Weight & Sea: How composite materials are making underwater pipes lighter
Offshore exploitation is getting ever more challenging as new fields are discovered in deeper water. Exploiting deeper means using longer subsea pipes; and the longer the pipes, the heavier - which in turn means larger boats for installation as well as larger floating production units to withstand the weight. The development of Solvay's Evolite™ F1050, a high-performance carbon fiber composite for increasingly demanding oil & gas applications, offers an innovative way to overcome the challenge.
“Lightweighting has become a key focus area for this industry,” explains Corinne Duffie, head of the Oil & Gas segment of the Thermoplastics Composites Incubator. “So together with our customers, we took a closer look at the pipes: how could we make them lighter?”
A match made in deep water
Since the end of the 1990's, the Oil & Gas industry has been using Specialty Polymers’ Solef® PVDF as a pressure sheath in complex subsea pipes. The Solef ® pressure sheaths act as an internal fluid containment layer thanks to their thermal, chemical resistance and barrier properties.
“With the composite expertise that Solvay now has in-house, Specialty Polymers and Composite Materials (the Global Business Unit created with the absorption of Cytec) were able to provide the right composite material compatible with PVDF Solef® to reduce weight by replacing steel. Inherently, using composites also offers better corrosion resistance versus steel,” says Corinne.
The result is Evolite™ F1050, a unidirectional tape that combines the chemical and temperature resistance of Solef®PVDF with the inherent high strength of carbon fiber, which can represent up to several tens of tons saved on one single pipe.
When an idea sticks ...
“The start of this collaboration was fully customer-driven,” says Kim Gingras, director of the Thermoplastics Composites Incubator. “Our customers have been thinking about how to leverage composites to reduce the weight of their pipes for several years. This new material helps address that. But the market continues to evolve, which means we can’t afford to stand still. Evolite™ F1050 is the first in a portfolio of products we are developing to enable cost efficient solutions for oil and gas operators through weight reduction.”
Innovation, combined with global presence and long-term partnerships with customers, provides a compelling competitive edge to industries seeking increased energy efficiency and less polluting alternatives. Its businesses in composites and specialty polymers provide solutions for sustainable mobility, lightweighting, CO2 and energy efficiency.