Underwater Welding: How Does it Work, What Are The Applications And Associated Risks

Underwater welding is a unique welding process where a professional diver who is also a welder goes into the water and applies the same tactics used in a traditional ground welding method over submerged structures and workpieces.

The application of this process is quite large because most of the docking and pipeline industries have to rely upon underwater welders to get the job done.

Types Of Underwater Welding

There are basically two types of underwater welding. One is known as wet welding and the other is known as dry welding. Let’s learn about them in brief:

Wet Welding:

This process basically supplies continuous gas bubbles across the arc area within which the whole welding process is performed. Apart from that, this process uses special welding rods for drawing beads and also requires up to 400 amps of DC electricity to perform. The main advantage of this process is its simplicity and cost-effectiveness.

Dry Welding:

Dry underwater welding is also known as hyperbaric welding which is basically performed under a hyperbaric chamber inside water. The technique here is a special mixture of gas which is filled inside the chamber. The gas which consists of oxygen, helium, and argon duly help to keep the water away from getting into the chamber which subsequently allows the welder to perform high-quality welding under a completely dry condition.

Now let’s take a look at some of the notable areas over which underwater welding is frequently used:

Where Is Underwater Welding Used?

  • Underwater Pipelines: Underwater pipelines or submarine pipelines are a huge area where underwater welding is frequently used. Most of these pipelines transport oil and gas from one state or area to another.
  • Dockyards: Dockyard or shipyard is another huge area where underwater welding is largely used. These are the places where all sizes of ships and vessels are repaired and manufactured.
  • Offshore Oil Drilling: We all know one of the major resources of oil is under the sea level. These offshore drilling rigs are designed to drill and extract crude oil from underneath the sea bed. The application of underwater welding is huge in this area because all of them are positioned over the seawater in a submerged manner.
  • Nuclear Power Centers: We heard about inland power plants but have you ever heard about underwater nuclear plants? Well, the answer is underwater power plants are becoming more and more popular because of their ability to provide unlimited cold water flow for cooling up the condensers.
    For this, developed countries have already established underwater power plants to astronomically increase the production of electricity. This also proportionately increased the demand for underwater welders in practice.
  • Mining: Underwater mining or deep-sea mining is a large industry where raw minerals are retrieved from the sea bed. This also requires huge underwater welding activity for smoothly running its operation.
  • Ships and Barges: Oftentimes large ships and vessels require minor welding jobs underneath its submerged area. The only way to perform it is by the application of underwater welding.
Underwater Welding
Deep sea repair work on a corroded metal pipe

Now we’re going to learn about all the crucial gears and equipment that every underwater welder need before diving into the water:

Required Gears for Underwater Welding

  • A Diving Helmet: The first thing that every underwater welder requires is a diving helmet. This essential gear will allow you to safeguard your eyes and face while continuously providing oxygen to make you breathe. However, since you are going to weld with this helmet on, a special layer on the screen should be attached over the eyesight area of the helmet to protect your eyes.
  • Diving Suit: Now you need to be aware that, there are basically two types of diving suits. They are wet and dry diving suits. We all know the more time you spend underwater the faster your body will lose its heat.A dry suit is designed for professional divers who tend to stay more time underwater. Dry-suits have the ability to keep your body completely dry and warm for a longer time.Conversely, a wet suit is more likely a ‘go-to’ apparel for divers. The build material which is called foamed neoprene allows a small amount of water for making a layer over the wet suit and subsequently makes the water warmer which keeps away cold water to come into the suit.
  • Diving Knife: A diving knife is an essential tool for every underwater welder because oftentimes you need to chop over material to conveniently get the job done in less time. Besides, there will be many crucial situations where are you are going to need a diving knife.
  • Compressor with Gas Panel: Well this gas is supplied to the diver through shutoff valves which are attached with a low-pressure compressor. This is the primary supply of gas to the welder where the main process is performed by a team staying on board.
  • Diver’s Harness with Buoyancy Control: Harness jackets are essential because as a professional diver, oftentimes you need to stay in a mid or bottom position underwater which is quite difficult if you don’t have enough weighting.Now, this is basically a waistcoat made with strong webbing cloth which allows the diver to stay in relevant buoyancy. Besides, the added buoyancy control will allow you to adjust the weight according to the position in which you’re planning to work.
  • Bailout Gas: The most necessary thing an underwater welder requires is the surface supplied air. Without this, you cannot even breathe underwater. However, the future is always uncertain which may even cost your life. So a diver should definitely carry bailout gas with him for emergency gas supply.
  • Knife Switch: When you are planning to wet weld, you certainly need a power regulator by which you can control the supply of electricity coming from the ground to power up your electrical devices.
  • A Welder: This is the only equipment which will power up your electrode for performing the welding task. No matter which welding process you use, the welder should be accurately devised in terms of amperage and current type (AC or DC) by considering the metal thickness and working environment (underwater).
  • Electrodes: Well, the electrode is an integral part of any welding process by which you’ll strike up the arc and draw weld beads.
  • Stinger: A stinger is basically a holding device for the electrode. The welding cable will be attached to this tool to power up the electrode.

Dangers In Underwater Welding And How To Avoid Them

Unlike traditional ground welding process, there are some unique risks and dangers associated with underwater welding. Since the process is completely performed underwater and includes manipulating the electrical current, you are more likely to experience many critical situations from that of ground welding.

A welder should sufficiently train himself to efficiently perform welding inside water while being aware of all the possible risk factors associated with this job. Now let’s learn about all the risks and dangers of underwater welding:

  • Decompression Sickness: The deeper you go into the water for welding the higher pressure you’re going to feel on your body because of high buoyancy. Now, when you are actually in deep water and accidentally or subconsciously lift your body up too fast, you’ll experience bubbling inside your air tank as the pressure gets released faster. Besides, it may dramatically cause an impact on your body which may occur in memory loss or even paralysis.
  • Drowning: Frankly speaking, accidents like drowning can happen to any level of divers not because of his inefficiency in floating or swimming but because of his inability to securely carry and maintain his diving equipment and also getting trapped under an obstacle.
  • Hypothermia: Well, we all know staying more time underwater increases the chance of your body losing its temperature. Consequently, all the heat goes out from your body which can subsequently affect your metabolism and also cause serious issues like organ failure.
  • Electric Shock: One of the most critical risks for an underwater welder is electric shock or electrocution. Oftentimes, if the instruments you are working with have no waterproof feature, it may easily cause you getting an electric shock. So make sure to ensure all the equipment are completely waterproof before even putting your suit on.
  • Explosion Risk: You need to be aware of the gas pockets generated from the oxygen and hydrogen mixture because if by any chance it ignites, the result could be a massive explosion.
  • Environmental Risk: As you may already know the deeper you go for welding the more pressure you’ll feel on your body. Hence you are more likely to carry huge weight with your body which is the only thing you need to be concerned for. This is because your body can get twisted with your own equipment which also increases the risk of getting trapped under an obstacle.
  • Long, Nose, And Ear Damage: Since working underwater provides your body with excessively high pressure, sometimes it may even damage your nose and ear if you stay there for a longer period of time.
  • Wildlife Creatures: Finally, as a professional underwater welder, oftentimes you need to work on offshore areas where the risks of getting harmed by wildlife creatures like sharks are too high. So you need to be cautious about them and take enough protective measures.

Final Words

Since taking higher risks provide higher rewards, underwater welding can be a lucrative profession for many efficient welders in practice. Thanks for reading the whole post. Stay along with us for our upcoming welding related guides and articles. We appreciate your visit.

Spread The Love

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Gary Hargrave

Gary Hargrave

My name is Gary P. Hargrave. I started this website to enlighten and help train the thousands of potential welders out there on the nitty-gritties of this job. In this industry, I believe that passion is everything.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *