Fiber Restistant Fiberglass Pipe

Audio version
Posted / Last update: 01-09-1996
Publication: Petroleum Equipment & Technology Archive
Issued: September 1996
Author: Curran Sullivan D. , PE

Fire-resistant fiberglass is already used in off-shore oil wells. It’s only a matter of time before the new technology is used in the petroleum marketplace. Professional engineer Sullivan D. Curran reports.

“Insulating material advancements make it practical to insulate the entire surface of the pipe and fitting system.”

The photos in this article are courtesy of Ameron International.

This article discusses state-of-the-art, fire resistance FRP piping and its potential applications for petroleum storage and handling facilities. These facilities can benefit from a transfer of the new technologies that have been developed for the piping materials used in marine chemical tankers, navy vessels and off-shore oil and gas platforms.


Fighting fire with FRP
Today, composite materials such as fiberglass reinforced thermostatic (FRP) pipe are being used in new ways, including sea water fire ring-mains and deluge applications; sea water cooling; produced-water handling; potable water and waste drain lines. The greatest breakthrough has been in the emerging application of non-metallic FRP for both underground and aboveground fire main and water spray piping applications.

Initially, of course, the reader has to question if it is appropriate to use fire protection piping that may burn up in the fire it was intended to extinguish! However, new technologies can provide some FRP piping with sufficient protection to ensure that the piping will stay intact during a fire. The use of this technology will: (1) reduce the spread of flames in FRP piping when directly exposed to fire; and (2) enable FRP piping to withstand direct fire exposure for more than three hours.

It is no secret that there are problems with the traditional use of steel piping. Experience with steel piping in marine fire main and water spray applications shows that internal corrosion can plug the nozzle and sprinkler heads and, thus, render them ineffective. For metallic piping systems, the solution is to provide continuous maintenance to reduce the effects of corrosion and internal scaling. Even so, it is questionable as to how much of the metallic system will be in an effective operating condition at any given moment.

Burning tests
Material Flame Spread, Fuel Contribution and Smoke Generation requirements are established in the fire and building codes. To comply with these codes, burning tests are conducted in accordance with ASTM E84-81a, “Standard Method of Test for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials” or other similar test methods specified in ANSI No. 2.5, NFPA 255, UL 723 and UBC 42-1. Flame test results are expressed in terms of Indices for Flame Spread, Fuel Contribution and Smoke Developed during ten-minute exposure to flames.

The results are recorded as a ratio, with glass-reinforced-cement board being 0 and red oak flooring being 100. While building codes such as the Uniform Building Code generally call for a flame spread rate of less than 200, specific requirements depend on the location of the material in the building, occupancy and other criteria. As a result, model building codes and local jurisdictions need to be referenced to determine approved materials that may be used based on the results of flame tests.

When the pipe is tested for its fire resistance, the fire reaches 1100 degrees C. It gets so hot that the floor is flooded with water so the concrete won’t break down.








FRP Pipe




Coated FRP Pipe




Index Improvement







In the initial phase of the jet fire test, note the sections of pipe and fittings in the center of the flames.

Further into the test, you can barely see a ghostly image of the pipe.

Post a comment

Please login or register to post comments.

Subscribe for weekly newsletter