Thermal insulation of a flexible pipe for deepwater applications is generally obtained by spiraling syntactic foam extruded tapes around the pipe core, in between two thermoplastic sheaths. As water tightness of the insulating annulus can frequently not be guaranteed, water absorption and the effect on thermal properties of insulating material have to be determined, so as to be taken into account for Overall Heat Transfer Coefficient calculation of the flexible pipe. It is required to demonstrate the overall suitability of a specific insulating material for a given application. The first part of this paper describes accelerated fresh water absorption tests and subsequent thermal conductivity measurements, conducted on polypropylene syntactic foam filled with glass micro-spheres. Based on test data in the 50°C–100°C temperature range, a prediction model has been established to calculate water absorption for service life as long as 20 years. A relationship between thermal conductivity variation and water content has been demonstrated, so that thermal conductivity of material exposed to water can be calculated versus temperature and time of exposure, for design purpose. The second part describes the full scale thermal tests that have been performed by Technip, in order to compare the measured thermal properties and heat losses of the flexible pipes in vertical or horizontal positions, with the computer calculations. Finally, based on lab test ageing and full scale tests on non aged flexible pipe, Technip is able to predict the full thermal behaviour during all the lifetime of the pipe.

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