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An introduction to the technology

Spiral Wound Pipe ("Helipipe") technology has its origins in attempts to form pipelines from the helical winding of steel strip rather than the forming of steel plate in a pipe mill. The desire to do this has been present for a long time and predecessor projects were sponsored by BP and Shell as long ago as 1995.

The intent was to take advantage of improvements in metallurgy, design and construction to develop a low-cost, lightweight, high strength pipeline technology capable of being manufactured on site in a continuous process. However, until recently high strength steel suffered from low ductility and fears of brittleness.

New steel grades developed by Swedish steel for the automotive industry allow higher ductility to be combined with higher strength. This means that tough thin steel strip can be cold formed using precision roll forming processes developed for safety critical automotive chassis sections, where light weight, good impact resistance and high strength is the key set of structural requirements.

The possibility of forming pipelines directly from steel strip delivered to the field in coils will revolutionise the pipeline manufacturing process in two ways.

  1. Mobile in-field pipe manufacture will reduce costs by cutting out many of the conventional steps in the process whereby 12m length pipe sections are formed and tested in a pipe mill, then shipped to a coating plant, then shipped to the field, creating difficult logistics for pipe transport, especially for large diameter pipe where this mainly ships fresh air.
  2. The pipe design is intrinsically lighter and more flexible, with sufficient flexibility to substantially reduce the need for bending stations.
  3. Intrinsically resistent to running cracks.

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