Thermal insulated pipes have been used in district heating networks for decades. The technologies are standardised and there are many companies working in this sector. Oil pipeline insulation has only been used in permafrost regions, where it was regarded as indispensable in order to keep the systems running properly and safely.
Over the last few years, the way of thinking has changed, due to low oil prices and a raised awareness for the environment. With the use of insulation for oil pipelines, great savings can be achieved, especially on extra heavy crude and bitumen.
Some companies have already realised big projects with thermal insulated pipes. In doing so, they have faced new difficulties when compared to the use of conventional coated pipes. One of the great differences in building an insulated pipeline is the effort in bending, which is around 20 times more than for non-insulated pipes. This effort can be minimized by use of the newly invented internal pipe bending technology by isobend.
The machines offer a compact and efficient solution as they are built inside cargo containers. For the bending process, the machine navigates into the pipe and is capable of bending due to a patented combination of hydraulics and a mechanical transmission. A computer numerical controlling system, in combination with various sensors, is utilized for ease and accuracy of operation.
The benefit for the pipeline owners is a safe and flexible production method for producing bends on site. This not only saves on manpower but also on resources concerning logistics. For the first time in history, it is possible to bring straight insulated pipes to the site and give them the bend needed in a fast, cheap and flexible way.