THORNTON, CLEVELEYS, ENGLAND (Sept. 12, 12:30 p.m. ET) — Victrex plc has created a new pipes business to target customers working in harsh operating environments in the oil and gas, aerospace and other industries. It is extruding the pipes for PEEK polymer at its manufacturing headquarters in Thornton Cleveleys.
James Simmonite, business leader pipes at Victrex Polymer Solutions, says: “The launch of Victrex Pipes is the culmination of six years of intensive research, development, market assessment and customer liaison.”
The company, in fact, put in place a dedicated pipes business team 12 months ago, following successful field trials, and is now widening the marketing program for the products. It has installed two dedicated extrusion lines to support current demand and development activities.
The high performance PEEK polymer has underpinned Victrex's growth, initially in injection molding applications, but more recently in its Aptiv PEEK films, which are also extruded at the Thornton Cleveleys site.
“Aptiv film has been a great success, and Victrex Pipes is an extension of that business strategy,” Simmonite told European Plastics News.
He says there are a number of customers already using Victrex PEEK pipes, although he would not reveal customer names. The offshore oil and gas sector is one that is already making the most of PEEK polymer's performance capabilities, which include the ability to withstand extreme temperatures and corrosive conditions as well as reduce weight.
Victrex originally developed its pipes to replace the corrosion resistant alloys (CRAs) used as liners in carbon steel pipes for oil and gas. The company says tests have shown that pipes and tubes extruded from Victrex PEEK display chemical resistance to hydrogen sulphide at high temperature, a source of corrosion in steel pipes used for hydrocarbons. The material is also unaffected after 2,000 hours of exposure to steam at 200C.
As well as performance benefits, Simmonite says there are business advantages of PEEK pipes. The price of some CRAs started to become very volatile in 2008 and, together with CRA liner lead times of 12-18 months, this led oil and gas customers to look for alternatives. Victrex is working with channel partners to supply its Victrex pipes to oil and gas companies.
The company is currently making its pipes in sizes from 6mm outer diameter (OD), up to 200mm OD, with wall thicknesses (depending on the OD) from 0.8mm to 5mm. They are available either as straight lengths or, for smaller diameters, in coiled lengths of up to 3,000m. The pipes can be joined using a range of connectors and adhesives, and also by using conventional welding.
A key attribute for customers in the aerospace sector is the weight savings offered by PEEK, allowing them to replace metal pipes as they seek greater fuel efficiency. The Victrex pipes are also inherently halogen-free, with low levels of smoke and toxic gas emissions, enabling them to meet the stringent safety, quality and performance regulations within the aerospace industry.
Victrex PEEK is already being extruded in smaller diameter pipe and tube by tubing manufacturers around the world, which complement the Victrex line of pipes. Simmonite says: “The market for smaller diameters, below 6mm, is already well served.”
So Victrex is concentrating on diameters up to 200mm, and is looking to extend beyond that current limit. Simmonite says the company is working with a partner wanting to develop pipe of 10 inches (254mm) diameter and beyond.
Among the current industrial uses for Victrex pipes are high voltage and critical component sheathing applications, and fibre optic protection. The use of PEEK in these applications provides insulation, abrasion resistance and mechanical protection.
As a metal replacement and an alternative to other materials, Victrex PEEK polymer is increasingly being selected for energy applications, given its high performance over time.