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New technology in the pipeline to make big savings

Thursday 10 February 2011

Researchers are applying laser-driven technology to off-shore oil pipelines in a green project that has the potential to save thousands of pounds.

A team of engineering experts from Sheffield Hallam University is researching a new way of producing Alloy 625, a high-strength material used in the flanges of pipelines to stop them corroding.

Researchers from the University's Materials and Engineering Research Institute (MERI) are using laser deposition technology to produce the hard-hitting alloy. They say that it is reducing material costs by up to 85 per cent and also cuts down on the amount of Nickel used - resulting in a more environmentally-friendly production process.

The team is identifying new opportunities for laser deposition, as well as producing samples and prototypes that could be used in the offshore oil and gas industry.

Professor Alan Smith and Dr David Clegg, together with knowledge transfer associate Chunjun Li, are working with Rotherham-based Evenort on the project.

Professor Smith said: 'Evenort produce flanges and other pipeline products for the oil and gas industry which have to be machined to very tight tolerances from highly alloyed corrosion resistant materials.

'We are developing an Alloy 625 process which will give the necessary corrosion resistance but at greatly reduced manufacturing cost.

'By using laser deposition technology, we can clad the flanges with a suitably thick corrosion resistant layer but given the complex shape of these products this is not a straight forward process.

'The cladding is carried out on the inside surfaces of tubes using powder metallurgy and laser deposition. The savings in terms of materials cost has been estimated to be between 50 and 85 per cent depending on the complexity of the product.

'This also has an environmental benefit because far fewer precious metals are required in the manufacturing process.'

Craig McKay, general manager for Evenort, added: 'By applying a laser-deposited section of Alloy 625 to the wetted surfaces of the product, the amount of the costly alloy in the component is much reduced.

'Flanges produced in this way are therefore cheaper and quicker to market. The savings get bigger as the nominal size of the pipeline increases so this would be particularly suitable for large diameter sour service applications such as oil pipelines.'

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