Modelling for a non-welded connection system for pipelines
Tubular Sciences Ltd is working on new technology for connecting metal-to-metal pipelines. By developing a patented, non-threaded, non-welded connector, the Aberdeen-based microbusiness is planning to offer a cost-effective alternative to traditional welded jointing methods.
Its connector, called SPRINT, evolved from technology originally developed to address specific issues in deepwater well construction. SPRINT is a cold-formed, fully automated system, using external pressure to create a high-integrity, metal-to-metal connection in under a minute. Tubular Sciences aims to prove the technology for use in onshore and offshore pipe-lay and then ultimately move onto other applications.
The attractions of developing an alternative to welded solutions are significant. Welding is labour-intensive and costly, and presents risks around health and safety, induced corrosion and reduced joint integrity. By removing the requirement for weld, the SPRINT connector could increase pipeline lay rates by up to approximately 70% onshore and offshore. It could also reduce corrosion risks and increase coating integrity.
A key step in developing the connector has been to undertake Finite Element Analysis (FEA). FEA uses numerical techniques to model physical effects, in order to streamline the design phase of an engineering project. In this case, the aim of the FEA was to obtain quantitative information on the influence of key process parameters (such as joint geometry, material properties and interface contact) on joint formation and integrity.
Without the capabilities to do advanced FEA in-house, Tubular Sciences approached OGIC for support to work with an academic partner. We brought the company together with Professor Donald Mackenzie and Dr Xingguo Zhou from the University of Strathclyde – both work in the Mechanics and Materials Research Centre in the Dept of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. We also provided financial support to make the collaboration possible.
Professor Mackenzie and Dr Zhou designed a project plan based on 2D analysis of the joint forming process and joint integrity/strength under different pressures and simulated bending behaviour. They then investigated different sleeve designs for a range of parameters and used their findings to propose a sleeve design.
Tubular Sciences is working towards having a fully challenged model for its SPRINT connector, to act as a blueprint for all sizes and materials within pipeline application. The quantitative data has fed valuably into the next stage of the project – physical testing and prototype development with Tubular Sciences’ key industry partners.
As a result of the FEA, Tubular Sciences has been able to further develop the SPRINT concept, enabling the company to engage with and gain commitment from operators and contractors for continued R&D and field trials in both the UK and Canada. In addition, the FEA supported Tubular Sciences in winning an industry and investor led Canadian Energy Accelerator programme.
“Donald and Xingguo’s work has been instrumental in progressing this project. They were always easy to work with, quick to respond and open to discussion – just what businesses need when they collaborate with academic partners.”
Elaine Galston, CEO, Tubular Sciences
“Working with Tubular Sciences and OGIC was a great way to apply our knowledge and expertise to a novel and challenging oil and gas industry project.”
Professor Donald Mackenzie, Mechanics and Materials Research Centre, University of Strathclyde