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Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) is a semi-crystalline organic polymer thermoplastic with excellent mechanical and chemical resistance properties that are retained at high temperatures. PEEK is widely regarded as the highest-performing thermoplastic material currently available. This fully recyclable material can be molded, formed and machined into several complex shapes and configurations.

PEEK was invented by Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) in 1978, and used Victrex as the trade name for a broad family of high-performance thermoplastics. In 1993, key management at ICI bought the Victrex and PEEK trade names and formed a new company that was dedicated to the manufacture and sale of the PEEK polymer.

Although PEEK was originally formulated to meet stringent military and nuclear standards, its desirable mechanical properties and ease of processing make PEEK an excellent fit in a wide range of industries and applications. In particular, the oil and gas industry requires operation in hostile environments, and high performance and reliability must be maintained over a long period of time. Numerous applications in the oil and gas industry make PEEK particularly attractive due to its tolerance to high temperatures and corrosive environments.

PEEK Polymer Performance: Survive and Thrive in the Extremes

An excellent balance of physical properties makes PEEK a material of choice for the oil and gas industry. Particularly for sealing, electrical protection and fluid transport applications, PEEK polymer-based solutions have the potential to extend the lifetime of oil and gas deployments and improve longevity and efficiency in hot, corrosive environments. These properties include the following:

  • High temperature performance — PEEK is capable of safely operating at temperatures up to 260° C (500° F). Thermoplastics (like polyethylene or polypropylene) melt at temperatures as low as 130° C (266° F).
  • Chemical resistance and inertness — PEEK displays high resistance to commonly available chemicals such as bases, acids, hydrocarbons and water.
  • High stiffness— PEEK has a tensile and flexural modulus that is about three times greater (stiffer) than polypropylene, which makes it ideal for use in applications that require rigidity and dimensional stability.
  • Creep and fatigue resistance — Creep is defined as the deformation observed versus time under a constant applied stress, whereas fatigue (or cyclical) loading reduces certain mechanical properties over time. PEEK has outstanding creep and fatigue resistance and may sustain large stresses over a useful service life with little time-dependent deformation, giving parts made from PEEK outstanding life and dimensional stability.
  • High strength-to-weight ratio — PEEK has a low specific gravity (1.3 g/cm3) that is less than half that of aluminum and one-sixth that of steel. Carbon or glass fibers can be added to reinforce PEEK compounds to increase its strength and modulus to that of aluminum, but still be much lower in density. This results in a superior strength-to-weight ratio to enable significant weight reduction.
  • Manufacturability — PEEK polymer can be injection molded, vacuum formed, extruded, compression molded or machined into components that are used in several demanding applications. It can also be reinforced with mats, fibers or particles to provide greater strength and stiffness than unfilled PEEK components.

Victrex manufactures numerous products based on the PEEK polymer, such as thin film (APTIV™ Films), pipes, composites and coatings for several potential applications in the oil and gas industry. Some specific examples include the following:

  • Sealing systems — VICTREX™ PEEK-based solutions have been used in sealing systems in the oil and gas industry for more than three decades. Sealing products manufactured from PEEK provide high reliability across a wide range of operating conditions.
  • Electrical connectors and insulation — PEEK can be molded into various shapes for electrical connectors and insulation that can perform in extreme temperatures, pressures, harsh chemicals and moisture.
  • Pipes and tubing — Victrex Pipes™ can be used as wear- and erosion-resistant protective liners in low-cost carbon steel pipes for improved corrosion resistance — previously only the domain of expensive, corrosion-resistant alloys. Magma m-Pipe® is the world’s most reliable subsea pipe, manufactured for use as risers, jumpers and intervention lines. Designed for deep water and pressures up to 20,000 psi and temperatures up to 200° C (392° F), with 90 percent weight savings in water compared with equivalent steel or un-bonded flexible pipe.
  • Industrial machinery components — PEEK is used for numerous components in industrial machinery requiring operation in extreme temperature, chemical or loading environments, including bearings and washers, gaskets and seals, pumps, pistons and impellers, among others.

Conclusion

The oil and gas industry requires materials and components that can withstand hostile environments, such as high temperatures and corrosive environments over a long period of time. These stringent requirements make PEEK attractive for numerous potential products and applications, such as sealing systems, pipes and tubing, industrial machinery components and electrical connectors and insulation. Beyond simply selling polymers, Victrex’s approach to innovation involves looking at market trends and partnering with customers to address challenges through PAEK and PEEK-based technologies. Their market leadership is further augmented by a new Polymer Innovation Center, which extends capabilities in innovation and assists customers in the development and testing of new technology and prototypes.

Victrex’s global sales and technical support services work hand-in-hand with OEMs, designers and processors offering assistance in the areas of processing, design and application development to help achieve new levels of cost savings, quality and performance.

For more information, please visit victrex.com/energy.