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Which Factors Affect the Choice of Metal for Oil & Gas Processing?

There are advantages to customizing heat exchanger and pressure vessel systems according to their location on an oil rig. Consider the following factors.


Salt, oxidation, and biofouling are all risks for marine applications. Copper-nickel alloys, silicon bronze, and naval brass form a natural barrier against biofouling and resist pitting from saltwater.

High Process Temperatures

Nickel alloys provide strong resistance against thermal expansion. Duplex stainless steels also stand up to extreme temperatures.

Impacts and Vibrations

In the reduced working area of marine operations, impacts are something engineers must consider when choosing metals. Duplex, alloy 800T, and stainless steel alloys offer solid strength and vibration characteristics under pressure.

Extreme Pressure Requirements

Pressure requirements affect both metal grade and material gauge. Nickel alloys and stainless steel with high carbon content are ideal for these environments.

Fabrication Challenges

The location of an oil rig can make it necessary to perform repairs or modifications on-site. Some metals are easier to weld, cut, or bend, such as 316L SS or C70600 copper nickel.


Oil refineries need pressure vessels that resist carbonic acid, brackish water, organic chlorides, and sulfides. Choose stainless steel (304 or 316), copper, brass, or bronze alloys for maximum corrosion protection in industrial environments.

Why Invest in High-Performance Non-Ferrous Metals for Heat Exchanger Systems?

Cutting corners is never a good idea on an oil rig. The money you “save” in the short term is nothing compared to the expensive problems that inadequate metals cause. It’s not worth putting your workers at risk, stopping production, or dealing with surprise breakdowns.

Non-ferrous metals for pressure vessels may cost more initially, but they offer important advantages:

  • Improved stress resistance and heat tolerance in system components
  • More efficient and more productive operations
  • Reduced time and personnel for pressure vessel maintenance
  • Longer-lasting, better-performing systems
  • Increased tensile strength and overall rig safety

Heat exchangers and pressure vessels play a huge role in offshore drilling and oil refining, so investing in high-quality materials pays off significantly.

How Can We Help?

At Hillman, we carry a wide range of non-ferrous metals for heat exchanger and pressure vessel systems. We offer multiple options for material size, gauge, design, and machining, such as cut-to-length and CNC water jet machining. Contact us to learn more about specific alloys for your operations.

Industries Served

We serve major producers in military and commercial shipbuilding, water purification, valves and condensers. As a reference, Hillman Inc. has supplied data on the many metal consuming industry services. 

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Our Processing Services

    • Our processing services include cutting to length, shearing, and sawing standard and custom shapes. We can also create custom shapes or semi-finished parts, ready for your final finishing and assembly. Working directly from your CAD/DXF file or drawing, we can water jet machine complex parts out of virtually any material.
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