Plastic pipework for transportation bulk refuelling

Plastic Power Generation Refuelling vehicles is an essential operation for airports, marinas and railway stations and so operators are always looking at ways to improve speed and efficiency of the process to reduce aircraft, yacht or train downtime.

Furthermore, the refuelling process is such an important part of the overall efficiency of these modes of transport it is vital that reliable products are specified to carry out this job.

As a result, it is essential that reliable and durable systems are in place to successfully refuel vehicles to ensure that unnecessary technical faults do not cause time wasting and delays in transportation. The pipework that carries the fuel is an integral part of the system and within the bulk refuelling market, traditionally stainless steel pipe-in-pipe systems have been specified by contractors for conveying fuel however these systems do not always provide a cost effective pipework solution. In an economy where budgets are increasingly tight, contractors should be looking to ensure that every penny of their budget is being spent on the best performing and most cost effective products that will provide benefits across the lifetime of the system.

When dealing with the transportation of fuel, and particularly in large volumes, it is becoming increasingly consistent for contractors to use secondary contained (pipe-in-pipe) systems due to the potential safety hazards caused if fuel was to leak into the atmosphere. Secondary contained pipe systems, are becoming compulsory for many pipework applications, and are the specified solution for fuel conveyance. However, Durapipe UK is keen to stress that not all secondary contained pipe systems are the same and they all offer different performance and installation capabilities.

For bulk refuelling installations, performance capabilities over a long period are essential due to the volume of fuel being transported on a regular basis for the vital operations within the transport sector. This reiterates the requirement for reliable and durable systems that can ensure they will continue to operate and provide a reliable transportation process for the fuel.

A consistent flow rate of fuel is essential to keep the bulk refuelling process in operation and to avoid costly delays. As the fuels for these modes of transport can vary in composite and blend, clogging and corrosion, which can occur with steel pipe systems, are issues that contractors need to consider in relation to flow rates. Clogging and corrosion have the potential to reduce fuel flow rates, stop it altogether or potentially contaminate the fuel it is carrying. These issues highlight just how important it is that careful consideration is given to the type of pipework system that is specified for bulk refuelling applications.

Although Stainless Steel has been widely used in many applications, its lifespan can be questioned when conveying aggressive liquids such as fuel. This provides concerns for bulk refuelling applications; contractors need to be aware that with an estimated fuel carrying lifespan of just over five years, steel is a solution that cannot guarantee performance capabilities over a long period of time, and would need frequent maintenance and replacement work to ensure it is continuing to perform to the required standards.

In some stainless steel pipework systems, the build up of particles in the inner bore can contaminate the fuel it is carrying which has potentially hazardous consequences for the vehicle. For instance, contaminated fuel can result in damage to the engine it is powering and in certain cases can result in the fuel tank within systems needing to be replaced incurring additional costs to the running of these means of transportation. These issues highlight the need and importance for rigorous and frequent quality control checks on pipework systems that cannot convey fuel to all transportation vehicles.

In terms of the installation process, this can be lengthy with traditional metal systems such as stainless steel. Whether these systems run above or belowground, it requires skilled installers to fit the pipework. In the case of installing underground pipework systems, hot works permits are needed, and extra wrapping has to be added to the outside of these pipes, which can result in an extremely complicated and timely installation process. Considering these issues, sparks the question of why innovative materials, such as plastic, are not being readily used by contractors and specifiers.

Plastic is an example of a reliable alternative material that can be used to provide pipework solutions for bulk refuelling applications. Lightweight and easy to install by nature, plastic pipework eradicates the complex installation properties associated with metal alternatives. Plastic pipework systems simplify the installation process for contractors, as they do not need a skilled welder to install the system due to the innovative electrofusion jointing system. What is more, they do not require the use of hot works permits when being installed, which greatly speeds up the installation time as well as significantly reducing labour time and costs. These sorts of economic savings can be extremely beneficial for contractors in a time when project timings and budgets are continuing to be ever narrower.

Leading plastic pipework system, PLX from Durapipe UK, is an example of a viable pipework alternative that can be used for bulk refuelling applications. Manufactured in a robust polyethylene material, the secondary contained (pipe-in-pipe) system, which has been extensively used in the forecourt market for over 15 years, provides excellent resistance to long term stress cracking and is ideal to carry a wide variety of fuel based liquids. Additionally, its impressive durability gives it a design life of 30years making it ideal for use in applications such as bulk refuelling, where it is imperative to install a system that does not have to be regularly maintained or replaced.

Alternative pipework solutions that build on the performance quality of traditional materials whilst addressing its limitations are available to contractors and need to be more readily explored in the initial specification process. In an industry that is continually looking for higher performing and more reliable products, it calls for a reassessment of just how well traditional materials, such as stainless steel, are working within the bulk refuelling market and why alternatives are not being explored at the outset of projects.

Note: – This article appeared in the June edition of Bulk Distributor magazine