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Spoolable Composite Pipes – Are all Created Equally?

Projects Utilizing Spoolable Composite Pipe Require Smaller Crews and Less Equipment
Spoolable Composite Pipe on Truck

Spoolable Composite Pipe on Truck | Click to Enlarge

As recently as seven to ten years ago, usage of high pressure reinforced spoolable composite pipe was still in the early adoption stage in North American oil and gas service. Since then, the technology has gained significant acceptance and has displaced a growing portion of steel pipe usage in high pressure applications. These applications include flowlines, gathering lines, produced water lines, water and CO2 injection lines, saltwater disposal lines, and frack water management lines – all of which can be highly corrosive. There are at least five manufacturers of spoolable composite pipe who are active in North America. The purpose of this paper is to identify the value brought by spoolable composite pipe, the various types of technology in the market today, and issues that should be considered by an end-user specifying engineer. When properly applied and installed, reinforced spoolable composite pipe can provide many years of safe, reliable, and maintenance-free operation.

The Value Proposition

Usually reinforced spoolable pipe is first tried by the user to solve a corrosion problem. Because the pipe is non-metallic, solving corrosion issues is a key benefit. However, once users see how fast and easy the pipe is installed, they often then select the pipe for economic reasons. The benefits of using spoolable composite pipe also include:

  • Low installed costs and fast completion of projects.
  • Very safe because of small installation crews and less equipment on the Right-of-Way.
  • Low environmental footprint, again due to less equipment and activity on the ROW.
  • Low ownership costs, Elimination of expensive corrosion inhibitor chemical programs.
  • No welding, no x-rays, no cathodic protection.
  • Increased cash flow because production comes on quicker.
  • Able to handle high pressure and temperatures.
  • Light weight, low freight costs, easy to handle in the field.
  • Compliant with industry standards
  • Proven materials

The Technology

There are usually three materials used in the manufacture of spoolable composite pipe. The inner liner is usually made of High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), a material that is corrosion resistant and has many decades of successful experience in low pressure oil and gas service. But HDPE by itself is pressure and temperature limited. Because of its low friction characteristics, HDPE has a higher flow rate than steel pipe of comparable diameters. For example, often an operator can deploy six inch composite pipe instead of eight inch steel pipe and accomplish flows that can satisfy the project requirements.  The second material employed is used as a reinforcement material that allows the pipe to now handle higher pressures. The liner travels through a series of winders where the reinforcement wrap is applied at very specific angles. Depending on the pipe manufacturer, the reinforcement material could be braided Polyester, or fiberglass strands, or various types of steel bands and cords. Other reinforcement materials could include carbon fibers and Kevlar® aramid fibers, again, depending on the manufacturer. Some manufacturers wind these various fibers in a dry (or unbonded) process and others use an epoxy to bond the fibers. Either approach has its own merits and should be understood prior to making a purchase decision. The third and final pipe material that is utilized is an extruded HDPE (or other plastic) layer that is used as a protective outer jacket to protect the pipe during installation. Pictured here is one manufacturer’s design, SoluForce®RLP, that depicts a pipe cutaway showing the HDPE liner on the right, the Polyester braided reinforcement wrap in the middle, and the extruded HDPE jacket on the left. All of these materials are fully compatible with the chemistry seen in oil and gas production.

Electrofusion Non-Metallic Coupling and Stainless Steel Coupling Comparison

Electrofusion Non-Metallic Coupling and Stainless Steel Coupling Comparison

Connecting multiple reels of pipe is accomplished by using couplings made of coated carbon steel, stainless steel, and now a totally non-metallic electrofusion coupling has been developed. Pipe terminations are done by installing weldneck or flange fittings, again made of a variety of corrosion-resistant materials. Steel risers can be welded directly to the weldneck fitting if the user wishes to bring steel pipe to the surface. All these fittings are typically installed in the field and most manufacturers provide field service training for the users chosen contractor. The fittings design varies from manufacturer to manufacturer but some utilize a fitting installation process that is pressed in to and then crimped on to the pipe – very similar to a hydraulic hose type of connection.

The pipe is fully tested at the plant prior to shipment. Typically a section of pipe is pressured to a burst point that is several times higher than its rated design. The ratings are developed by following stringent industry standards that require extensive long-term testing at high pressure and high temperatures. Other tests include cyclic performance where continuous and constant pressure amplitudes are exerted on the pipe. Axial and circumferential strengths are developed through design and testing of various reinforcement materials and various winding angles of the reinforcement material. Long lengths of pipe are shipped on reels that are then deployed in a variety of installation methods including open trench, surface lines, and plowing. Line crossings are easily accomplished by dragging the pipe under the line that crosses the installation trench. Road and creek crossings are easily done by pulling the pipe through the crossing bore. Diameters available range from two inch through eight inch and pressure ratings can be more than 2000psi. A variety of other fittings and accessories are available including T’s and Y’s, threaded terminations, tracer wire, etc. Because of its flexibility, elbows are usually unnecessary. Because of the durability of the outer jacket, padding the trench is usually not necessary. Spoolable pipe can be pigged and hot-oiled if warranted. However, this is usually unnecessary due to the smooth HDPE inner wall.

Project Discussion

It is important that the project engineer and the spoolable pipe manufacturer collaborate during the project design phase. Field personnel should also be included so that all aspects of the project are understood before the project kicks off. The overall project goals should be discussed as well as:

  • Design and operating pressures and temperatures – now and in the future
  • Project location, construction methods, and terrain
  • A map showing the pipe routing including lateral connection points
  • Chemistry of the fluid or gas in the pipe
  • Operating conditions including pump types
  • Project timing
  • All aspects of User expectations

There are many sub-categories and topics to the above points and they are not intended to be discussed here. The project team should choose a spoolable pipe manufacturer who can be more than just a vendor and one that can knowledgeably discuss these technical sub-categories. They can be a real resource to the project team and, through the course of the overall project discussion, can often recommend ideas to assure the project is completed safely, on time, and on budget.

High pressure reinforced spoolable composite pipe should be considered when pressures and temperatures exceed the limits of other low pressure pipe materials. If the project utilizes diameters in the two through eight inch range then it should be considered as a good alternative to steel pipe. Once the project hydrotest is successfully completed, the operator can be assured of safe and reliable operation throughout the project’s design lifetime. 

Eagle Ford Roads Impacted by Higher Traffic & Inadequate Funding – Tunstall

Current Tax Revenue Mechanisms Do Not Address Road Damage Caused by Development
I-37 Gravel Road Frontage in Live Oak County - TxDOT

I-37 Frontage in Live Oak County – TxDOT | Click to Enlarge

Roads in the Eagle Ford Shale are under intense pressure from the huge volumes of truck traffic that are regularly running up and down South Texas highways – literally hundreds of trips per day in many cases.

The traffic highlights a disconnect in the Texas political economy between how tax revenues are generated and how roads are then funded. With TxDOT’s recent announcement that approximately 83 miles of FM roads have been slated to be returned to gravel (66 miles of them in the Eagle Ford area), it’s worthwhile to examine road funding mechanisms in Texas.

How Is Road Construction Funded?

Let’s start with the state gas tax that we pay at the pump, which is a total of 38.4 cents. Immediately, 18.4 cents goes directly to the federal government, which leaves 20 cents for state use. However, 5 cents of that goes to public education. Only the remaining 15 cents is used to fund TXDOT projects directly. Texas motor vehicle fuel sales taxes are flat taxes that have not been raised since 1991 and are not adjusted for inflation.

The unprecedented activity on the roads in the Eagle Ford Shale area is having an impact that is overwhelming traditional highway funding sources. As an example, it takes nearly 1200 truck trips (equivalent to 8 million cars) to complete a single oil or gas well. Another 350 or so are estimated to be required for annual production.

So, what about other potential funding sources for roads?

Let’s look at sales taxes in Texas, which have a statutory maximum rate of 8.25%. Of that total, 6.25% goes to the state. Cities, counties, transportation authorities and economic development corporations can add up to an additional 2% to their sales tax rates. Some counties charge no sales tax, such as McMullen County, so the maximum rate there is 6.25%. Since city and county sales taxes in the Eagle Ford Shale area have increased significantly starting around 2010, it might seem to make sense for these entities to pick up the tab for increased road wear. In some cases, for example, county tax increases jumped between 300-500 percent in a single year. While this sounds like a lot of money, it pales in comparison to the cost of building roads.

In round numbers, county roads typically cost around $250,000 per mile to build. Farm-to-Market and Farm-to-Ranch (FM) roads cost twice that – about $500,000 per mile. State highway grade roads cost in excess of $1 million per mile. When county and FM roads are repaired to their current standard, the cost can be less – “only” $120,000 per mile – but heavy volumes of truck traffic can tear them back up in less than a year.

Karnes County Example

One of the most active counties in terms of Eagle Ford production is Karnes County. In 2010, county sales tax receipts were $837,038. By 2012 that number had risen to $7,961,495 – a huge increase by any measure. And yet, if every dollar of increased county sales tax revenue were applied to roads in the area, Karnes County would be able to build about 28 miles of county roads, 14 miles of FM-grade road, or only 7 miles of state highway-grade road. Clearly the orders of magnitude for the road impact as a result of oil and gas exploration and production activity is beyond the scope of county budgets.

One the most significant source of potential revenue for roads and perhaps the most applicable is the state’s severance taxes, which are imposed for the extraction of non-renewable natural resources, such as oil and gas. These taxes are on the rise because Texas is producing more oil than it has in over 30 years. In fiscal year 2013, Texas collected $4.5 billion in severance taxes. Overall, about $2.5 billion will go into the Rainy Day Fund (more formally known as the Economic Stabilization Fund) – most of that the result of increased severance tax receipts.

In fact, some of these severance taxes are being channeled to road projects. During the most recent legislative session, $1.2 billion per year was allocated from the Rainy Day Fund for roads across the state (pending approval by voters in November 2014). In addition, a one-time infusion of $225 million was allocated for road systems in South and West Texas areas affected by oil and gas production. And just this month, TxDOT announced that it had identified another $250 million from vehicle registration fees.

However, plans remain in place to convert the 83 miles of formerly paved FM roads to gravel in order to save money. TxDOT has held public hearings to address community concerns, but the larger issue has yet to be addressed. It is becoming clear that several aspects related to the costs of shale oil and gas production (roads in particular) will not necessarily be remedied by current tax revenue mechanisms. As such, any chance for a more permanent solution will be up to the Texas Legislature, which does not convene again until 2015.

DON’T LOSE IT! – Medical Certification Required for CDL Drivers

You could be at risk of losing your CDL
Tanker Truck on the Highway

Tanker Truck on the Highway | Click to Enlarge

Effective January 30, 2015, all drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) must have a current medical certification registered with the Texas Driver’s License Agency, Department of Motor Vehicles Division. That includes oilfield drivers working in the Eagle Ford Shale.

Original Deadline was January 30, 2014, and that has been extended to January 30, 2015

Download the Texas CDL Self-Certification Affidavit HERE

All CDL holders must provide information to their state driver’s license agency (SDLA) regarding the type of commercial motor vehicle operation they drive in or expect to drive in with their CDL. Drivers operating in certain types of commerce will be required to submit a current medical examiner’s certificate to their SDLA to obtain a “certified” medical status as part of their driving record. CDL holders required to have a ”certified” medical status who fail to provide and keep up-to-date their medical examiner’s certificate with their SDLA will become ”not-certified” and they may lose their CDL. [Read more…]

Deloitte Oil & Gas Conference Speakers Detail a Bright Future in Energy

US Will Pass Russia As A Leading Oil & Gas Producer This Year & Saudi Arabia Next Year
Deloitte Oil Gas Conference - Global Capital Budgets

Deloitte Oil & Gas Conference – Global Capital Budgets | Click to Enlarge

Deloitte held their annual Oil & Gas Conference on Nov 16th and the sessions featured several key leaders from across the industry.

While the conference is about the industry overall, the shale plays naturally commanded the lion’s share of the conference. The mood was highly optimistic. We are no longer in the “shale revolution”, rather this energy renaissance is a reality that is here to stay. [Read more…]

How Thick Is the Eagle Ford?

Interestingly, the Biggest Wells Are Not Found in the Thickest Portion of the Play

The Eagle Ford Shale’s thickness varies several hundred feet across the region and there’s not a significant correlation to thickness and well productivity.

The play’s thickness ranges from less than 100 ft to 400 feet near the Mexico border. The average thickness is 250 ft across the most commonly targeted portions of the play.

Eagle Ford Thickness Map

Eagle Ford Thickness Map from Chesapeake | Click to Enlarge

Read more at our Eagle Ford Geology page.

Cotulla’s Eagle Ford Growth Exhibited Through $9 Million Airport Expansion – Video

The City's Population Has Tripled From A Few Short Years Ago

Ground has been broken on an $8-9 million La Salle County Airport expansion in Cotulla. The expansion will add over a mile of runway and additional airplane parking.

The expansion is just one example of how Cotulla is changing with the Eagle Ford. The video below includes coverage of the groundbreaking ceremony and interviews with locals: [Read more…]

Don’t Let Eagle Ford Drivers Be Put “Out-of-Service”

Carriers Can Be Put Out of Service For Operating Beyond the Scope of Registration
Drivers Daily Vehicle Inspection Report

Drivers Daily Vehicle Inspection Report – Copyright Mike Byrnes & Associates, Inc | Click to Enlarge

In trucking, “out-of-service” criteria define a set of physical conditions under which a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) or commercial driver may be prohibited from operating. An out-of-service violation removes the driver and CMV from the roadway until the violation is corrected, which obviously means no work gets done and no one gets paid. In addition, out of service violations are sometimes punishable by fines.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is serious about getting unsafe trucks off our roads and penalizing drivers and owners who fail to follow the regulations. In recent years, there have been more trucking companies and passenger bus companies placed out of service than ever before. The MAP-21 highway funding law that went into effect doubled most fines for serious violations.

Sharing the Blame

New rules that went into effect Oct. 1, 2013, allows the agency to place an entire carrier out of service for operating vehicles “without or beyond the scope of registration,” according to the regulation, whereas previously only the unregistered vehicle itself could be placed out of service. Now both the carrier as well as the vehicle can be penalized. Carriers and drivers who fail to comply with the state and federal regulations can be more easily be prevented from operating.

You can imagine this puts an even greater emphasis on thorough vehicle inspections and preventive maintenance which would catch potential risks to safety before they can cause accidents. A diligently-performed daily vehicle inspection will disclose such potential problems as faulty brake systems and bald tires.

Out-of-service penalties can also be levied against drivers without proper licensing and training. A CMV driver without a CDL or one that has expired can be just a serious a safety liability as brakes that won’t hold or tires ready to blow.

Activity in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas has increased truck traffic tremendously and statistics show trucking related accidents are up 41 percent.

Keep Eagle Ford Roadways Safe

In November, 2013, Sergeant Villarreal with Corpus Christi Department of Public Safety (DPS) spoke at the National Association for Publicly Funded Schools Region 4 “Keeping Our Roadways Safe” Conference at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi. Sergeant Villarreal indicated that the top three violations DPS officers see when pulling a commercial vehicle over in the Eagle Ford Shale are:

  1. Vehicle Inspections performed improperly or not at all
  2. Log Book Violations
  3. Driving a truck without a valid CDL license.

Keep Eagle Ford Drivers Trucking

Now that carriers as well as vehicles can be put out of service, here are five tips to help keep drivers “in service” and safely on the road:

  • Repair broken equipment.
  • Hire qualified drivers that have been properly trained with a valid CDL.
  • Have a strict pre/post trip vehicle inspection policy and hold drivers responsible for conducting and reporting them.
  • Have a no tolerance policy on faulty log book violations.
  • Conduct weekly or monthly safety meetings and reward employees for good audit results and discipline drivers that do not.

An Eagle Ford Rig Adds 400 Barrels of Oil Production Per Month

EIA Shows Eagle Ford Oil Production Above 1 Million b/d
Eagle Ford Production Added by Rig

Eagle Ford Production Added by Rig | Click to Enlarge

The EIA published it’s first “Drilling Productivity Report” for six major producing regions in the U.S. earlier in the week.

The EIA found the Eagle Ford and the Bakken account for approximately 75% of oil production growth in the U.S. each month. [Read more…]

How Deep Is the Eagle Ford?

The Biggest Wells Are Found at Depths Between 8,000 and 12,000 feet

The Eagle Ford has been drilled at depths that range from a few thousand to 14,000+ ft in South Texas.

How Deep is the Eagle Ford Formation Found?

The fairway of the play is found at approximate depths of 8,000-12,000 ft below the surface. [Read more…]