Six years have passed since the first installation of spools with custom-designed internal abrasion protection coatings made from high-performance polyurethane elastomers. These coatings, which do not require an intermediate layer of rubber or neoprene have become an essential tool in oil sands tailings and hydrotransport lines. Useful life of steel pipes is extended significantly; often by factors of 10 or even more.

With the advent of intelligent coatings incorporating wear sensors three years ago, much wider use of high-performance polyurethane elastomer coatings became possible. Such intelligent coatings transmit wear information to the outside of the pipe without the need for a hole through the pipe wall.

This presentation will give an overview on lessons learned with these coatings in Alberta oil sands, from material properties, operating conditions, wear data, to useful life and cost savings.


Wear of steel pipes, be it caused by abrasion alone or caused by erosion-corrosion, is one of the most costly side-effects of transporting oil sands slurries through steel pipes that are commonly used in open-pit oil sands mining. This holds true both for tailings and for hydrotransport lines1.

Over the years, many wear protection solutions have been tried and applied in the Athabasca oil sands mines2. For more than a decade now, polymeric internal coatings have proven that this rather economic wear protection solution performs at least as well as expensive alloys, hardened steel, or even chromium-carbide overlays.

For quite some time in the past, a major obstacle to the application of polymeric internal coatings in oil sands was the fact that commonly used methods of wear measurement as used on steel pipes, like ultrasound or other non-destructive testing methods for steel pipes do not work for polymeric internal coatings. This meant that determination of internal coating wear was possible only by shutting down the line and physically measuring coating thickness at an open pipe.

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