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Repair systems for HDPE pipelines for brine transportation

Faena: SQM Salar

Deadline 06/12/2023

Closing Time 4:00 pm

Technological solutions are sought that allow fast and safe repair of failures in high density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes, with diameters ranging from 90 [mm] to 560 [mm] and lengths of up to 18 km. Solutions should be oriented in at least one of the following categories:

1. Temporary solutions. Those that make it possible to repair faults simply and in a short period of time, controlling the loss of brine until a later definitive repair. In this category we expect solutions such as: different types of patches, foams or sealing materials, mechanical systems for the temporary control of leaks, among others.

2. Permanent solutions. Those that allow to repair failures in a definitive way and in a short period of time. In this category we expect solutions such as: mechanized systems to facilitate the thermofusion of large diameter pipes (> 200 mm), wet thermofusion or others.

  • It must have facilities for its transportation and implementation in areas of difficult access, with a minimum displacement of 10 km per day.
  • They must have heavy duty characteristics considering adverse climatic and environmental conditions (particulate matter, humidity, wind, rain/snow, extreme temperatures, among others).
  • Compatibility with the physical and chemical characteristics of the brine: – Density: 1.1 – 1.3 t/𝑚3 . – Viscosity: 1 -10 cp (centipoise). • Compatibility with operational conditions in the following ranges: – Flow rate: 100 to 1,000 𝑚3 /hr, – Pressure 50 to 150 PSÏ. – Brine temperature: 0 to 30°C.
  •  Advisories, consultancies and engineering studies.
  • Use of lifting systems without certification.
  • Solutions that consider a change in the materiality of the pipelines.
  • Solutions that consider acting preventively in the event of pipe rupture or failure.

Current Problem In order to transport brine for SQM Salar S.A. it uses a network of high density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes, which due to different factors such as: wear of materials subject to friction, presence of weak points or singularities in the material, stress concentration due to the action of internal pressure in the pipe (in the range of (50 to 150 PSI), among others, fail and must be repaired quickly and safely to avoid consequences such as loss of production and exposure to risk of the personnel involved. The type of failures that occur is wide, from punctual leaks to major ruptures (> 1.5 m in length). Currently, the repair of failures is achieved by applying the following general methodology: 1. cut both sides of the damaged section of the pipe, 2. lift the free ends to reduce brine loss, 3. drain the brine present at both ends and 4. perform a thermofusion -dry- to join the pipe. In the case of pipes with a diameter greater than 200 mm it is not possible to lift the free ends, step 2, due to the quantity and weight of the brine involved, representing a longer drainage time and loss of production.

Currently, a mechanical system is used to lift the ends of pipes with diameters up to 200 mm.