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Pipeline challenge

ENGINEERS WORKING in the pipelines sector need to overcome industry conservatism and embrace opportunities offered by new technology to address environmental, cost and maintenance issues, Pipeline Industries Guild president Andrew Palmer said this week.

Offering a foretaste of the address he is to give at Pipelines 2000, held concurrently with Civils 2000 in May, Palmer said: 'The field is developing fast, but the pipelines sector is by no means technologically mature. Good ideas around are held back, or fail to take off through industry conservatism.'

Improvements in sensor technology are vital in stemming leaks, he claimed: 'Methods used at the moment are pretty primitive.'

Palmer added that technological advance could help achieve improvements in cost, time and environmental performance - key industry drivers - across oil, gas, chemical, clean and dirty water sectors.

'People aren't going to tolerate pollution anywhere. Technology can help us reduce the environmental impact of construction and decommissioning, and improve sustainability through a pipeline's life.

'Increasingly, it enables environmental demands to be balanced with the need to build things quickly and cheaply, ' Palmer said. 'Innovations in pipeline technology should be seen as part and parcel of the information revolution.'

He added that he would be asking why some technologies succeed while other high calibre innovations fail to become established. He cited new labour saving pipe connection techniques which reduced cost.

Flash butt-welding is used extensively in Russia and transfers well between land and marine situations, he said. The technique involves striking an arc simultaneously around the entire circumference of pipes butted together, reducing deformation and dramatically improving strength in the joint. But the technique is little used in the West due to resistance from the welding profession, Palmer said.

He also commended the huge potential of Homer polar welding, a technique that involves passing a giant electrical current through the interface between two steel pipes, and of memory metal joints, widely used in the construction of nuclear submarines.

'But all the techniques have been demonstrated and need to be transferred from the lab to the field.'

For more details on Pipelines 2000 contact Sally Devine on (020) 7505 6644. sallyd@construct. emap. co. uk For more details on Civils 2000 contact Shelly Forrester on (020) 7505 6842.

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