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Industry Q&A: Worldpoly’s Australian Manufacturing Success Story

Worldpoly has recently been shortlisted in the Australian Technologies Competition (ATC) in 2016, nominated for both the Energy Resources Award and the Mining Technologies Award for their PolyForce high density polyethylene pipe (HDPE) welding equipment. Austmine recently caught up with Worldpoly’s Managing Director, Rob Hall, to discuss this Australian manufacturing success story. Rob provides important insights into the use of PE piping and the changes that have occurred in that field. He also gives expert advice and talks about his experiences in becoming a successful exporter.

1. What are the advantages of using PE pipe in mining operations as opposed to steel piping? How can you ensure it meets safety requirements?

Throughout the mining industry around the world, it is now difficult to find steel pipe on site. Its weight, reduced wear resistance, corrosion and lack of flexibility make it a burden in low to medium pressure applications. Even high pressure pipelines now often use PE lined steel pipe for water and slurry lines with operating pressures to 250 Bar.

Typically, PE pipe systems, manufactured and installed to ISO / Australian NZ Standards, are in normal application for incoming water lines, mill pipework including water, cyanide, floatation, and compressed air, tailings lines where it provides significantly greater wear resistance, flexibility, easy rotation and transport than steel, and is the standard solution of dewatering.

2. What impact has the advent of new technology had for field welding and PE piping? What improvements has this enabled for final products in areas such as reliability, safety and speed?

New technology in field welding of PE pipe systems, as ideally provided by Worldpolys’ Australian developed and produced PolyForce equipment, provides the highest possible level of operator safety, consistency of operation, on-board data logging, remote communication by GSM and Satellite, GPS and operational and service notification, while providing industry leading durability and serviceability.

By using these features, operator safety, consistency of welds, site efficiency, data management, and equipment servicing and location can be managed with ease.

3. Worldpoly is widely recognised as an Australian METS exporting success story. What advice would you provide to other Australian businesses in building export markets and accessing global supply chains? How important has exporting been for Worldpoly in recent years?

Export now provides up to 70% of Worldpolys’ sales, providing a strong commercial base during todays’ mining and energy downturns. With clients in 110 countries, exporting provides an essential buffer to local market variables, and is an essential part of the business. Experience has shown us that export is no more difficult than local sales, providing some essential elements have been covered. Cultural differences need to be understood, payment terms must be suitable for both buyer and seller, suitability of the goods for the local market needs to be covered, and service, training and local support must be considered. Our advice would be to make contact with Austrade both in Australia and your destination market, to attend the many regionally focussed presentations offered by the likes of Austmine, EFIC and Austrade in Australia, and most importantly, go and see the local market in action at an industry exhibition or trade event. You will make contacts worth their weight in gold.

4. As miners dig deeper and wider to find better ore grades, requirements for welding and piping will change. How can piping keep up with this phenomenon and how can you adapt products to be more flexible, abrasion resistant and temperature-proof?

Polyethylene pipe welding is covered by National and International Standards, which remain constant regardless of pipe pressure rating, and require that the welded joint is stronger than the host pipe. Todays’ polyethylene raw materials such as those produced by Borouge, Qenos, Sabic etc. can produce pipe which has excellent stress crack propagation resistance, significantly better abrasion resistance than steel, flexibility allowing a cold-bend radius of 15 x pipe diameter, and temperature resistance to 60’C. once considered only for use in gas reticulation and essential mining operations, polyethylene (HDPE) pipe is now the material of choice for water, sewer, gas, mining, irrigation and drainage worldwide.

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