Smart coatings, protective membranes, new alloys, and other innovative structural materials will be the focus of a new $100 million international R&D effort underwritten by oil giant BP.
The UK-based multinational announced Tuesday (Aug. 7) that it would establish the BP International Centre for Advanced Materials (BP-ICAM) to “lead research aimed at advancing the fundamental understanding and use of materials across a variety of energy and industrial applications.”
The 10-year investment program is expected to support 25 new academic posts, 100 post-graduate researchers, and 80 post-doctoral fellows at four participating universities.
|Coatings and other corrosion technologies will become more critical as energy exploration reaches unprecedented depths and pressures, BP said.|
The center will be modeled on a “hub and spoke” structure, with the hub located within The University of Manchester’s Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences. BP cited the university’s “core strengths in materials, engineering, characterization, collaborative working, and a track record of delivering breakthrough research and engineering applications that can be deployed in the real world.”
The university is already home to BP’s Projects and Engineering College and is a major collaborator member within BP’s Inherently Reliable Facilities Research Program. The university also hosts a BP-funded research laboratory in corrosion.
The “spoke” institutions will be the University of Cambridge, which has a long association with BP; Imperial College London, which conducts a wide range of research for BP; and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the United States. The U.S. school is one of three partners supporting the BP Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), a 10-year, $500 million program launched in 2007.
BP says the universities “will have academic freedom to publish fundamental science resulting from the BP-ICAM’s work, while commercial agreements will cover specific technological applications of the work.”
The new international center will carry out research into seven primary areas: structural materials, smart coatings, functional materials, catalysis, membranes, energy storage and energy harvesting.
BP said the initial focus would be on:
• Smart coatings that increase protection for pipelines and offshore platforms and extend a structure’s usable life;
• Membranes and other structures for separation, filtration and purification of oil and gas, water and chemicals in production, refining and biofuels processes and petrochemicals; and
• Structural materials such as new metal alloys and composites for deepwater production, and high-pressure/high-temperature reservoirs.
‘Unprecedented Depths, Pressures’
BP works with some 200 universities around the globe and holds a number of long-term strategic partnerships with leading universities in the UK, U.S., China and Russia.
“Advanced materials and coatings will be vital in finding, producing and processing energy safely and efficiently in the years ahead,” said Bob Dudley, BP group chief executive.
New energy exploration projects “at unprecedented depths, pressures and temperatures” will increase demand by refineries, manufacturing plants and pipeline operators for “ever-better ways to combat corrosion and deploy new materials to improve their operations,” Dudley said.
The new investment “should allow us to change the way we build, operate and maintain our equipment; manufacture cleaner and more efficient products; develop imaginative energy sources and then store that energy for when it is needed most; and increase the use of lighter metals and composites for structures and products,” he added.