Element Hitchin, UK, has successfully completed a groundbreaking proof-of-concept research project to design and build equipment for the continuous quality control and repairing of reinforced thermoplastic pipes during the manufacturing process.
This represents a first of its kind capability for the Oil & Gas sector. The research has significant commercial implications for the industry, which is shifting away from a reliance on metallic pipes towards lighter, more flexible, and resistant composite materials. The manufacturing stage demands a continuous process to maintain integrity and critical flaws can be difficult to identify or repair, so this solution could deliver substantial cost reductions.
During the two and a half year project costing £620,000, Element Hitchin worked in partnership with global manufacturer GE Oil & Gas and non-destructive equipment specialists Wavelength NDT, with the venture part-funded by the UK Government via the Technology Strategy Board.
Element Hitchin designed and built equipment and test methodologies to ultrasonically detect critical flaws in thermoplastic polymer pipes during the continuous manufacturing process. In addition to physical testing, the team of experts utilized Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to simulate various environments, applying ultrasonic data to complex models. The consortium also created an innovative prototype machine to repair sections of pipe where flaws or delamination would reduce mechanical strength or accelerate material ageing.
Rod Martin, Element’s EVP Oil & Gas, said: “Element Hitchin continues to blaze a trail in composite materials testing and qualification, and this research further cements its reputation as one of the world’s leading laboratories in the field. Its status as the Element group’s international center of excellence for FEA was a factor in its critical contribution to the project’s success.
“This research will enable us to develop new, cutting-edge testing and qualification services, which continue to be led by the requirements of key clients, and the knowledge gained by Hitchin is invaluable in supporting various existing offerings to the O&G sector, and this composites testing expertise will be shared with 1,450 Engaged Experts and across our platform of 42 facilities worldwide,” he concluded.
Element is a global network of laboratories with experts specializing in materials testing, product qualification testing and failure analysis for the Aerospace, Oil and Gas and the Transportation and Industrial sectors. Their team of 1,450 scientists, engineers and technicians work in 42 facilities located throughout the U.S. and Europe.