Airships to aid international pipelining industry

Helium-filled "airships" are being considered by the international pipelining industry as an aid to construction in difficult terrain, said IPLOCA Pres. Andy Lucas.

Rick Wilkinson
OGJ Correspondent

MELBOURNE, Oct. 2 -- Helium-filled "airships" are being considered by the international pipelining industry as an aid to construction in difficult terrain, said Andy Lucas, president of the International Pipe Line & Offshore Contractors Association (IPLOCA).

Lucas is the first Australian to head the organization, which is having its annual conference Oct. 1-5 in Sydney—the first time the event has been held in Australia.

Lucas said the association aims to exchange ideas and foster research and technologies that will make long-distance construction more effective, more efficient, more environmentally considerate, and safer.

"As part of research being taken, we are now looking at using very large helium balloons to move long, heavy pipes over great distances," he said.

"Many pipelines are built over and through land which is environmentally sensitive and a way to minimise the impact would be to actually lift these pipes over land," Lucas said. "Each section of large steel pipe can weigh between 5 to 9 tonnes, so transportation via terrestrial vehicle is going to impact on the environment far more than lighter vehicles that carry people. The airships could potentially change the way we currently carry these loads—totalling up to 30 tonnes—with little impact on environmentally sensitive lands."

He added that once in place, pipes can be laid out and welded onsite.

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