A newly created subsidiary of Industrial Rubber Products Inc. plans to open a pipe coating plant in Hibbing by the end of November.
Industrial Rubber formed the new firm, Iracore International Inc., to run the factory, according to Mike Burkes, who handles marketing for special projects. ``We bought the building, gutted it and rebuilt it to produce Iracore-coated pipe for use in the oil sands of northern Alberta,'' he said.
The facility spans about 40,000 square feet and will produce seven elastomer-coated pipes, running 50 feet in length per day, which he said is the most in the industry.
``We're close to completion on the plant,'' Burkes said. The factory is expected to have 20 to 40 employees. Financial details weren't released.
The company's patent-pending Iracore coating is a combination of urethane, rubber and other elastomers that another Industrial Rubber subsidiary, Irathane Systems Inc., has been working on for several years, Burkes said.
The coating is specially designed to deal with harsh tar and oil sands extraction conditions, he said. It's formulated to handle hot, petroleum-rich abrasive slurry with large rock at high velocities.
Iracore-coated pipes are teamed with specially made couplings, called Iracouplings, to create a system that can be welded after the pipe is lined, which is not the case with other rubber linings because heat usually damages the linings, Burkes said. In the case of Industrial Rubber's system, the Iracoupling isolates the Iracore-lined surface from the weld area.
Iracore International opted to locate the facility in Hibbing rather than another city primarily because it received help and support from a number of organizations, including the Hibbing Economic Development Association, Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Agency and others, the company said.
``The Iron Range is a great place to do business, and I am delighted to be able to open the new plant in Hibbing,'' said Daniel O. Burkes, CEO of Industrial Rubber, which along with two other subsidiaries-Irathane Systems and Industrial Rubber Applicators Inc.-has been based in Hibbing since 1957.
Two divisions, T.J Products and Irathane/Elliott, are located in Utah and Ontario.
He said steel pipe used at the site will be manufactured in the U.S. Existing contracts include production of an estimated 23.5 miles of Iracore coated pipe for the Canadian oil sands, he said, with an estimated value of about $64 million.