'Endless' pipe seen for oil, gas industry

Aug. 17, 2012 at 5:42 PM

TUCSON, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Aerospace materials and a process to make endless pipelines for the oil and gas industry could transform pipeline construction, a U.S. researcher says.

Civil engineering Professor Mo Ehsani of the University of Arizona has designed pipeline that, rather than the conventional concrete or steel, uses a central layer of lightweight plastic honeycomb, similar to that used in the aerospace industry, sandwiched between layers of resin-saturated carbon fiber fabric.

And whereas concrete and steel pipes must be built in short sections to fit on standard 18-wheel trucks for transport to construction sites, Ehsani's says his new pipe can be built on-site as a single section of almost any length.

Ehsani has dubbed his creation InfinitPipe.

"There are really two aspects to this invention," he said. "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."

While a literally infinite pipe is impossible, of course, Ehsani's method has the capability to create extremely long sections of joint-free pipe.

"We could make a section a mile long," he said. "Of course, every thousand feet or so, you'd need an expansion joint so the pipe can breathe, but this would certainly not be the same concern we have today, where we have to put a joint every 20 feet."

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