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Setting new standards for pipeline design

The screen in front of system developer Vidar Osen of LINKftr AS and chairman Jack Ødegård displays a laboratory experiment in which a section of a pressurised pipeline with cracks is subjected to bending forces. Photo: Thor Nielsen
Several years of Norwegian research on fracture mechanics have resulted in new numerical modelling tools. The new software means that we can calculate the risk of fracture in pipelines much more accurately than current methods permit, according to the SINTEF group behind the method.

The new LINKpipe software package has just been released.

“Almost a quarter century of research on fracture mechanics is embodied in this new software,” says research director Jack Ødegård at SINTEF Materials and Chemistry.

Ødegård is chairman of LINKftr AS, the ten-year-old spin-off company from SINTEF and NTNU that has developed the numerical modelling tools in close collaboration with its parent institutions. The company chairman says that the company has managed to kill several birds with one stone.

“The new program enables users to optimise pipeline design, manufacturing, installation and operation in a cost-effective way. At the same time, it gives then first-class control of the factors that are important for protection against breakage and leaks in pipelines,” says Ødegård.

The innovation is a new version of a numerical modelling package that the company has had on the market for some years.

"Against the Current"
Ødegård believes that this is a particularly good time to present the new calculation program (known as LINKpipe), when the Petroluem Safety Authority is ever more often questioning safety standards in the offshore industry.

“This tool offers engineers a much better basis for making decisions than until now, for example when they need to calculate whether certain material defects in weld seams will withstand the forces a pipeline is exposed to during installation and operation,” says Ødegård.

Statistical security reviews
According to Ødegård, a further advantage of this next-generation tool is its efficiency:

“The use of automated procedures means that in practice, we can run wide-ranging parameter studies with thousands of individual analyses in the same time as has traditionally been used to carry out only a few assays. This permits rigorous statistical assessments of fracture probability to be made - a unique and powerful option,” emphasises the research director.

Major customers in the offshore sector
LINKftr AS currently has a staff of three including a newly appointed CEO who started on December 1. The company has issued ten user licences for their previous version of the software to Norwegian and overseas customers, which include major international oil companies, pipeline contractors and engineering and design companies.

“LINKftr AS signed a world-wide distribution agreement with DNV Software in September. We expect that together with the efforts of our new market-oriented CEO, this will lead to a breakthrough in international exposure and sales for the company,” says Ødegård.

Ambition: to become the market leader
Jack Ødegård makes no attempt to hide his major ambitions for the company.

“Our goal is nothing short of making LINKpipe software the market leader. The new program has everything needed to become the next industry standard in this field,” he says.

By Svein Tønseth