companies like Shell, Chevron, MRC Global, Anadarko, BHP Billiton, BASF, and Chemours have installed and replaced bolts on equipment in all environments at every stage of exploration, production, and refining operations both inland and offshore. These standard practices have continued using legacy coating systems, such as PTFE “blue bolts” and Zinc alloys, without much need to question bolting performance. However, with the rising costs of bolting failure and the development of new protocols to increase operational safety, the majors have looked to new bolting technologies to steer them into the future of safer, cost effective, scientifically sound bolting systems. That’s why, for the first time in two decades, the majors have added a new specification to their AMLs: ASTM B994 Nickel-Cobalt electroplating.

    How ASTM B994 Helps Facilities Save Time, Money, and Lives

    ASTM B994 is designed to improve a manufacturer’s control of the production process. The standard requires new, more rigorous testing practices to improve worker safety and greatly reduce the long-term costs associated with legacy bolting systems. Using a controlled electroplating process, ASTM B994 bolting systems achieve a consistent coating thickness throughout each fastener that does not require undersizing or overtapping nuts and studs, a practice which is now prohibited by API 20E bolting standards. Nickel-Cobalt does not generate hydrogen in its reduction process and acts as a barrier to environmental sources of hydrogen, greatly reducing the risk of hydrogen embrittlement. The coating can withstand much higher temperatures than legacy coating systems and will not flake off during assembly, making it ideal for high temp downstream operations like manhole coverings and heat exchangers. Its low coefficient of friction makes ASTM B994 bolting easier to torque, helps prevent galling, and provides a consistent k-factor which allows maintenance teams to more easily apply the proper torque for the job. Most importantly, ASTM B994 Nickel-Cobalt plating resists corrosion and maintains proper thread engagement longer than any other fastener coating system on the market.

    ASTM B994 Nickel-Cobalt can also be manufactured in compliance with API 20E specifications. As a third party auditor, API 20E assures facilities that their bolting systems have properly adhered to industry specifications without cutting any corners. All bolting manufacturers that comply with API 20E receive a license and are entered into a freely searchable database called the API Composite List, giving procurement professionals a second set of eyes to share the risk of bolting evaluation. As a further layer of protection, API 20E provides an easy path for customers to report non-compliance, so each company is constantly driven to maintain and improve production through an industry-led rating system. API 20E offers three Bolting Specification Levels (BSL) that differentiate compliant fasteners according to their ideal application.

    Bolting accountability also requires traceability. To maintain API 20E compliance, fastener companies must produce and keep records from each bolting production batch for a minimum of 10 years. ASTM B994 specifications suggest a traceability system to track bolts in service. If there is ever a problem with field performance, a bolt can be traced to its origins and the production process can be re-audited to detect any issues that may have caused the failure. On the customer end, traceable fasteners allow operators to reference a bolt’s Material Test Report (MTR) and other records corresponding to its production batch, helping target and address potential issues before they become catastrophic failures. When coupled with more rigorous testing practices, such as the revolutionary galling test, the strong traceability attributes of ASTM B994 Nickel-Cobalt electroplating allows facilities to anticipate when their bolting will fail so they can replace bolts with ease and prevent costly, dangerous procedures such as hot bolting/single stud replacement.