In the first of our new blog series investigating emerging technologies in the Oil & Gas Industry, we look at the impact of materials and how new alloys are being developed to fight the corrosion threat.
The Oil & Gas Industry supplies billions of people around the world, fuelling vehicles, heating homes and generating electricity – among many other functions. But to ensure a steady supply of product to both consumers and distributors, piping materials must be durable and resilient to damage.
A problem wearing thin
Metals are used extensively in oil and gas equipment, but corrosion – the deterioration of a metal or its properties – poses a major threat. For example, if left untreated, drilling mud – or liquid drilling fluid – that has been exposed to oxygen can corrode drilling equipment and pipelines. This can cause metals to lose ductility and impact strength – requiring a complete shutdown for repairs and replacements. Shutting down a plant for even a day could cost an oil and gas company millions in lost revenue.
A solid solution
Strong and resistant materials are the first line of defence against corrosion. Steel alloys have been crafted to withstand hostile environments and changing conditions. These include:
- Carbon steel – an alloy of iron with up to 2% carbon, increases the strength of steel and its resistance to corrosion
- Steel and nickel alloys – any steel with 9% nickel content is particularly tough at extremely high and low temperatures. Nickel alloys are used extensively in gas processing plants and liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants
- Titanium and steel alloys – adding titanium to steel alloys increases the material’s strength, density and corrosion resistance. High-strength titanium alloys are often used in compressor parts for durability and to increase the working lives of parts
- Copper alloys – including bronze – have excellent electrical and thermal conductivity and cryogenic, or cold-resistant, properties. Due to their resistance to temperature change, these metals are commonly used in valves, stems, seals and heat transfer applications
With knowledge around corrosion improving, newly discovered oil fields are benefitting from stronger and more resistant materials. However, it remains important to regularly monitor metal equipment for damage or degradation. Regular maintenance schedules are particularly advised in hostile environments where sea water or extreme temperatures could impact asset performance. With regular equipment checks, potential issues can be found and dealt with before they become a high-cost, time intensive problem.