According to Element Hitchin, this represents a first of its kind capability for the oil and gas sector, which is shifting away from a reliance on metallic pipes towards lighter, more flexible, and corrosion-resistant composite materials.

The manufacturing of thermoplastic composite pipe demands a continuous process to maintain integrity and critical flaws can be difficult to identify or repair.

Find and repair flaws

During the 2.5 year £620,000 project, Element Hitchin worked with GE Oil & Gas and non-destructive equipment specialist Wavelength NDT.

This research will enable us to develop new, cutting-edge testing and qualification services, which continue to be led by the requirements of key clients ...
Rod Martin, Element’s EVP Oil & Gas

Element Hitchin designed and built equipment, and developed test methodologies, to ultrasonically detect critical flaws in thermoplastic composite pipes during their continuous manufacturing process.

The research team also used finite element analysis (FEA) to simulate various environments, applying ultrasonic data to complex models.

A prototype machine was built to repair sections of pipe where flaws or delamination would reduce mechanical strength or accelerate material ageing.

This research will be shared across Element Hitchin's 42 facilities located in the US and Europe.

The project was part-funded by the UK Government via the Technology Strategy Board.