Quickstep, Vortex form joint venture for composite pipes

Quickstep Holdings Ltd. (North Coogee, Australia) and Australia-based integrated piping solutions provider Vortex Pipes Ltd. (Canning Vale, Western Australia) have joined forces to develop and market a new generation of high-strength, corrosion-resistant pipes to be manufactured using Quickstep’s patented composites

Quickstep Holdings Ltd. (North Coogee, Australia) and Australia-based integrated piping solutions provider Vortex Pipes Ltd. (Canning Vale, Western Australia) have joined forces to develop and market a new generation of high-strength, corrosion-resistant pipes to be manufactured using Quickstep’s patented composites manufacturing process.

The joint venture (JV) agreement brings together the companies’ respective strengths in composite manufacturing technology and pipe-lining and manufacturing solutions to deliver a next-generation product, offering what is said to be significant competitive advantages to infrastructure groups and asset managers over existing alternatives.

The JV, which will operate under the name QuickPipes, will commence work immediately focused on the development of a range of high-end composite pressure pipes. It initially will be established on an 80:20 (Vortex::Quickstep) basis, with Quickstep contributing its technology and know-how, as well as a suitable Quickstep QS20 composites production machine. Vortex (previously known as ShieldLiner) will contribute its composites pipe-lining and manufacturing technology, industry contacts and know-how in the specialized fields of pipe cleaning, pipe rehabilitation and fiberglass pipe provisioning.

Vortex will be responsible for stage 1 funding of the JV. Vortex is in discussions with the Victorian Centre for Advanced Materials Manufacturing Ltd (VCAMM) regarding research funding opportunities through their associations with Co-operative Research Centres (CRCs) and other government-backed organizations.

The first stage of the JV will explore the use of the Quickstep Process to cure various pipes using a range of fibers and resins. The proving of the improved pipe properties expected using this process will allow detailed market research on the large potential for this product worldwide. This will be followed by the construction of the first QuickPipes manufacturing plant. The expected investment for Stage 1 of the project is a value of up to $750,000.

It is anticipated that pipeline manufacturing using Quickstep’s patented fluid-based technology would lead to a range of significant benefits, including improved strength and corrosion resistance in the pipes, as well as reduced manufacturing costs through faster processing times.

In addition, due to the portability of Quickstep’s manufacturing equipment, QuickPipes would provide customers with the ability to manufacture and “meld” sections of pipe onsite, rather than having to ship the finished product from the manufacturer, leading to a substantial reduction in the logistics costs currently incurred. The potential ability to meld joints on-site is also seen as a significant benefit in providing a fully sealed pressure pipe solution.

Initial Proof of Concept (POC) carbon fiber pipes have already been produced by VCAMM (Quickstep’s joint venture partner at Deakin University) in conjunction with Vortex and reportedly show exceptional strength-to-weight ratios when compared to current market offerings and traditional steel- and concrete-reinforced pipes.

The managing director of Vortex, Trevor Gosatti, said the application of advanced composite technology in pipe manufacturing was becoming increasingly prevalent as infrastructure asset owners recognized the improved “whole-of-life” cost of these products.

“Vortex is receiving increasing enquiries from customers interested in alternatives to traditional steel pipe, who face large cost increases due to the increasing raw material costs,” Gosatti said.

“While the industry is currently dominated by steel pipes due to their historical manufacturing base, we are seeing an increasing move towards composite pipe products due to their improving cost viability, reduced maintenance costs and longer lifespan. I believe the development of a new generation of advanced composite pipe cured using the Quickstep Process could see the beginning of an industry shift towards advanced composites particularly in specialist large diameter steel pipe replacement,” he continued.

For its part, Quickstep says the JV represents an opportunity to leverage its composites manufacturing technology in a substantial growth market in the multi-billion dollar pipes infrastructure sector, without compromising its continued focus on securing major long-term manufacturing contracts and JVs in its priority target market, the aerospace sector.

Quickstep’s managing director, Nick Noble, said QuickPipes had the potential to open a significant new global market for the application of Quickstep’s manufacturing technology.

“Working together with Vortex, our aim is to develop a very strong and light advanced composite pipe such as a carbon fiber pipe, that would be easier to lay and longer lasting than existing products,” Noble said. “I believe the Quickstep Process can deliver significant benefits in pipe manufacturing, which could lead to an important new customer base for Quickstep.”