By Liz White, UT staffNiles, Illinois-Perma-Pipe Inc., a subsidiary of MFRI Inc., has received initial orders worth a total of $3 million for its new Autotherm polyurethane thermal insulation process for oil and gas sub-sea flowlines.Autotherm Glass Syntactic Polyurethane (GSPU) is applied continuously in an automated moulding process. This method coats the specially formulated GSPU thermal insulation compounds onto the exterior of steel pipes for oil and gas flowlines. These pipelines, installed on the sea floor, connect oil wells to their host platforms.Perma-Pipe gained the recent orders from "two major Houston-based independent oil and gas companies," said a statement from Niles-based MFRI. Perma Pipe's Autotherm coating is designed to provide reliable thermal insulation at the large hydrostatic pressures experienced in deep water, over long periods of time, MFRI said. Sub-sea oil pipelines are installed in sea depths ranging from 2000 to 4500 feet (600 to 1400 m), and are commonly insulated to prevent build-up of paraffin or hydrate on the internal surfaces and ensure a continuing steady flow of oil, the company explained. These new orders will be fulfilled at Perma-Pipe's New Iberia, Louisiana insulating plant starting in early October and finishing before the year's end. This facility was not affected by hurricane Katrina and continues in full operation, MFRI said. "We anticipate that under-sea pipeline construction in the Gulf of Mexico will continue without interruption after Katrina, perhaps even at an accelerated pace", said Fati Elgendy, president of Perma-Pipe "The level of interest for this type of product is expected to remain active as oil and gas producing companies tie-in sub-sea producing fields to new and existing platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and wherever there are under-sea oil wells" added David Unger, ceo of MFRI.MFRI said the contracts described above were secured through Bayou Flow Technologies llc, a partnership between Perma-Pipe, the Bayou Cos and Cuming Insulation Corp., formed to market coating, insulation and fabrication of sub-sea pipelines and structures to the off-shore oil industry.Perma-Pipe also makes insulated district heating and cooling piping systems for distributing steam and hot or chilled water, to multiple locations from central energy plants. Typical users of such systems include military bases, cogeneration projects, university campuses and prisons, the firm said. MFRI itself is a custom-designer of industrial filtration products, speciality piping systems and industrial process-cooling equipment. "