Composite Pipes: The Next Step in The Pipeline Industry’s Evolution

Composite Pipes: The Next Step in The Pipeline Industry’s Evolution

If the oil and gas industry to humanity can be thought of as the heart of the body, then the pipeline industry is an intricate network of blood vessels that feeds humanity’s energy needs. When one or the other fails, the results can be cataclysmic. Energy security can only be realized through excellence in asset protection, which is at the center of all the global environmental and economic challenges that humanity has had to address for many years. Asset protection is also a foundational element in maintaining the integrity of the infrastructure that keeps the oil and gas industry running like clockwork which will ultimately determine the well-being of human communities and ecosystems alike. The pipeline industry is a fundamental part of this process, ensuring that essential hydrocarbon resources reach their markets without inflicting damage.

As the industry evolves and environmental challenges become increasingly complex, the pipeline industry has had to adapt to a market that demands a better delivery of services and more durability in its products. It goes without saying that one of the key adaptations that have allowed the pipeline industry to succeed in expanding profits, enhancing asset protection, and benefiting communities around the world is the use of composite pipes, especially when it comes to concerns about fatigue, weight, and corrosion.

Recently, thermoplastic composite piping systems are just one of many possible options that have become a popular alternative to traditional steel pipes due to these three concerns. Thermoplastic pipes have a solid pipe wall composed of thermoplastic polymeric material as well as reinforcement fibers or glass. With these fibers fully embedded, the manufacturing process is designed to produce a robust composite structure. The end result is a highly durable, spoolable alternative that weighs less than traditional equivalents made of metal. Depending on how the piping system is applied, companies typically choose a specific thermoplastic matrix and fiber which would be the perfect fit for their project.

Moreover, corrosion no longer has to be a top concern for those who choose to work with thermoplastic pipeline systems with their highly resistant chemical composition and relatively low-cost installation process. Without corrosion, companies do not have to worry about all other corrosion-related costs, which include inspection and maintenance measures, pigging, and pumping corrosion inhibitors.

With soaring global temperatures becoming a top concern and the urgent need to work toward net-zero emissions, companies have been hard at work minimizing or eliminating the environmental impact of composite pipes, which have also proven to be useful in lowering the carbon footprint of companies around the world. Research has shown that composite pipe has a significantly lower carbon footprint than carbon steel installations – up to 50% in some instances.

Shawcor’s Composite Line Pipes

Shawcor’s composite line pipes have been proven to be at the forefront of innovation. The company has several types including FlexPipe, FlexPipe HT (high-temperature) and FlexCord, as well as a myriad of various joint systems. All of these are also easy to install and have been proven to be cost-effective.

These systems are designed for maximum durability, with the ability to endure extreme conditions including high temperature, pressure, and corrosion. Maintenance and long-term chemical inhibitors should never be a concern as Shawcor’s composite line pipes actually have a service life of 20 years.

As one of Shawcor’s key products, FlexPipe is a flexible, spoolable line pipe known for its ability to keep installation costs down as well as its endurance, being made from thermoplastic liner (HDPE/PE-RT liner), a helically wound glass fiber reinforcement, and a highly durable external thermoplastic jacket (HDPE/PE-RT liner), which is able to withstand corrosive, high pressure conditions of up to 1,500 psi. FlexPipe HT has the same advantages as FlexPipe, with the added benefit that it demonstrates continuous performance at temperatures of up to 82oC (180o F). It can operate at a maximum pressure of 1,500 psi. Being suitable for sour service applications and compatible with up to 50% of aromatic and cycloalkane hydrocarbons, FlexPipe products are low friction, abrasion-resistant, and also have the advantage of higher flower rates compared to traditional steel pipes.

Both FlexPipe and FlexPipe HT are used in the upstream, midstream, and downstream industries in everything from oil and gas to transporting water. It’s also worthy of noting that the FlexPipe systems are designed to exceed industry requirements of API, ASTM, and CSA standards and their connections are fit with reliably durable fittings that never leak and are available for companies in two corrosion-resistant material options.

If severe pressure cycles and pulsations produced by piston pumps are a concern, then Shawcor’s FlexCord would be a more than an ideal option, offering all the same benefits as FlexPipe and fit with a high-strength steel-cord reinforced design, capable of operating at pressures of up to 2,250 psi. With five different layers (an HDPE external jack, internal liner, and barrier layer as well as two galvanized steel cord layers), FlexCord is ideal for high frequency 225 psi peak-to-peak pressure pulsations in addition to ten full pressure on-off cycles of 0-1,500 psi per day. Its safety features eliminate needed de-rating in the majority of cyclic applications. Its steel cord layers easily enable rapid decompression since it facilitates the enhanced venting of gases that go through the liner. As far as installation goes, companies that choose this product could potentially save up to 50% on installation costs and help achieve up to 35% installation cost savings when compared to the traditional steel alternative.

The FlexCord Linepipe Anti-Buoyant consists of a thermoplastic jacket, a structural layer of galvanized steel cords, and an internal layer of thermoplastic liner. It is designed specifically for shallow-water environments and can be used at a depth of up to 30 meters. Since it is anti-buoyant, it eliminates the need for weights to anchor it down, which is essential for the completion of a cost-efficient and timely installation process. In addition, this product’s  corrosion-resistant galvanized reinforcement layers are ideal for shallow water couplings and terminations. Pipeline companies would be happy to know that they can save up to 35% on installation costs since the process requires fewer crewmembers, minimal heavy equipment, as well as fewer connections.

These systems can be connected using a variety of the company’s joining systems, made from either nickel-coated or stainless steel fittings.

Shawcor’s Success Story in Egypt

Being a joint venture between the Egyptian National Oil Company and TransGlobe, the West Bakr Petroleum Company has three fields in Egypt’s Eastern Desert which it operates including oil wells, flow lines, and gathering lines. The gathering systems, made of previously installed bare carbon steel, faced extensive corrosion issues due to the presence of oxygen and carbon dioxide. In addition, West Bakr also needed to install new corrosion-resistant flow lines. Shawcor’s FlexPipe was more than an ideal choice.

The entire installation process took 40 days, which included 20 days of hydrotesting. As a brownfield installation, working with flexible composite pipes was particularly advantageous for doing work amongst existing infrastructure. The process was complete without any elbows or custom fittings due to FlexPipe’s continuous construction. Previous installations done by West Bakr with carbon steel lines proved time-consuming, taking five times longer than FlexPipe.

The installation process involved 25,000 meters of 4” FP301 HT and helped create a savings opportunity of up to $50,000 annually. The installation of FlexPipe for West Bakr was highly successful in saving both time and money in the process.

In expressing his gratitude to Shawcor, West Bakr Petroleum Company’s spokesperson said “Shawcor and their installation team were co-operative and easy to work with, proving that they are truly a partner.”

As the pipeline industry continues to ride the waves of change, its various technologies and innovations have sought ways to ensure that pipeline systems are more durable, reliable, and cost-effective in both installations and maintenance. For the years to come, companies will be hard at work in enhancing the value of pipeline systems around the world for the prosperity of human communities, ecosystems, and the environment.


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