Pipelines are coated with insulating material that minimizes heat losses to the environment. Reeled pipe can experience nominal bending strain in the order of 1% to 2%. Thick coating on the pipe is inherently more highly strained, because of concentrations that occur at the interface between parent coating and field joint coating. Occasionally, contractors who specialize in pipe-lay using the reeling method have experienced difficulties relating to unexpected disbondment and cracks in coating at these interfaces. Any disbonded coating is routinely identified and repaired, but it is important to understand the influential factors that could lead to this type of coating disbondment. It is known in the industry that parameters such as temperature, reeling speed and pipe tension are influential but the relative influence of the factors is not well understood. In addition, there is currently no industry code or recommended practice that proposes the strain levels that the coating could safely withstand prior to cracking. This paper addresses thermo-mechanical aspects of coating design and presents a novel approach to quantify which parameters have the largest influence.

In the presented assessments, coating strain was assessed using finite element analysis. Material input was selected from a combination of typical values and specific laboratory test results for polypropylene (PP) and injection molded polypropylene (IMPP). An essential aspect was that the mechanical and thermal properties of the PP were related to temperature and strain rate. Strain rates in the coating during reeling operations were obtained from global FE models. Detailed local FE models incorporated all the material and load inputs and temperature conditions that are necessary to determine peak strain values in the coating; the peak strain values would indicate the locations of potential coating disbondment.

The study is purely a strain assessment and excludes any potential for defects or delamination in the coating that could result from its manufacturing process. This strain-based study revealed that coating temperature during reeling is the most influential factor on strain level in the coating. Reeling speed and pipe tension are parameters providing secondary influences.

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