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Polymer-based composites enable high performance in extreme oil & gas environments

News International-French

17 Mar 2014

The use of PEEK polymer in composites is helping the oil & gas industry to surmount the challenge of the increasingly difficult operating conditions it now encounters. In today’s daunting production environments, Victrex PEEK polymer-based composites demonstrate capabilities beyond those of more traditional materials such as thermosets, aluminium, steel, and titanium. 

The latest production methods in the oil & gas industry are placing increasingly severe levels of stress on equipment. The production tools are required to last anywhere from ten to twenty years in extreme operating conditions that include higher temperatures and pressures. In addition, the latest techniques such as measurement while drilling (MWD), logging while drilling (LWD), and wireline systems can involve critical electronic data transmission so the reliability of the tooling is imperative. A case in point is Victrex PEEK 450G, which exceeds the NORSOK M710 specification with an H2S concentration ten times that required for compliance with the standard. The thermoplastic also demonstrates superior resistance to harsh and corrosive chemicals which are often responsible for production delays.

Going forward, unconventional drilling sites that require the use of high-performance antenna and logging sleeves will only serve to emphasize the need to use this PEEK-based composite materials. The many advantages of these composites over metals include high strength, stiffness and reduced weight. Victrex PEEK-based composites typically weigh 40% less than aluminum, 55% less than titanium, and 70% less than steel. The immediate benefits are easier installation and faster, more efficient operation. Add to these advantages low thermal expansion, which can be one sixth that of steel. Together with the polymer's overall dimensional stability, this expansion rate enables tighter tolerances that support precision manufacturing. In addition, it can combine high electrical resistivity with low electromagnetic interference (EMI) making them suitable for well logging tools that require composite structures reinforced with fiber. Thermoplastic composites have proven to be more durable in high pressure/high temperature (HP/HT) applications or wherever high chemical resistance is required compared to thermosets.

Given the proven track record of Victrex PEEK-based solutions, the long-standing AFP technology available from Automated Dynamics enables composites to be built layer by layer in an automated process. This has numerous advantages over curing by autoclave and - with the addition of a laser heating capability - enables up to a ten times improvement in throughput in certain applications.

Another major advantage of these composites is their hydrolytic stability with moisture absorption limited to about 0.2%. Thermosets, in contrast, typically absorb 2% moisture, precipitating dimensional instability and cracking. Thermoplastic composites will also support metal-to-composite interfacing. Automated Dynamics has also successfully used PEEK-based APTIV films as a joining technology for numerous applications.

The outstanding properties and manufacturability of these PEEK-based composites enable their implementation in numerous downhole and subsea applications. Further development of PEEK-based materials is expected to keep pace with the increasingly severe demands of oil & gas environments. The industry can remain confident that testing of these materials in extreme environments will continue to deliver excellent performance results making it the material solution of choice whenever an alternative to metals and thermosets is required for critical oil & gas applications.

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