Aerospace materials offer solution for oil pipelines

A new technology introduced by researchers at the University of Arizona could dramatically reshape the oil and gas pipeline industry, offering low-cost access to so-called "infinite" pipelines.

This new technology uses a material adapted from the aerospace industry that resembles a plastic honeycomb, wrapped in layers of carbon fabric coated with resin.

Aside from being light, extremely strong and reasonably inexpensive to produce, pipelines can also be constructed out of it in a continuous piece, on-site to lengths of up to a mile, or potentially even longer.

"There are really two aspects to this invention," University of Arizona professor Mo Ehsani explained. "One is this new type of lightweight honeycomb pipe. Second is our ability to give clients an endless or infinite pipe, without a joint. That is a big, big breakthrough in the pipeline industry that has implications for natural gas, oil, water and sewer pipes."

The new approach could allow pipeline construction companies to forego the expensive factories and shipping that steel and concrete piping requires, as well as the frequent joints that pose one of the greatest risks of leaking in traditional oil pipelines.

Outlooks for the U.S. oil pipeline industry are available at PennEnergy's Research area.

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