Determining the useful life of district heating pipes: Correlation between natural and accelerated ageing
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 2020

District heating (DH) systems constitute a smart and environmentally friendly solution for energy distribution in the heat sector in Europe. This technique is still expanding but already faces some issues such as status assessment of the current DH networks and the development of new generation networks for low-temperature DH. Therefore, it is essential to understand the ageing behaviour of pipes under operating conditions and to find the relevant parameters that control the degradation processes. Many factors affect the deterioration of DH pipes, especially the polyurethane foam, which makes it very complex to find a reliable prediction model. Models based on a linear Arrhenius relationship using results from high ageing temperatures seem to be incorrect.

For this study, 10 pipes that have been in service for many years in Sweden and Norway were evaluated. The aim was to study the impact of natural ageing on the mechanical adhesion and chemical structure of the polyurethane foam, which affects the pipe’s performance. A test method developed at the Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE), called RISE plug method, was used to study the mechanical adhesion strength. In addition, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy was used to observe any change in the chemical structure.

The results were compared with previous analyses of DH pipes exposed to accelerated ageing. This information helps to provide a better comprehension of the deterioration of the current generation of pre-insulated DH pipes and to improve the accelerated ageing methods used nowadays to predict the technical lifetime of DH pipes. Our results suggest that the lifetime of DH pipes has been underestimated when using artificial ageing at relatively high temperatures. The data collected from naturally aged pipes gave confirmatory information about their physical status compared with our laboratory tests. This study also suggests that infrared analyses could be used as an early indication of the degradation of the polyurethane foam at the interface with a steel pipe.

Polyurethane foam

Adhesion strength

Accelerated ageing

Lifetime prediction


Natural ageing

District heating pipes


Alberto Vega

RISE Research Institutes of Sweden

Nazdaneh Yarahmadi

RISE Research Institutes of Sweden

Ignacy Jakubowicz

RISE Research Institutes of Sweden

Polymer Degradation and Stability

0141-3910 (ISSN)

Vol. 175




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