3M™ Glass Bubbles H50/10000 are hollow glass microspheres with a typical density of 0.50 g/cc and an isostatic crush strength of 10,000 psi. These glass bubbles are designed for buoyancy and insulation in ultra-deep water applications for oil and gas drilling and coatings for subsea equipment. The bubbles produce strong, stable voids helping coatings achieve the necessary compressive strength.
What are 3M™ Glass Bubbles?
3M glass bubbles are engineered hollow glass microspheres made from water-resistant and chemically-stable soda-lime borosilicate glass. Like all 3M glass bubbles, our H50/10000 bubbles are virtually insoluble in water or oil, making them suitable for use in a number of underwater applications. Additionally, they are non-combustible, low alkaline and non-porous, so they do not absorb resin; and glass bubbles are compatible with most resins.
These low-density hollow glass microspheres are used for many demanding applications across a wide range of industries to provide temperature and pressure resistance and reduce part weight. For these reasons, 3M glass bubbles are a superior alternative to many conventional fillers and additives such as silica, calcium carbonate, talc and clay.
Very Good Strength-to-Density Ratio
The benefits don’t end there; 3M™ Glass Bubbles H50/10000 have thin walls and an impressive isostatic crush strength of 10,000 psi, meaning they can survive both the rigorous demands of processing and enormous water pressure at depth. In turn, their low thermal conductivity makes them ideal additives in insulation for pipelines and production risers – helping to ensure that hot oil continues to flow to the surface rather than cooling and slowing. At 10,000 psi, H50/10000 bubbles have a targeted survival rate of 90% by volume for consistent performance and greater survivability.
What does this mean for the oil and gas industry? Customers are reporting that pipe-in-pipe insulated flow line can be impractical and too costly for use at today’s deeper depth oil and gas drilling (10,000 ft. /3,000 m. and more). Although pipe-in-pipe offers the best U-value (insulating value) and long cool-down times, the weight and bulk of its construction can make it more difficult and costly to install in deep water.
Importantly, there are some peripheral subsea hydrocarbon reservoirs that are economically viable at reach-out distances of 31 miles (50 km), or more. Longer subsea pipe lengths coupled with hotter drilling conditions require flowline insulation with increased mechanical strength and reduced heat transfer. 3M hollow glass microspheres provide the solution to this drilling need. Using glass bubbles in syntactic foam insulation creates a pipeline that can stand up to demanding depth, pressure and temperature conditions.
Wet insulated pipe or flexible insulated flowlines that use 3M glass bubbles can help reduce overall pipe diameter. A reduction in overall pipe diameter results in more pipe on reels used for reel-lay pipe insulation operations. Because of these, and many other factors, wet pipe insulation now accounts for the majority of all new deep water subsea flowlines.
Other applications include
Pushing the Limits: a Proud History of Innovation
Hollow glass bubble technology was developed by 3M in the 1960s. Riser buoyancy modules and wet pipe flowline insulation using the first glass bubble-filled syntactic foams were capable of surviving down to 5,000 feet below sea level. Today, advancements in the strength-to-density ratio of glass bubbles enables these materials to be used at any depth – all the way to the bottom of the ocean – more than 36,000 feet (10,972 meters).