A leaking GRP pipe in a seawater cooling system at a Saudi Arabia oil refinery undergoes a rapid repair using epoxy putty

Oil Refinery Seawater Cooling System GRP Return Pipe Repair

When a 3 metre diameter GRP pipeline in an oil refinery seawater cooling system was discovered to be leaking and replacing the damaged section was given a timeframe of several weeks, a rapid repair method was instead sought to keep lost production to a minimum.

Case Study Overview

Site Oil refinery
Location Saudi Arabia
Pipe Type 3000mm GRP Pipeline
Repair Type Leak repair
Products Superfast Copper Epoxy Putty Stick, Sylmasta AB Original Epoxy Putty

Pipe Defect

The refinery was one of the biggest in the Middle East, processing approximately 400,000 barrels of oil per day.

Cooling processes at the refinery relied on a seawater cooling system extracting water from the Red Sea and transporting it to and from the site via a series of underground 3000mm GRP pipelines.

When the ground above a return pipe was noticed to be wet, the line in question was isolated and excavated. A hole was dug to access the top 50 percent of the pipe. The surrounding earth was saturated, indicating the line was suffering from a significant leak.

The scale of the problem only became apparent when pressure to the line was turned back on. So much water escaped from several leak areas that the excavation hole was instantly flooded. Clearly, the pipe could not go back into service whilst suffering such leakage levels.

With the line out of operation, the oil producing capacity of the refinery was severely reduced. An estimated timeframe for replacing the damaged section was three weeks. The refinery needed a rapid repair method to cut downtime and have oil production returned to full as soon as possible.

Water escaping the line when pressure was restored instantly flooded the chamber dug to inspect it

SylWrap Solution

Water was pumped out of the flooded chamber and the GRP pipe left to dry. It was decided to use two epoxy putties to make the seawater cooling system repair.

Superfast Copper Epoxy Putty Stick was used for the smaller holes. Although designed for copper pipe repair, Superfast Copper adheres to all materials and comes with a five-minute work time. In the heat of Saudi Arabia, this cure was further accelerated.

Chunks of putty were cut from the stick, kneaded by hand and then pushed into the holes on the pipe whilst still soft. Within a couple of minutes, Superfast Copper began to harden, permanently sealing the smaller leak areas.

A putty with a longer work time was required for the bigger holes, so that more could be mixed and then applied over a larger area without the threat of premature curing. Sylmasta AB Original Epoxy Putty was chosen for its two-hour cure.

AB Original was mixed and applied to successfully seal the larger holes in the GRP pipe. The line was then left for 24 hours to allow the putties to achieve maximum properties.

Sylmasta Copper Epoxy Putty used to seal holes in the repair of a GRP seawater cooling system pipe
Superfast Copper Epoxy Putty was applied to make fast repairs to smaller holes on the line
Sylmasta AB Original Epoxy Putty used to seal holes in the repair of a GRP seawater cooling system pipe
AB Original Epoxy Putty was used for the larger holes because of its extended cure time
Once sealed with epoxy putty, the line was repressurised with no water escaping


After 24 hours, the seawater cooling system was turned back on. Once it was established that no water was now leaking from the pipe, the line was buried.

Follow Up

The refinery were delighted with the repair being completed in only two days and for a cost of less than £100. This represented a huge monetary saving on replacing the damaged section, as well as ensuring minimal production time was lost.

Products Used

Superfast Copper
Fast working epoxy putty used to quickly seal smaller holes in pipework

AB Original Epoxy Putty
Slower setting epoxy putty for filling larger holes without the threat of premature curing

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