The objective of the proposed research was to demonstrate the protection capabilities and economic benefits of Oceanit’s internal pipeline surface treatment known as DragX™. DragX™ is a chemically resistant, water-and-oil repellent nanocomposite material system that can be readily applied in-situ on natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines. Its properties enable in-place refurbishment of existing pipelines without the need for expensive extraction and replacement. From an operations standpoint, DragX™ is also able to significantly lower the surface roughness of the pipeline interior, subsequently reducing pressure drop, improving throughput, decreasing energy costs of pumping, and allowing for longer pipeline operation without interruption. DragX™ can aid in the decarbonization of the country through improving pump station efficiency, reducing methane emissions during maintenance, lessening the chances of persistent leaks, and allowing for rapid retrofitting of pipelines for new fuel types and blends.
Oceanit Laboratories, Inc., Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Addressing the current health of the nation’s existing 3 million miles of pipeline infrastructure is key to preventing further climate change. In 2020, natural gas production exceeded 34 trillion cubic feet (Tcf). Roughly 75% of natural gas consists of methane (CH4), which is up to 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide (CO2) at trapping heat within the atmosphere over a 100-year period, and studies from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) estimate approximately 2% of all the natural gas produced will be lost during normal operations due to unaddressed leaks. This does not even consider the risks of major disaster due to pipeline failure, or the losses and extra fuel costs incurred due to corrosion and scale deposits in under-maintained pipelines.
While methods currently exist to monitor the health of a pipeline system, pinpoint inspection tools to identify and locate specific areas in need of repair are not commercially available. Replacement of entire pipelines is generally economically non-viable due to the cost and required downtime. As the pipeline network continues to age, the cost of maintenance and monitoring of all these systems will continue to increase while becoming exponentially more difficult to address. Thus, there is an imminent need for a new approach that provides economically efficient retrofitting of existing pipelines in-place.
The United States has over 1.2 million miles of natural gas transport pipelines laid, more than any other country in the world, with most of these lines buried underground. This makes replacement or refurbishment of damaged pipelines cost-prohibitive and substantially limits the capability for widespread effective detection of pipeline health, deposit formation, and overall performance. The proposed research allows for a novel, cost-effective method of finding, repairing, and mitigating damage in pipeline interiors while being minimally disruptive to normal pipeline operation. The treatment can significantly improve the economics of energy transport by providing flow assurance, limiting catastrophic blowouts, and minimizing product loss from small but sustained leaks.
Beyond the already field demonstrated applications, this innovative nanocomposite surface treatment has the potential to be the backbone for CO2 and Hydrogen transporting pipeline infrastructure. The learnings from this project could accelerate the deployment of surface treatment technologies related to the energy transition infrastructure, thus benefitting the clean energy initiatives in the United States and all around the world.
Key Benefits of DragX™
|Public Benefits||Capital Expense Savings||Operational Expense Savings|
Reduction in CO2 and methane emissions due to maintenance-related pipeline opening/venting.
|Enhanced pipeline lifetime, allowing avoidance of replacement and trenching activities.||10-15% improved throughput for pipelines due to reduced internal surface roughness.|
|Reduction in risk for CO2 and methane emissions due to slow leaks caused by internal pipeline corrosion and pinhole leak formation.||Improved compressor pump lifetime due to increased efficiency.||Improved operational efficiency allows for reduced schedule of cleaning (fewer pigging runs, reduced usage of chemicals, less downtime).|
|Reduction in fuel and chemical usage in transport and cleaning activities.||Protection of pipeline after treatment allows for smaller corrosion allowance during the installation of new line (wall thickness, pipe material, continuous chemical treatment)||Enhanced flow properties can allow for reduced reliance on chemical flow assurance treatments (e.g., DRAs).|
Based on the qualification and validation DragX™ in several different pipeline applications in collaboration with several commercial partners during this project, Oceanit is transitioning the technology to a fully deployable commercial product for pipelines with respect to natural gas products, crude oil, wastewater, and produced water. Using tools developed within the project, Oceanit can predict the relative improvement in reduced pressure drop, increased throughput, and reduction in pipeline diameter (for newly installed or replacement lines) with the application of DragX™. This research effort has confirmed a general guideline of 15–25% reduction in frictional drag, and compatibility with a wide variety of pipeline products, demonstrating significant economic value.
The unique combination of highly adaptable application and broad chemical resistance also allows the technology to be a part of a future transition away from traditional fossil fuel energy resources. DragX™ is currently being investigated further to retrofit existing pipeline infrastructure for blended natural gas or pure hydrogen transport by many of the same commercial partners who aided in development and de-risking. Its demonstrated compatibility in sour gas conditions also makes it an intriguing option to protect existing CO2 storage from corrosion and leaks. DragX™ is positioned well as a solution for the problems of today and the problems of tomorrow.
DragX™ is field tested, de-risked, and approved by several major industry partners both in Oil and Gas and other industries. Widespread use of DragX™ could be a gamechanger for industry in terms of improving the resiliency, longevity, and efficiency of natural gas pipeline infrastructure in the United States.