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  • Are the new composites better than steel?


    P. Hill

    Composites were once considered solely the domain of high-tech industries such as aerospace and motor racing, but they are quickly becoming accepted in the oil and gas industry worldwide as a cost-effective alternative to pipeline replacement. They offer a permanent replacement or repair solution that can be applied with operations online, avoiding the need for costly shutdown. The importance of establishing industry confidence is magnified by the apparent simplicity of the technology which, though one of its strengths, has to some extent also made it harder to believe in. This ignores, of course, the high level of engineering that has gone into precise calculations to design the repair, from the number of layers and resin matrix needed, to the surface preparation, overlap onto good pipe, and curing specifications, among others, to ensure that the repair performs as required. The thinking is: If it's as simple as building up layers by wrapping them around a pipe – can it really work, and will it really be as strong as steel or able to contain high pressures? The answer is an unequivocal “yes.” The establishment of rigorous standards will ensure strength and performance.

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