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Element Hitchin Completes Ground-Breaking Research into Composite Pipelines

29 April 2014

Element Hitchin has successfully completed a ground-breaking 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.

According to Element Hitchin, the project represents a first of its kind capability for the Oil & Gas sector and will have 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 explains that it 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 says equipment and test methodologies were designed and built to ultrasonically detect critical flaws in thermoplastic polymer pipes during the continuous manufacturing process. In addition to physical testing, the team of experts utilised 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 centre 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.