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The Suburbanite
  • Timken bearings and steel are key components of energy industry

  • Steel and bearings are key equipment in the energy business, which leaves Timken involved in a multitude of segments.

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  • Steel is what drilling companies use to cut through a mile of dirt and rock to reach oil and natural gas deposits.
    Often the steel doing the cutting was made in a Timken Co. mill.
    Drill bits, steerable mud motors, stabilizers, tool joints and heavy wall pipe are among the products used by drilling companies that are made from Timken’s alloy steel.
    Oil and gas drilling is only one energy business that uses a variety of Timken products.
    The company is involved in most segments of the energy business, said Hans Landin, Timken’s vice president for business advancement. For many years Timken has provided bearings for the coal business, as well as steel and bearings for oil and gas drilling. Now the company is working with the wind turbine industry, developing bearings that help create renewable energy.
    “With everything that’s moving, turning, you’re going to find a Timken product,” said Amanda Montgomery, director for marketing and product management.
    DRILLING EQUIPMENT
    Timken bearings are found in tri-cone rotary drill bits. The bearings are made from Timken steel. So are the three spiked bits, which spin while cutting through rock.
    The bit is a prime example of Timken’s ability to help a client make a product better, said Shawn J. Seanor, vice president for oil and gas engineered steel solutions. Timken makes a clean alloy steel with a smooth surface that reduces friction and makes rolling easy. The steel also is tough enough to keep drilling without stopping to change the bit, Seanor said.
    When a drilling company begins a well, the work doesn’t stop until the bit has reached the well’s total length. In the case of a horizontal well such as the those drilled into shale formations, the bit might drill a line more than two miles long.
    “Not everybody makes that kind of steel,” Seanor said of the alloys produced by Timken for drill bits and bearings.
    Timken steel and bearings are used below ground while drilling and above ground in the machinery and equipment on rigs, Landin said.
    LONG TIME COMING
    The Utica Shale is the most recent of several shale rock formations that oil and gas companies are trying to develop around the United States. Seanor said Timken expects to see increased demand from the oil and gas industry as drilling increases in the Utica formation.
    Through the past decade, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have evolved to allow companies to penetrate the shale and break it apart to release oil and gas. Formations in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and North Dakota have been developed, which has increased the demand for Timken’s steel and bearings.
    Page 2 of 3 - Seanor said the company anticipated the demand by monitoring industry reports on oil rig counts and seeing that more rigs were being used.
    The scenario prompted Timken to expand steel production and invest $500 million toward new equipment at its Canton area steel mills. Heat-treat operations and an intermediate finishing line have been added at the Gambrinus plant. An in-line forge press recently opened at the Faircrest plant, along with other new equipment. Meanwhile the company is midway through construction of a vertical jumbo bloom continuous caster at Faircrest.
    Timken also took the step in 2008 to purchase Houston-based Boring Specialties. The operation starts with Timken steel and makes improvements to provide oil and gas industry customers with steel that is ready for drilling parts. Timken Boring now ships steels from its Houston plant to customers in the United Kingdom, China and Singapore.
    RENEWABLE ENERGY
    Natural gas is viewed as the fuel that will bridge American energy as it shifts from generating power using coal and oil to relying on renewable energy such as wind and solar.
    Landin called wind energy the cleanest form of power. Timken bearings have a variety of uses in wind turbines helping different parts rotate. Large, enclosed, self lubricating bearings are found in the main shaft, and smaller bearings are found in other areas.
    The wind turbine business still is evolving, Landin said. It’s become more industrialized and major corporations are looking at the business.
    Companies that make wind turbines are trying to find the optimum design, Landin said. There are competing technologies, with one faction of the industry looking at traditional gear box turbines and another working with a direct drive that is connected to generators.
    The final result could be a hybrid technology. Timken is working with companies researching both technologies, Landin said. “The future will tell which one is going to win.”
    Timken also has stepped into the service portion of the wind turbine business, adding Wazee Companies to its process industries segment. The company provides motor, generator, electrical and mechanical services for wind turbines, as well as for the oil and gas industry and other business segments.
    STABLE BUSINESS
    Landin said energy industry customers are looking for reliable bearings that will run a long time with minimum maintenance needs. Customers are pushing to increase productivity, reduce environmental emissions, and improve safety. The ongoing effort to improve performance drives much of Timken’s product development effort, he said.
    The energy market is pretty stable with a constant demand for equipment, Landin said. Globally the business segment is growing as other countries become more urbanized, which leads to increased demand for energy.
    Additionally Timken has worked to broaden its footprint in the energy industry by adding service businesses such as Wazee. Timken now works with gears and drives and is able to recondition power transmission components.
    Page 3 of 3 - “We have many customers within the many structures of energy,” Landin said.
    Reach Edd at 330-580-8484 or edd.pritchard@cantonrep.com
    On Twitter: @epritchardREP