Piping systems may be thought of as the arteries of mines. They carry water for powering equipment and for cooling and cleaning, and convey air for ventilation and drilling, as well as slurry for backfill support systems and transporting mineral concentrate. These pipes have to be kept functional and a thread protector is one of the pipe protection products that play an essential role in achieving this.
While they are being transported to and installed in the mine, as well as during the mining process, pipes can undergo a range of harsh conditions. The threaded pipe ends can often be subjected to accidental impact loading in the process of being shipped and installed. In addition, the pipes are exposed to a highly corrosive environment during use, especially if transporting water or slurry through the mine.
These conditions make the threaded ends very vulnerable, especially if they are premium-type connections, which are precision-engineered with highly accurate machining. The slightest distortion of the threaded area could lead to a malfunctioning of the join between two lengths of pipe, which could be disastrous for the entire piping system in the mine, and lead to a major loss of production. It is of the utmost importance to protect the threaded ends, and a thread protector is the primary means of doing this.
There are two basic types of thread protector, the box protector and the pin protector, designed for use on female or male pipe ends. A box protector is screwed into the end, protecting it from the inside. A pin protector is fitted over the outside, covering the entire pipe end.
A thread protector is likely to be made of either steel or plastic. Both of these materials have their advantages. Plastic protectors are lightweight, withstand very high temperatures, and are easy to recycle, making them quite cost-effective.
Metal thread protectors are also easy to reuse — in fact, they do not need to be recycled, just cleaned. They are designed for covering the whole thread of the pipe, and sealing both the external and internal threads, and they offer the most complete protection from both corrosion and impact. It is possible to obtain composite metal protectors, which offer the benefits of both materials.
In addition to a thread protector, other pipe protection products include bumper rings and pipe chocks. Bumper rings, also known as spacer rings, help to prolong the functional life of pipelines, by preventing damage caused by pipes bumping against each other during transportation and installation. Usually consisting of heavy-duty plastic, they are made undersized to fit tightly, and require three rings per pipe length.
Pipe chocks are wedged between pipes to keep them stable while being transported to and from the mine. A load of pipes left unsecured could shift around, especially if they contain oil residue and are slippery, and this could endanger lives. Chocks are usually made of plastic or resin, with molded nail slots.
These pipe protection products are an integral part of the mining industry. Not only do damaged pipes cause major loss of production and financial setbacks, but they are potentially extremely dangerous. For an industry where time is of the essence and safety is crucial, these small products can be all that stands between failure and success.