The 878 km long Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is part of the Southern Gas Corridor, transporting natural gas to Europe from the Shah Deniz II field in Azerbaijan. Starting at the Greek-Turkish border, it crosses Northern Greece, Albania, and the Adriatic Sea before coming ashore in Southern Italy to connect to the Italian natural gas network. To establish a dedicated communication network, TAP floated a global tender for supplying and delivering 1600 km of Optical Fiber Cable (OFC) with high-end customization.

HFCL outbid a host of global OFC players from Europe, China, and other countries to win this prestigious tender, which also entailed several strict parameters and extensive documentation for supplier shortlisting.

The Challenge

The OFC to be supplied in this tender were typical 48 fiber-count unarmoured cables. However, the requirement was unique because the outer sheath of the cables was to be done with xLPE (cross-linked polyethylene), a material generally used in high voltage transmission cables. The cross- linked PE sheathing enhances cables’ chemical and oil resistance, making it a suitable choice for TAP’s environment.

The xLPE has a complex intrusion process and requires sufficient precautions; else, the quality of the final cables suffers. The xLPE has a complex intrusion process and requires sufficient precautions; else, the quality of the final cables suffers.

HFCL Solution

HFCL ensured that the quality of the cables was of the highest standards while adhering to the guidelines defined by the client. This was achieved with an approach that first required thorough due diligence of the extrusion process and then keeping a close watch of the critical challenges involved.

  • Pre-heating: Before the extrusion process can start, xLPE natural compound needs to be pre- heated for two hours post which it is mixed with the catalyst for extrusion. The mixed material has to be used immediately and if for any reason, the further process is delayed or stopped, the mixed material becomes unusable. The Company undertook careful monitoring and scheduling during the process to avoid scrap or wastage.
  • Uninterrupted extrusion: During extrusion, the added catalyst results in a chain reaction. If for some reason, the extrusion process is stopped for more than twenty minutes, it becomes impossible to extrude any more material without a thorough cleaning, which takes up to six hours. Given the tight delivery schedules involved in the TAP project, ensuring uninterrupted extrusion was a critical parameter for the Company during the process.
  • Compatibility: Processing the required materials with the existing set-up was another challenge. It undertook a number of different trials with other materials and tools to arrive at the precise mix of materials and parameters to optimize the overall process. Through these iterations, the HFCL team improved line speeds from 30 m/min to 45 m/min.

The Outcome

The supply to TAP started promptly and we remained committed throughout the delivery. HFCL was appreciated for its quality and timely completion of the project and for the best compilation and submission of documents.