Underwater and underground pipes are vital for the transportation of oil and gas to accommodate our energy requirements.
These are usually made from a combination of polymers through the extrusion manufacturing process.
Depending on the intended use of the pipe, the optimal design in terms of materials and geometry will differ.
The development phase of new pipes is expensive, in part due to the ‘trial and error’ approach required to tune manufacturing variables to ensure a high-quality end product, which meets the specification.
One way to reduce these costs is to simulate the extrusion process computationally; in other words, create a ‘virtual twin’ of the process.
The accuracy of these virtual simulations is highly dependent upon knowing the thermal and structural behaviour of the materials in use.
Metisec Ltd is an engineering consultancy that has been working on this problem for a number of years.
Our experience is that the way by which the polymer cools when it comes out of the extruder and laid on the metallic scaffold of the pipe is critical both in terms of ensuring a good-quality product but also an accurate simulation of the process.
Experimental characterisation of this process to define its governing thermal parameters is challenging.
In this collaboration between Metisec Ltd and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) a novel approach to obtain these parameters will be developed.
Controlled experiments on a molten polymer coming in touch with a cold metal will be performed with sensors placed at key locations to measure the temperature changes.
A ‘virtual twin’ of this experiment will be developed using specialised computational software, and an algorithm will automatically compare experimental results with computational results.
This will allow us to determine key thermal parameters at the interface of polymer with metal.
This process will become available to the pipe manufacturing industry for the characterisation of any polymer or combination of polymers of interest and will become a flagship service that Metisec Ltd can provide.