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Australia Takes on Aging Pipelines

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

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An Australian university is tackling the country’s aging pipeline needs with a new industry-backed research center and a novel coatings sensor.

Working with the Energy Pipeline Cooperative Research Centre, Deakin University has launched the National Facility for Pipeline Coating Assessment at its Waurn Ponds campus

Deakin University
Photos: Deakin University

Ph.D. student Facundo Valera (pictured) has developed a sensor to detect pipeline corrosion in real time.

Cooperative Research Centres are a collaborative Australian governent initiative. The Energy Pipelines CRC is a collaboration by Deakin, the University of Wollongong, the University of Adelaide, and the Australian Pipeline Industry Association. The association has more than 400 member companies.

Detecting Degradation

The research team for the new sensor is led by Professors Mike Tan and Maria Forsyth. Doctoral student Facundo Varela developed the technology.

The sensor performs electrochemical corrosion rate measurements to detect dangerous levels of corrosion and degraded protective coatings, the researchers say.

Varela says the new technology could help unveil the “essentially invisible process that occurs underground and ... inexpensively evaluate the associated risks in minutes.”

Using real-time monitoring, the sensor simulates the conditions occurring at typical corrosion defects and measures corrosion rates.

The technology can measure rates daily, warning of localized corrosion in its early stages, the researchers say.

Extra Field Inspection

The sensor is designed to complement "smart pigging" inspection technology.

While smart pigging is an effective and common method to detect pipeline corrosion, it can be expensive and  detects corrosion only when at least 30 percent of the original wall thickness has been lost, researchers say.

Deakin pipeline coatings lab

Deakin's new National Facility for Pipeline Coating Assessment will provide an independent testing facility for oil and gas pipeline coatings.

The new sensor offers low operational costs, flexibility for use with different pipeline designs, and the potential for high inspection frequency, the developers say.

Laboratory testing has shown good results, and the sensor will be tested in the field later this year, the university says.

Responding to Aging Pipelines

The pipeline coating assesment facility was established “in response to industry needs” and will serve as an independent facility to perform oil and gas pipeline coating testing, according to the university.

It will also help build Australia’s capability to support pipeline coating selection and development. Industry representatives said there has been a desperate need for the new facility, especially because of the age of many major pipelines in Australia.

The facility is jointly managed by Deakin's School of Engineering and Institute for Frontier Materials.

“Our staff have been busy identifying research needs and taking the initiative to find solutions that will have an impact on energy efficiency and infrastructure sustainability in Australia,” said Professor Lee Astheimer, Deakin’s deputy vice chancellor of research.

   

Tagged categories: Coating selection; Corrosion; Laboratory testing; Oil and Gas; Pipelines; Research

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