Polymers give longevity to components in the oil and gas industry

The word 'plastic' can sometimes be a vague term, with many perceiving it as an inferior, low grade material generally used for large volume production of simple everyday items from toys to carrier bags. However, when taking into consideration the extreme and arduous environment faced daily by the oil and gas industry, it is clear to see why engineering plastics are used across the industry on applications varying from the subsea sector through to LNG transportation and offshore.

Nylacast has been working with the sector for some time on a number of different projects, finding increasing application for its engineering polymers, and offering advantage over conventional materials. Polymers can have advantageous properties compared to conventional metals for offshore applications such as low wear, high impact strength, corrosion and chemical resistance as well as being lightweight; typically one seventh the weight of a like-for-like steel component. Polymer components can also be self-lubricating, eliminating the need for routine and costly maintenance and machine downtime.

Examples of this technology can be seen when looking at pipe-in-pipe spacers (PIPS). Nylacast has produced hundreds of thousands of PIPS for the industry that have been deployed worldwide across thousands of miles of pipeline. Its PIPS are created from a unique grade of polymer that provides high strength, but more importantly it is self-lubricating with a very low coefficient of friction. Critically, this allows the outer pipe to easily slide over the inner pipe while eliminating damage to the pipelines.

The underside of its PIPS is coated with a unique patented material that provides the opposite of the topside, a very high coefficient of friction. This allows the component to tightly grip the inner pipe with high strength, ensuring it will not slide or move during transportation or installation of the pipelines. This also ensures the pipeline remains centralised and protected for the duration of its service life, along with a layer of insulation within the pipeline.

This is a great example of material selection and knowledge, combining the characteristics and qualities of various metallic and non metallic materials to create increased value and performance of high value components in industry.

Justin Cunningham

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