What Is a Hot Tap Machine and How Does It Work?

Since 1986, oil pipelines in the U.S. have lost over 3 million gallons of oil on an annual basis. That’s an astonishing number, and it’s due to leaks and spills in the pipelines that so many precious resources go to waste. This is costly not only for the environment but for the companies that own these pipelines. 

When it comes to repairs on pipelines or tanks there are many ways to go about it. However, hot tap machines are an increasingly common and cost-effective way to deal with these issues. This doesn’t just apply to oil lines.

If you’re asking yourself, “What is a hot tap machine?” then you’re in luck. Read further to find out and to see how it could help you. 

What Is Hot Tapping?

Hot tapping is a procedure in which you use a device known as a hot tap machine to cut into a pressurized pipe or tank. The most important thing about this: hot tapping accomplishes this without the need to interrupt or shut down the pressurized system. 

When Is It Used?

Hot tapping is used to create additional branches of a pipeline, or it can stop the flow of fluids to a section of piping that needs repair or replacement. 

This method is used on pipelines containing fluids and gases such as water, natural gas, oil, and steam. 

How Does a Hot Tap Machine Work? 

First, a fitting is placed on the pipeline that you’ll be cutting into. This is usually welded to the pipe. 

Second, a valve is attached to the fitting.

Lastly, the hot tap machine is connected on top of the valve. 

The saw on the hot tap machine extends down through the valve and cuts into the piping. Once the saw reaches through the pipe the section it cuts out is the “coupon”. The coupon, along with the saw retracts back up through the valve, and the valve is closed. 

If the goal of the project is to create a new branch line of the piping, then after the valve closes, new piping is attached to the valve.

However, if the goal of the project is to replace or make repairs on a section of the main pipeline, you need to set up two hot taps on either side of the section. Next, you create a by-pass line between the two hot taps and slide down seals into the main pipe which cuts off flow to the section needing repair. Once completed, you can drain the section and perform work as needed with the flow of liquids still maintained by the by-pass. 

What Is the Benefit?

The benefit here is that this doesn’t require a shutdown on a pipeline or a tank which are usually costly and can stop production/operations for an extended period. It’s a relatively straightforward process and can quickly resolve leaks and allow for repairs to be made.  


Hot tapping can be dangerous, it’s crucial to make sure you’re taking proper precautions

It’s important to bring in a team for risk assessment before beginning any work to ensure that the situation is safe for using a hot tap. You also need to make sure that the piping thickness is suitable, as well as ensuring that the piping is not clad or lined. A clad or lined pipe cannot be hot tapped.

Get Started With Hot Tapping

Now you have a grasp on what a hot tap machine is and how it’s used. If you’d like to explore further, visit Rak Industrial Services Inc. and view a wide range of services, including hot tapping. 

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