Figuring Out the Composite Pipeline Conundrum

Imagine having a material that is lighter and stronger than steel and capable of withstanding damaging salt water. Would it make sense to use that material for building new pipelines and repairing those already deployed? It would, which is why some in the composites industry are so dismayed by the slow pace at which composites are being adopted for pipelines.

Composite materials, like carbon fiber for example, are typically stronger and lighter than steel and aluminum. That’s why aerospace manufacturers use carbon fiber to build everything from airplane fuselage panels to rocket bodies. So why the reluctance to use these materials to build pipelines?

According to Offshore Engineer contributor Jennifer Pallanich, it’s a matter of testing. Pipeline builders have been using steel for as long as most of us can remember. It is proven technology designers and builders don’t have to worry about. They know that as long as they follow traditional methods, their work will prove more than adequate.

There isn’t enough history behind composites to satisfy builders and designers. They want more testing before they will even consider adopting a material like carbon fiber. But this creates a conundrum. Lab testing only goes so far, and it’s hard to test carbon fiber in the real world if no one is willing to deploy it.

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