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Researchers Develop Pipe Lining to Combat Hydrates

Thursday, June 14, 2018

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Researchers at Southwest Research Institute say they’ve developed a way to protect pipeline internals with a superhydrophobic coating that they believe will prevent the collection of hydrate crystals inside subsea pipelines.

SwRI’s Lotus family of coatings, so named for their superhydrophobic properties, can be applied in a specialized shop using a plasma deposition process.

SwRI pipe lining
Courtesy of Southwest Research Institute

SwRI's Lotus coatings have the potential to stop the buildup of hydrate crystals inside subsea pipelines.

“We produce these coatings using a vacuum process in which a plasma—a state of matter consisting of free electrons plus ionized atoms and molecules—is ignited inside the entire length of the pipe, while introducing one or more chemicals,” explains Michael Miller, a scientist at SwRI. “The process selectively fragments the chemicals into ions that are then accelerated onto the pipe surface where they immediately undergo polymerization to form a thin, glass-like, durable coating.”

The scientists who developed the line of coatings say they can be manipulated to exhibit different surface properties depending on the function they’re meant to serve.

Hydrate Problems

Hydrates form in low-temperature pipelines when water combines with certain gases, forming icelike crystals that can remain solid above the freezing point of water. They pose a problem in pipeline internals when they form blockages, requiring expensive interventions to eliminate them. Hydrates are most likely to build up in high-pressure, low-temperature environments like subsea pipelines.

Right now, hydrates are prevented via chemical additives or heating jackets, SwRI notes, which can prove costly. SwRI is working with an energy services firm to commercialize the Lotus coating process for use in pipeline construction.

“Construction of a high-throughput coating facility specifically for the Lotus coating technology is underway,” Millers said. “It will eventually provide sufficient production capacity to meet the needs of other customers in the oil and gas industry.”

SwRI says the Lotus coatings inside pipelines could also prevent the building up of paraffin and other substances that can build up inside deep petroleum wells.

Research Elsewhere

Earlier this year, another research center, the Center for Hydrate Research at Colorado School of Mines, received a $1.5 million grant to look into the use of coatings to prevent hydrate buildup in undersea pipelines. That research is aimed at finding coatings that can be applied in situ to existing pipelines to prevent hydrate collection.


Tagged categories: AF; AS; Asia Pacific; Coating Materials; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); EU; hydrophobic coatings; Latin America; Linings; NA; North America; OC; Oil and Gas; Pipeline; SA; Specialty functions

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