Hi, does anyone know if companies are starting to use Carbon Fibre to make oil tubulars and to start replacing steel as material for drill pipe & tubing and downhole tools?
In 1996 when I was at ABB Lummus Global there was consideration for use of carbon fibre for TLP tendons as steel tendons were reaching their depth limitation. As part of the study I went to an ABB Vetco Gray facility in Houston where they had a carbon fibre section of a drilling riser made by Grumman Aircraft under constant tension and compression testing, 24/7 for months. Not sure of the eventual outcome of the testing but the idea of using carbon and boron fibre for offshore drilling and construction is not new. The best features of the fibre was that it had twice the strength and less than half the weight of steel.
This has been studied for many years. Unfortunately the uptake of carbon fiber tubular products has been very limited because they are very expensive compared to steel and secondly there is a perceived lack of robustness in the joining technology. The tubular itself is fine, but you have to figure out how to join this to a flange or other connector.
I have seen significant R & D investment over the past few years in carbon fiber wires for flexible pipe, which has reduced flexible weight considerably for higher pressure applications. There are some other companies making progress in this area as well, so perhaps the economic breakthrough will arrive in the next 5 years
Before I answer, allow me to disclaim I am an oil & gas marketing and digital professional, though I am not an engineer - I happen to follow emergent technologies as a passionate hobby.... here we go...
Yes they can. And as price comes down and technology catches up to the sizes needed, they most certainly will. I heard rumors that US Steel is actually looking at this sector as a way to prep for the future, so if they are eyeballing it, chances are that we may see gradual shifts over the next ten years.
As to current use, companies such as Exel Composites and Nammo make tubing, though as stated, they can be pricey.
From the "Yeah, I Can See That" Department: the first tested uses of carbon fibre tubing and composites has been for military use, followed closely by super luxury cars (Aston Martin's CC100, Ferrari's F12, etc.) - so as use grows across a variety of industries, price will fall substantially to make it far more feasible for our industry.
As you no doubt know given the question, the weight, size, and strength of carbon fibres will make them best in class for use and they will plug in nicely for upstream and midstream projects.
I just re-read this topic that was posted a couple months ago and it reminded me of the evolution of material acceptance in our risk-adverse industry. Over the last 10+ years, we've certainly seen a lot of non-metallic alternatives to the use of steel getting tried and proven in a variety of equipment, including pipe. The points made above regarding carbon fiber are very valid, especially when the cost versus perceived risk is considered. But this was the case when fiberglass was introduced as a pipe material decades ago. And then in the last decade we have seen a lot of acceptance to the use of fiberglass reinforced poly pipe as a spoolable alternative to steel linepipe. My opinion is that both fiberglass stick linepipe and fiberglass reinforced poly spoolable pipe has moved past the early adoption phase and now has mainstream acceptance - in the correct applications. When someone first tries non-metallic high pressure pipe it is usually to solve a corrosion issue and they often derate the design pressure as added safety. But over time, it seems that the other benefits are recognized, ie. fast and easy to install, low environmental footprint, easy to handle, light weight, and low installed costs. When this experience occurs the pipe is then accepted at it's high pressure design, the full value is utilized, and price becomes less of an issue. I think that this same type of evolution has started for carbon fiber material. The key is now to get the early adopters to try and like it. The comments about the price, strength perceptions, and the joining technology are good points. The price issue will be resolved when the full value of carbon fiber is utitlized. The strength issue can be addressed via the excellent testing results and making sure the pipe is installed in the correct application. The joining technology should not be much different than the steel couplings and steel flanges in use with high pressure fiberglass reinforced spoolable pipe or the threaded couplings and flanges in use with stick fiberglass pipe. I think the only tubular application that may not be a good fit for non-metallic pipe is probably as drill pipe due to the high torque on the pipe. But carbon fiber or fiberglass can be an excellent material to be used for linepipe, tubing, and casing. It will be interesting to revisit this discussion thread in a few years to exchange notes on the progress of carbon fiber.
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