Is PE more easily damaged than other pipe materials?
PE pipe is open to many of the same risks as pipelines of other materials. The type of damage sustained by PE pipe is different compared with steel and iron pipes. Damage to PE pipe most commonly arises from external impact on the wall of the pipeline.
The degree of damage depends on the nature and the force of the impact. If through-wall impact is sustained this results in immediate fluid loss and immediate repair needs to be carried out. However damage to steel and iron pipes tends to damage the external pipe coating and only in extreme circumstances results in through-wall penetration. In such cases damage may not be apparent and the pipeline can remain in operation until failure occurs from pipeline corrosion at some point in the future. Such failures are both difficult to detect and expensive to repair.
During routine handling operations, due to its light weight, PE suffers little damage and where potential damage has occurred, for instance from scratches and scoring, guidelines are available from manufacturers to determine its fitness for purpose. PE pipe does not have any coating that can be easily damaged leading to future corrosion.
During construction and operation most pipeline damage occurs from third party interference while operations are being carried out on other nearby utility pipework and plant, for instance from a mechanical digger. In such cases damage to PE pipe is immediately apparent and can be immediately repaired. However third party damage to steel and iron pipes, in particularly the external coatings, cannot be immediately identified. The pipe can subsequently fail and need repairing at some point in the future incurring higher costs and disruption with little chance of identifying the third party offender with the costs being borne by the pipeline operator.