Pipe-linings manufacturer Urethane Moulded Products (UMP) is tackling its most technically chal- lenging project to date for Turkish construction company Tekfen, which involves supplying several specialised polyurethane linings for pipe bends at a phosphate project in Morocco.
The lining is able to withstand corrosive environments and has great abrasion resistance.
UMP signed the contract with Tekfen in January and the project is expected to be completed in June.
UMP CEO Trevor Carolin says the project has proved to be technically challenging, as the company has had to design specialised tooling to line the components, adding that UMP is one of only a handful of companies worldwide that can do this in South Africa, as many companies are not equipped or knowledgeable in this area.
He notes that the client was particular about the lining thickness and its accuracy, further requiring UMP to design special tooling to achieve the necessary lining thickness of 12 mm.
“We manufactured special casting apparatuses and specialised ovens for the project and had to manufacture a complex tooling system to get a mould in and out of the bend. Each bend has a straight pipe attached to each end and we were required to manufacture specialised collapsible tooling,” Carolin states.
He says the Moroccan project has opened doors for UMP to confidently market and supply its products internationally. It has also created the perception of UMP being able to handle complex multimillion-dollar contracts to inter- national standards for the company and allowed it to explore export opportunities for pipefittings.
Carolin says the project shows that there are international opportunities for South African companies, as these com- panies employ good technology that can be supplied worldwide.
The scope of the Tekfen project includes the polyurethane lining of several pipe fittings, ranging from 300 nominal-bore (NB) to 900 NB, which costs $2-million, and high-density polyethylene lining and the supply of pipes for a test loop for the project, which cost $645 000.
The project was a challenge, as the company usually handles projects with pipefittings that are a maximum of 500 NB.
“These fittings are large and difficult to install. The bend weighs 9 t and usually requires a large crane to assist with the installation. You cannot stop the project’s plant for maintenance, as this is significant downtime; therefore, the idea is to have a pipeline that will last at least 20 years. The client chose a UMP polyurethane formulation that offers good abrasion resistance and fine particle applications,” Carolin says.
The total weight of product processed for the urethane portion of the project is 206 t of steel and 22 t of polyurethane. The project involves 87 fittings.
UMP has, to date, handled 5.5-m-long bends, weighing 80 t, which also had to be heated to 100 ºC to be processed and lined.
The company hopes to expand its business and expects to double its turnover in the next two years.
Carolin says UMP is on track so far to achieving this goal this year, as 75% of its sales budget is already in order book form.
In line with this, UMP is completing the expansion of its workshop facility in Edenvale, Johannesburg, from 2 300 m2 to more than 5 000 m2. The expansion and unveiling of the newly revamped premises are expected to be completed by July.
“We have diversified from being a purely polyurethane company to include engineering and related services. We’re establishing a complete fabrication and machining workshop facility and the idea is to spread our risk by moving away from being totally dependent on polyurethane,” explains Carolin.
UMP has found that polyurethane products are integrated into the manufacturing of steel components and that clients are looking for a comprehensive solution. Therefore, the company has expanded its footprint and the resulting growth has dictated that UMP reorganise its operations to improve efficiencies.
Carolin believes the expansion will improve clients’ confidence in the com- pany’s products and services.
“UMP previously operated out of three different factories and it was difficult to improve operations. The new facility will allow the company to improve its manufacturing and cost efficiencies,” he points out.
UMP is also pursuing pipelining opportunities in Chile and has received a grant from the Department of Trade and Industries’ Manufacturing Competitiveness Enhancement Programme, which has allowed it to grow further.
“The hope is to develop an efficient world-class polyurethane company that can compete on the global stage in terms of quality and price. We want to align our- selves with larger international process equipment manufacturers and distributors,” Carolin concludes.