America's oil and gas drilling boom is fueling use of polyethyene pipe — and prompting Pipe Coil Technology Inc. to build coiling machinery for larger-diameter pipe.
Pipe Coil Technology is introducing to North America a range of automatic coiling equipment that can package 8-inch, high density PE pipe onto coils for easy transport. PCT already has sold coilers for 6-inch pipe to U.S. customers.
PCT coiling systems feature the company's low-ovality technology. The machines can automatically strap pipe, apply labels and apply shrink wrap.
Bryan Friend, PCT's vice president of sales and marketing for North America, said smooth-wall HDPE pipe is growing quickly in several applications, including municipal water and for carrying water to oil and gas drilling sites. Friend said the boom in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, is driving demand for pipe.
“It's definitely a growing market, and if you look at pipe demands, speculated over the next five to 10 years, there's definitely a growth sector. And what we're trying to penetrate is the larger-diameter coiling,” Friend said.
The American Chemistry Council in Washington reports the use of HDPE in smooth-wall pipe grew by 10.8 percent in 2012 over 2011.
Friend outlined PCT's strategy in an early August interview at the company's headquarters and manufacturing operation in Highland Heights, a suburb of Cleveland.
After years of exporting machinery to the U.S., British parent company Pipe Coil Technology Ltd. set up the 20,000-square-foot plant to begin U.S. manufacturing. The Highland Heights factory, which employs 14 people, is equipped with two 20-ton cranes.
Pipe Coil Technology hired Friend, a veteran of extrusion downstream equipment who had worked in engineering and technical sales positions at auxiliary equipment makers ACS Group and Vulcan Machinery Corp.
PCT promotes coiled, larger-diameter pipe — one length of pipe can be hundreds of feet long — as an improvement over single lengths of pipe, termed “sticks.”
“There are huge advantages to having a 500-foot coil of pipe vs. the same length in 40-foot sticks, where you need a joint and a splice every 40 feet when you install it,” Friend said. “If you can take the splices out, you'll increase the pipeline integrity.”
Also, in fracking operations it's easier to move the HDPE supply lines to another well, by coiling them up again, he said.
Coiling allows more pipe to be transported at one time. For the 8-inch pipe, coil lengths of up to 400 feet (in wall thicknesses of DR7 and DR9) or 300 feet (DR11 or DR13.5) can be produced on PCT's smaller machine, with overall coil dimensions of up to 11.3 feet in diameter and 48 inches wide.
The larger machine has a coil-width capacity of 8 feet and can hold coil lengths of pipe up to 800 feet long.
The key to Pipe Coiling Technology machines is the company's low ovality, or LV, technology. As plastic pipe is wound on a coil, the stresses tend to make it become oval, which is not as desirable, or as precise, as round pipe. Round is the goal, for accuracy in installation.
Friend said that with some competing systems, oval-shaped pipe has to be re-rounded in the field before installation, requiring a separate step.
With PCT's LV process, after the pipe comes out of an extruder, the still-warm pipe goes through a mechanism that precisely squeezes it on a vertical plane, to counteract the natural tendency to become oval.
“You need the low-ovality technology to be able to coil the larger-diameter pipe and still have a usable, round pipe in the field,” Friend said. “The primary advantages at 6 inches and up would be there's no re-rounding required in the field.”
Pipe Coiling Technology introduced LV technology at NPE2009.
In Highland Heights, PCT employees recently built a giant coiler to handle steel-reinforced plastic pipe for a North American customer. Friend said the beefy machine can handle a coil that weighs 19,000 pounds, with finished coil dimensions of up to 8 feet wide and 12 feet in diameter.
Friend said it is the largest reinforced-plastic-pipe coiler in North America. PCT is scheduled to ship the machine out in mid-September.
In addition to HDPE pipe, PCT coilers also handle tube, hose and conduit; sub-sea flexible lines; and wire rope and cable.