DeepFlex Composite Deepwater FFRP Pipe Begins Commercialization

DeepFlex Inc. (Houston, Texas), a manufacturer of glass fiber-reinforced pipe for use in subsea and deepwater oil exploration applications, has announced that its pipe is being used in the Gulf of Mexico, West Africa and Far East Asia. The pipe is an all-composite flexible fiber-reinforced pipe (FFRP), a lightweight,

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DeepFlex Inc. (Houston, Texas), a manufacturer of glass fiber-reinforced pipe for use in subsea and deepwater oil exploration applications, has announced that its pipe is being used in the Gulf of Mexico, West Africa and Far East Asia.

The pipe is an all-composite flexible fiber-reinforced pipe (FFRP), a lightweight, nonmetallic, unbonded pipe developed specifically for use in subsea and deepwater floating system applications. DeepFlex says the need for FFRP becomes more critical as the industry moves out to 3,000m/9,842-ft water depths. Constructed from extruded polymeric layers reinforced with laminated glass fiber tape stacks, FFRP is the patented brainchild of Bruce McConkey and Mike Bryant, and it has been successfully commercialized by DeepFlex Inc. “Due to its unique performance characteristics, FFRP has the potential to enable new development scenarios in deep- and ultradeepwater fields around the globe,” says McConkey. The company says its pipe can withstand the greater external hydrostatic pressures, higher internal wellhead pressures and temperature extremes that accompany deepwater work.

To maximize the strength of its composite-only pipe, DeepFlex created overlapping layers of composite reinforcement, using multistart stacks of specially made, precured unidirectional glass fiber composite tapes. The pipe is continuous and is fabricated in long lengths that are limited, according to the company, only by storage capacity. Reportedly, tests of the 2-inch/51-mm pipe have demonstrated its ability to survive pressures found in the Marianas Trench, the deepest spot in any ocean of the world. A 4-inch/102-mm pipe has been tested to a collapse pressure equivalent to a depth of more than 6000m (22,482 ft).

While the plies within each FFRP stack are bonded together by epoxy resin, each stack remains unbonded from the others, ensuring flexibility under extreme conditions and increasing fatigue resistance in dynamic applications. Unbonded construction also allows the pipe to be produced and installed in continuous long lengths in the size ranges currently of interest to offshore oil and gas operators.

DeepFlex designed the pipe with the help of structural mechanics consultants at MMI Engineering Inc. (Houston, Texas), who modeled the FFRP pipe and performed simulations n the models, using Abaqus SIMULIA-brand unified finite element analysis (FEA) software, supplied by Dassault Systèmes’ SIMULIA brand (Providence, R.I.).