March 2024, Vol. 251, No. 3


Coating Versatility Can Assist with Better Flow Efficiency

By Shalini Nagar, Researcher and Consultant, Research Nester Pvt. Ltd.  

(P&GJ) — Corrosion control is an important factor when it comes to maintaining the integrity and safety of pipelines. Given the growing need for energy transportation it's crucial to shield pipelines from corrosion in order to ensure their longevity and prevent any leaks or failures.

Polymer layering anti-corrosion pipe coating machinery.

Pipeline coatings have a role to play in corrosion control as they act as a protective barrier between the pipeline itself and its surrounding environment. These coatings serve as a safeguarding layer that prevents contact between the pipeline material and corrosive elements like moisture, chemicals or soil. 

Apart from their corrosion prevention capabilities pipeline coatings offer advantages such as improved flow efficiency, reduced friction and increased resistance against abrasion. They can be applied to both constructed pipelines and existing ones making them a versatile solution, for effective corrosion control. 

U.S. Infrastructure  

The United States boasts an extensive network of pipelines in transporting both oil and natural gas. These pipelines form a part of the nation’s energy infrastructure facilitating the efficient and secure transportation of these valuable resources to various regions. 

  • Oil Pipelines: The United States has a vast network of oil pipelines that efficiently transport crude oil from where it’s produced to refineries storage sites and distribution hubs. In fact, the U.S. has the greatest number of oil pipelines globally. As of December 2020 there were than 159 operational pipelines across the country with an additional 20 under development. These pipelines play a crucial role in maintaining a consistent flow of oil, for both domestic use and international exports. 
  • Natural Gas Pipelines: Natural gas pipelines in United States transport natural gas from production regions to distribution centers, power plants and industrial facilities. They are vital for meeting the energy demands of the country and supporting sectors. The extensive network of pipelines in the U.S. spans 3 million miles and connects natural gas production areas and storage facilities with consumers. 

Canadian Infrastructure 

Canada also has an extensive pipeline infrastructure of pipelines that facilitate the transportation of oil and natural gas resources. These pipelines play a role in linking production regions to both domestic and global markets thereby ensuring the smooth and effective flow of these valuable resources. 

  • Oil Pipelines: Canada boasts a system of oil pipelines, such as the Trans Mountain Pipeline, Enbridge Mainline and Line 3 Pipeline. Across the country there is a network of over 521,900 miles (840,000 km) of pipelines that facilitate the transportation of crude oil, from Albertas production sites to refineries and export terminals. 
  • Natural Gas Pipelines: Natural gas pipelines in Canada play a vital role in transporting natural gas from its production sites to distribution centers, power plants and export terminals. These pipelines not only meet the energy requirements of the country but also facilitate the export of natural gas to our neighbors in the United States. It's worth mentioning that Canada witnessed an increase in natural gas imports, via pipelines reaching 2.5 Bcm in 2021 compared to 20 Bcm the previous year. 

Control Technologies 

Cathodic Protection: Cathodic protection is a widely employed method for safeguarding metal structures like pipelines against corrosion. The technique involves making the structure act as the cathode, in a cell effectively impeding the corrosion process. This can be accomplished by utilizing anodes that corrode instead of the structure itself or by applying an external electrical current to the structure. 

Corrosion Inhibitors: Corrosion inhibitors are chemicals that can be added into a system to decrease the speed at which corrosion occurs. Their function is to create a shielding film on the surface of the metal effectively separating it from the surroundings. Corrosion inhibitors can be applied in ways, including as coatings, films or as additives, within the system. 

Monitoring Systems: Monitoring systems are essential for managing corrosion as they offer real time information about the structures condition. These systems comprise sensors, data loggers and communication networks that gather and transmit data, on corrosion rates, coating integrity and environmental conditions.  

By monitoring the system it becomes possible to identify potential corrosion problems at an early stage enabling prompt intervention and maintenance measures. 

Coatings Advances 

High-Performance Coatings: The development of high-performance coatings has revolutionized corrosion control in pipelines. According to Research Nester, the market for high performance ceramic coatings is expected to reach a value of $17.50 billion by the end of 2035 with a growth rate (CAGR) of 9% during the forecast period from 2023 to 2035.  

In 2022, the industry size for performance ceramic coatings was estimated at $10 billion. These coatings offer resistance against harsh environmental conditions, like extreme temperatures, moisture and chemicals. They create a protective barrier that greatly enhances the lifespan of pipelines. 

Environmentally Friendly: The pipeline industry has shown interest in the development of environmentally friendly coatings due to growing environmental concerns. These coatings aim to minimize any impact on the environment both during their application and throughout the lifespan of the pipelines. They are specifically formulated to be free from substances and emit low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) thereby reducing their carbon footprint. 

Enhanced Durability: Advancements in the field of coating technology have paved the way for the creation of durable coatings. These specialized coatings are specifically engineered to endure challenging conditions such as abrasion, impact and corrosion.  

By providing a protective layer they effectively safeguard the integrity of pipelines throughout their operational lifespan thereby minimizing expenses associated with maintenance and repairs. 

Importance of Control 

Prevention of Failure: Preventing corrosion is extremely important in the maintenance of oil and natural gas pipelines. Our analysis indicates that corrosion related failures account for 25-27% of safety incidents, in the oil and gas industry. Corrosion has the potential to weaken pipeline structures resulting in leaks, ruptures and disastrous events.  

By implementing measures to control corrosion we can enhance the integrity and dependability of pipelines while also minimizing the risk of accidents and environmental harm. 

Protection of Nature: It is crucial to prioritize corrosion control in order to safeguard our natural resources, including water bodies and eco-systems from any form of contamination.  

When pipelines corrode there is a risk of oil or gas leakage, which can have effects on the environment and pose hazards to both wildlife and human well-being. By adopting corrosion control measures the industry can reduce the chances of environmental harm and ensure the sustainable utilization of our valuable natural resources. 

Cost Savings: Implementing effective measures to control corrosion can lead to significant cost savings for pipeline operators. Corrosion not only increases maintenance and repair expenses but it also results in unplanned shutdowns and production losses.  

By implementing the practices for corrosion control pipeline operators can save up to 37% of the losses caused by corrosion. These losses amount to $870 billion annually including about $460 million per year in downhole tubing expenses and an additional $300 million, in capital expenditures related to corrosion. Taking steps to address corrosion allows operators to prolong the lifespan of their pipelines by reducing repair frequency and optimize operational efficiency. 

Regulatory Compliance: Effective corrosion control is crucial in the oil and gas industry to meet requirements. Regulatory agencies have set guidelines and standards for preventing corrosion, which are aimed at ensuring the safety and dependability of pipelines.  

By implementing corrosion control measures operators can demonstrate compliance with these regulations and maintain a favorable rapport with regulatory authorities.  

API 571 published by the American Petroleum Institute provides information on over 25 distinct corrosion mechanisms commonly observed in upstream oil and gas facilities. The interplay of factors such as pressure, temperature, and flow and process media can gradually deteriorate the components and equipment within a system. 

U.S., Canada Systems 

  • The Keystone Pipeline is a system of oil pipelines that transport crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the United States. It consists of three phases: Keystone Pipeline System (Phase I), Keystone XL Pipeline (Phase II), and Keystone Gulf Coast Expansion (Phase III). 
  • The Colonial Pipeline is the largest refined products pipeline in the United States. It transports gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel from the Gulf Coast refineries to markets throughout the Southeast and East Coast. The pipeline spans over 5,500 miles and supplies about 45% of the fuel consumed on the East Coast. 
  • The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) is a major oil pipeline in Alaska that transports crude oil from the North Slope to the port of Valdez. The pipeline is approximately 800 miles long and was built to address the need for a reliable and efficient means of transporting oil from the Arctic region to the rest of the United States. 
  • The Rockies Express Pipeline (REX) is a natural gas pipeline that spans over 1,700 miles from Colorado to Ohio. It is one of the longest natural gas pipelines in the United States and plays a crucial role in transporting natural gas from the Rocky Mountain region to the Midwest and Eastern markets. 
  • The Trans Mountain Pipeline is a major oil pipeline system in Canada that transports crude oil and refined petroleum products from Alberta to the west coast of British Columbia. 
  • The Enbridge Mainline is a network of pipelines that transport crude oil and natural gas liquids across Canada and the United States. It is one of the longest and most extensive pipeline systems in North America. 
  • The Alliance Pipeline is a natural gas pipeline that transports natural gas from western Canada to the United States. It is a key infrastructure for exporting Canadian natural gas to the U.S. market. 

To Wrap Up 

Corrosion poses concerns within the oil and gas industry since it can create safety risks and expensive repair needs. To address these issues and enhance efficiency various corrosion control solutions have been developed.  

After evaluating the types of engineered corrosion protective materials we can conclude that use smart stimuli responsive systems for self-healing coatings, environmentally friendly formulations of corrosion inhibitors and resins as well, as incorporating composites based on nanomaterials infused with corrosion inhibitors or healing agents would effectively improve the long lasting durability of corrosion protective systems.  

These advancements aim to tackle the challenges currently faced by the oil and gas industry. 

Author: Shalini Nagar is a content associate at market research and consulting provider Research Nester Pvt. Ltd.  

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