PB-1 installation plain-sailing

Polybutene pipe installation really is plain sailing

Plumbing Heating and Air Movement (PHAM) News
PHAMM No. 129

In today's competitive market, shipbuilding companies are continuously in search of new materials and systems that will extend the service life of their ships, reduce maintenance costs and improve passenger accommodation quality on board. As a result, high quality plastics such as Polybutene-1 (PB-1) are proving increasingly popular for use in onboard piping systems.

During a recent project to renovate the drinking water system on cruise liner Monarch of the Seas, Intec-Maritime Offshore Services evaluated the needs of the project and specified PB-1 system, Instaflex. This system, marketed by Georg Fischer, a member of the Polybutene Piping Systems Association (PBPSA), was ideally suited offering many advantages for replacement of the corroded copper pipework.

Of particular interest to Intec-Maritime was that PB-1 pipes could be installed whilst a ship is at sea. This was possible due to the 'failsafe' installation technique, electrofusion, that was used to install pipes. The fusion causes no smoke, no sparks, no open flames and generates very little heat, which makes the process very safe. Pipes can also be jointed in situ since the equipment required is small and portable, requiring only an electricity source. This process is completely silent, smokeless and very safe. As a result, Intec-Maritime was able to carry out the renovation during a voyage from Miami to Los Angeles.

Intec-Maritime was also impressed by PB-1's resistance to cracking and corrosion, an important consideration for aggressive saltwater environments like the sea. With an operational lifetime design in excess of 50 years, Intec was convinced that PB-1 would meet the requirements of the project – to reduce maintenance costs, to extend the service life of the ship, and to improve accommodation quality.

Although electrofusion welding can be carried out aboard a ship, it often proves more cost-effective for pre-fabricated sections of an installation to be produced by the pipe and fittings supplier and transported to site in coiled units. This was a key advantage for Kverner Masa Yards in Helsinki during the construction of the newest flagship of the Carnival Cruise Line, the 'Carnival Miracle'.

As PB-1 is very light weight, a complete piping system weighs approximately five times less than more traditional materials such as copper, it is very easy to transport across long distances in coils and then manoeuvre on board a ship. Several kilometres of Instaflex pipe for the 'Carnival Miracle' were prefabricated off-site and included the required T-joints to facilitate cabin connections. This resulted in a reduced assembly time for the entire project, saving considerable time and cost.

For both projects it was important that all components used in the PB-1 piping Systems are manufactured according to ISO 9001/14001 and are tested for shipbuilding using the latest international Standards of Classification societies. These include GL, DNV BV, LR and RINA. In addition, pipes and fittings made from PB-1 are odourless and tasteless and meet the stringent
'contact with food' approvals, making it ideally suited for drinking water applications aboard ships.

This comprehensive range of benefits and advantages, combined with high levels of Performance and durability, means that PB-1 is fast becoming the material of choice for an increasing number of shipbuilding projects. Leading names in the heating and plumbing industry have come together through the Polybutene Piping Systems Association (the PBPSA) to throw their support behind PB-1.

"Current trends in the market place show that more and more plumbers an specifiers are using plastics rather than more traditional materials," explains Jürgen Fluck, a member of the PBPSA. "This has been particularly the case in shipbuilding as people become more aware of the benefits and advantages of using plastics. To be able to carry out work at sea is a massive advantage and one that very few other materials offer. As an association we will continue to promote these advantages, ensuring that awareness of PB-1 continues to grow."