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Riding the Permian pipeline

Posted by Drew Phillips on Jun 20, 2018 4:06:18 PM
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Polyflow composite pipe helps infrastructure get ahead

A crude wave is coming. According to research and consulting firm IHS Markit, West Texas’ Permian Basin is set to produce more oil than any OPEC nation except Saudi Arabia.

 By 2023, so say the projections, the volume of crude pumped out of West Texas will more than double, putting the region only behind Russia and Saudi Arabia for production.1

The only problem: infrastructure. The industry requires hundreds of miles of new and/or upgraded pipelines to transport this incoming surge of oil and gas from West Texas to refiners in places like Houston and Corpus Christi. Bottlenecking has already forced producers to discount crude by as much as $15 a barrel. The needed expansion will require billions of dollars and lots of labor in a market where unemployment is at a record low of 2.1 percent. And most of that new capacity won’t come online until the end of 2019.2

Thermoflex®—a high-pressure, low-cost alternative

Manufactured by Polyflow, Thermoflex provides upstream and midstream companies with a lower-cost pipeline alternative to steel. Reinforced by aramid fiber, it meets many of the high-pressure, high-temperature requirements for oil and gas applications—a fact many operators aren’t aware of.

Unlike steel, it’s not susceptible to internal or external corrosion, resisting carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and free water.3 This not only extends the life of pipeline, it eliminates the need for expensive coatings, rust inhibitors, and chemical additives.

Thermoflex is also smoother than steel. With a lower coefficient of friction, operators can use the smaller-diameter RTP pipe for the same applications. Not only do you need less of it, it’s lighter to begin with. Depending on the material, composites can be up to 70 percent lighter. This reduces material, transport, and equipment costs.

Easily deployed and tariff-free

Several thousand feet of Thermoflex can be installed in just a few hours, dramatically cutting labor costs. It’s ideal not only for new installations, but thanks to its lower friction coefficient, it can be easily pulled through existing pipelines, an attractive option for rehabilitation.

Polyflow is happy to coordinate on-site delivery and handle the process of unspooling the pipe. In a direct-bury installation, they’ll determine the appropriate trenching method based on soil type, terrain, rights of way, and other factors. In some cases, Thermoflex can even be installed on the surface.

For rehabilitating steel or HDPE pipe, pigs are run through existing lines through excavated access points. Thermoflex is attached to the cable and pulled back through the existing pipeline. The process is fast and requires minimal manpower, reducing both cap-ex and installation costs.

Most of the steel used for pipelines isn’t available domestically, which leads to yet another advantage of Thermoflex over steel—it’s not subject to the import tariffs imposed by the Trump administration. Companies have turned to alternatives like Thermoflex that can make these infrastructure projects more economically attractive.

Composite pipe for a range of applications

Polyflow manufactures a variety of composite-pipe products to meet specific pressure, corrosion-resistance, permeation, and temperature requirements. Earlier this year, the company commercialized Thermoflex ECO and Thermoflex ECO RT, a lower-cost high-density polyethylene (HDPE) product suited for produced water, disposal lines, and oil and gas flowlines.

Booming production presents its own set of challenges. Polyflow and Thermoflex are providing the industry with a flexible alternative at just the right time. Contrary to the old saying, too much of a good thing doesn’t have to be a bad thing.


  1. Blum, Jordan. “Permian will outpace all OPEC nations except Saudis” Houston Chronicle, June 14, 2018.
  2. Blum, Jordan. “Permian oil booms, but pipelines can’t keep up” Houston Chronicle, May 21, 2018.
  3. Nyborg, Rolf. Controlling Internal Corrosion in Oil and Gas Pipelines. Business Briefing: Exploration & Production: The Oil & Gas Review 2005 – Issue 2.

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