MORGANTOWN, WV - With President Bush's new National
Energy Policy calling attention to the challenges facing America's aging
network of natural gas pipelines, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham today
announced 11 new government-industry projects that will develop high-tech
ways to improve the safety and performance of the nation's gas delivery
"By 2020 Americans will
be consuming 50 percent more natural gas than today."
Included in the array of innovations will be new types of miniature robots
and other sophisticated detection devices that can pinpoint leaks or corrosion
in both the large gas transmission lines that crisscross the country and
the smaller distribution lines that deliver gas to homes and businesses.
One project will develop an automated warning system to prevent nearby
digging from damaging buried pipelines. Another will study how a natural
pepper extract might prevent a pipeline from corroding.
"If our projections are correct, by 2020 Americans will be consuming
50 percent more natural gas than today. The President's energy policy
calls for new technologies that can help ensure the safety and integrity
of moving gas from the wellhead to consumers. These are the first projects
in our program that will help meet this critical need," said Secretary
of Energy Spencer Abraham.
When President Bush announced his National Energy Policy earlier this
month he cited the need to modernize the nation's gas delivery system.
"We will need newer, cleaner and safer pipes to move these larger
quantities of natural gas - up to 38,000 new miles of pipe, and 263,000
miles of distribution lines," the President said.
The Energy Department will provide just over $4.4 million over the next
three years to the projects, with industrial partners contributing another
$3.6 million, or an average of 45 percent of the projects' costs.
Abraham said that the department intends to negotiate new research contracts
New York Gas Group, New
York, NY, to develop a self-powered, remote-control robot for inspecting
the inside of "distribution mains," the pipelines that bring
natural gas into homes, businesses and power plants. Total project
cost: $1.2 million; DOE share: $495,000; participant share: $672,000.
Project duration: 12 months
Tuboscope Pipeline Services,
Houston, TX, to develop a sensing system that uses sound waves and
electromagnetic means to locate and gauge the severity of corrosion
cracking in pipelines. Total project cost: $984,000; DOE share: $639,000;
participant's share: $344,000. Project duration: 12 months.
SQM Technology, Inc.,
La Jolla, CA, for a "magnetic telescope" that an inspector
can use from the surface to "see" defects in underground
gas lines. The system will use an electric current in a superconducting
magnet to illuminate problem areas, such as pipeline walls that are
being worn away by corrosion. Total project cost: $942,000; DOE share:
$612,000; participant's share: $330,000. Project duration: 36 months.
Battelle Memorial Institute,
Columbus, OH, which will attempt to expand the capabilities of "magnetic
flux leakage" technology to locate cracks in gas pipelines. Currently,
operators use the method to detect metal loss in a pipeline by measuring
variations in a magnetic field as it passes through a pipe wall. In
this new project, researchers will develop new ways to analyze the
magnetic flux in ways that reveal actual breaks in the pipe material.
Total project cost: $284,000; DOE share: $184,000; participant's share:
$100,000. Duration: 12 months.
Colorado State University,
Fort Collins, CO, to improve the reliability of pipeline compressor
engines by developing a highly reliable, high-efficiency micro-pilot
ignition system that could be retrofitted to the thousands of 20-
to 50-year old compressor engines now used throughout the nation's
pipeline network. Total project cost: $1.7 million; DOE share: $500,000;
participant's share: $1.2 million. Duration: 36 months.
Gas Technology Institute,
Des Plaines, IL, to lead three projects:
to develop a low-cost imaging sensor designed
as a flat plate or flexible mat that could be placed on the ground
to create images of subsurface plastic pipes, or ceramic and metallic
objects. Total project cost: $626,000; DOE share: $368,000; participant's
share: $258,000. Duration: 18 months.
a joint effort with Nicor Gas, to develop
an optical fiber device that would be buried above a pipeline and
sound an alarm when construction or other equipment that could damage
the pipeline is nearby. Total project cost: $447,000; DOE share:
$291,000; participant's share: $258,000. Duration: 24 months.
research into the use of natural products,
such as pepper extract, to prevent or reduce corrosion of pipelines
caused by microbes in surrounding soil. Total project cost: $783,000;
DOE share: $509,000; participant's share: $274,000. Duration: 36
- Southwest Research Institute of San Antonio, TX,
will also work on three projects to develop:
a low-cost, rugged device that uses sensing
coils wrapped around a pipe to map out corroded surface areas. Total
project cost: $100,000; DOE share: $65,000; participant's share:
$35,000. Duration: 12 months.
an electromagnetic technology that can
be installed in a "smart pig" - an inspection device that
moves through a pipeline - to locate dents, gouges and other damage
that can cause a pipeline to fail. Total cost: $400,000; DOE share:
$260,000; participant's share: $140,000. Duration: 12 months.
a surge detector which can be used with
new control system algorithms to reduce instances when the equilibrium
between the flow of natural gas through piping and through compressors
becomes unstable, causing surges of natural gas than can damage
equipment. The research institute will team with Siemens Energy
& Automation Inc. and the Gas Machinery Research Council. Total
project cost: $588,000; DOE share: $368,000; participants' share:
$220,000. Duration 36 months.
The department's Strategic Center for Natural
Gas, at its National Energy Technology Laboratory, will oversee the projects.