DOE Lab Studies Fiber-Optic Corrosion Detection
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory recently announced the development of a system that uses fiber optic technology to detect corrosion in oil and gas pipelines.
Optical fibers—already used for tasks from delivering TV and internet service to making colorful Christmas decorations—would be used to determine when early corrosion processes are occurring in a pipeline, allowing the operator to address the issue before a serious problem like a release happens.
According to NETL, in the corrosion-detection system, long, strong fibers would be coated in corrosion proxy materials, which would begin to corrode along with the pipeline if corrosion began in the pipeline’s internal surface. A laser light transmitted through the fiber would detect if the coating begins to deteriorate, indicating a corrosion process in the pipeline.
Another fiber-optic technology in development at NETL would indicate if water condensation, sometimes a problem in natural gas pipelines, is present, helping to head off possible corrosion in those situations. The ultimate goal is to develop fiber-optic sensors for a variety of factors that can indicate changes inside a pipeline so that an entire suite of detectors can be used to monitor for any anomalies in real time.
“Ultimately, we envision an ‘intelligent pipeline’ enabled by advanced technologies, including embedded sensors, protective coatings and liners, and geospatial data analytics,” said Paul R. Ohodnicki Jr., of the Functional Materials Team at the lab. “We are also taking a similar approach in the development of sensing networks for other energy infrastructure monitoring applicants, including power plants, wellbores, carbon storage sites and electrical grid assets such as power transformers.”