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March 2015 - Issue 4
Welcome to the Battelle Oil & Gas Newsletter. We put this together as a service to our friends in the oil and gas industry keep you informed of the latest news from our scientists and engineers and the industry.
Battelle works with oil and gas companies and others to advance the industry with the latest science and technology. Battelle Oil & Gas will keep you up-to-date on cutting edge technologies, services and processes.
Battelle has completed an evaluation of commercially available subsea oil detection technologies aimed at helping the oil and gas industry improve remote oil spill detection and response. The six-month study was completed on behalf of oil and gas industry group IPIECA in order to provide guidance to the industry on selection of appropriate technologies for a variety of potential scenarios.
Battelle researchers evaluated the performance of different combinations of direct and indirect sensors aboard a range of delivery vehicles including autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), manned surface vehicles (gliders) and autonomous surface vehicles (ASVs). Each sensor/vehicle combination was evaluated to determine its strengths, weaknesses and best applications. The evaluations were then applied to determine priority recommendations of sensor and vehicle combinations for five different oil spill scenarios including a release at an oil terminal, a spill by a tanker during transit, an offshore platform release, a pipeline rupture and a well blowout. The evaluations were also related to guidance developed by the U.S. National Response team (NRT) in response to the Deepwater Horizon event, which created atypical conditions not addressed in previous guidance documents.
As the oil and gas industry moves into more remote deepwater locations, new methods are needed for oil spill monitoring and rapid response. Using autonomous underwater and surface vehicles to carry hydrocarbon sensors reduces the risks to field personnel associated with oil spill response, especially detection in remote areas and hazardous operations. By loading sensors onto autonomous surface and subsea vehicles, oil spill response companies can monitor environmental conditions over a wide area and allow for more rapid and cost-effective data collection in the event of a spill. The Battelle study is the first to systematically evaluate many of these new technologies and compare the performance of difference combinations of technologies for different scenarios.
IPIECA is an industry group focused on sustainability and environmental protection for the oil and gas industry. The evaluation is part of ongoing work by Battelle to identify promising new technologies to help reduce environmental risks for oil and gas exploration, production and transportation.
Battelle has developed a new DNA detection system for rapid field identification of microbes commonly associated with Microbial Influenced Corrosion (MIC). The new system will help oil and gas companies better monitor pipelines, downhole equipment and other critical infrastructure by allowing them to identify the markers of MIC in remote field locations instead of shipping field samples to a laboratory and waiting for results.
The field-based DNA detection system combines several pieces of commercial off-the-shelf reagents in a novel way to create an innovative field-based DNA identification kit. Bacteria associated with MIC can be identified by extracting DNA from collected samples, separating and amplifying target DNA sequences, and detecting amplified DNA products. Currently, samples are shipped to a laboratory and companies typically wait days or weeks to get results. The new MIC detector allows DNA to be extracted, separated, amplified and analyzed in the field in a couple of hours, without the need of a centrifuge, thermocycler, or other specialized laboratory equipment. This allows companies to diagnose potential MIC problems on the spot and make faster and more effective remedy decisions.
Battelle recently validated the method for downhole environments in a West Virginia study. Produced water samples taken from a drilling site in West Virginia were analyzed for specific DNA sequences using the new field-based DNA detection system. Researchers were able to accurately identify known bacteria in the produced water samples. This method could provide early warning for developing problems in downhole environments that are difficult to visually inspect. It could also be used for inspection of pipelines and other oil and gas equipment.
MIC is one of the leading causes of corrosion in the oil and gas industry. Identifying the presence of corrosion-causing bacteria can provide early warning of developing problems before corrosion is apparent in a visual inspection. Understanding whether or not corrosion is microbially influenced, and which specific bacteria are present, can also impact remedy selection. This field-based test will give companies a cost-effective and time-saving alternative for rapid diagnosis of corrosion issues.
Battelle has long been a leader in corrosion research, bringing together world-class materials science, chemistry, microbiology and analytics expertise to solve corrosion challenges for the oil and gas industry.
Battelle is launching a new study to examine the impacts of biological organisms on marine and deepwater equipment for the oil and gas industry. The project was commissioned by DeepStar, a joint industry group dedicated to advancing new deepwater technologies.
Drilling platforms and other deep-sea equipment provide compelling environments for ocean organisms. Mooring chains, flow lines and other underwater equipment often become encrusted with oysters, corals, barnacles and other tiny creatures in a process known as “biofouling.” While a single barnacle’s weight may be negligible, large masses of living organisms can add significant weight, drag and mechanical stress to underwater structures and cables. Engineers need to be able to estimate the growth rate and impact of these living creatures in order to determine the strength requirements for underwater structures and equipment.
Current guidelines for estimating marine growth rates in the Gulf of Mexico date back to the 1970s and 80s and are based on data gathered primarily from near offshore environments. Since then, the environmental conditions in the Gulf have changed substantially and the industry has moved into more remote deepwater locations. New data on the rate and impact of biofouling in today’s Gulf of Mexico environments is desperately needed to inform engineering guidelines for offshore oil rigs and equipment.
The new study will analyze recent data from structures at different locations in the Gulf to develop better statistical models for biofouling. In phase one, researchers will compile and evaluate data collected from routine company inspections. In phase two, Battelle will use the data to develop a multivariable statistical model to predict growth rates based on material, geographic area, depth of water, temperature, pH and other covariates. The same methods could eventually be used to develop biofouling models in other parts of the world.
Battelle was selected for its combination of marine biology, materials science and analytics expertise. Battelle has a long history of biofouling and environmental exposure studies at its Florida Materials Research Facility near Daytona Beach, Florida. The Battelle data analytics team applies world-class statistical modeling, simulation and analytical methods to turn large data sets into understandable and actionable information.
DeepStar is a joint industry program made up of operating companies and suppliers in the oil and gas industry and administered by Chevron Energy Technology Co., a division of Chevron USA Inc. The group was founded in 1992 in order to identify, develop and validate new technologies for deepwater oil exploration and production. Battelle has been a DeepStar member since 2012.
Can analyzing DNA in water and sediment samples replace the collection of live specimens? Recent studies suggest that Environmental DNA (eDNA) collection may be a viable, safe, and cost effective alternative for biodiversity studies in marine environments.
Battelle is working with the oil and gas industry to validate eDNA methods for marine environments, from near-shore lagoons to deepwater benthic environments. Recent studies comparing eDNA to traditional collection methods have produced encouraging results. In the near future, eDNA studies could be used to supplement or supplant more costly collection methods for environmental monitoring and impact studies.
Traditional biodiversity studies require experts to spend extensive time in the field to collect, observe and identify species. eDNA studies compare DNA extracted from shed cells and excretions found in water and sediment samples to a catalog DNA sequences of known species for fast and easy species identification in the lab. This means that biodiversity studies can be completed with significantly fewer field personnel, reducing costs and risks.
Battelle completed proof-of-concept studies in marine environments off of the North Slope of Alaska and in a deepwater environment off of French Guiana. Environmental DNA studies of sea water from Elson Lagoon, near Barrow, Alaska demonstrated a high level of agreement with both subsistence fishing and scientific collecting methods in the identification of fish present in the lagoon. The eDNA study also identified several fish species that were not caught by traditional methods, as well as four species of marine mammals and numerous invertebrates, suggesting that eDNA may be a superior method for detecting the presence of rare, endangered or hard-to-capture species. Studies of mollusks, crustaceans and annelids in deepwater environments demonstrated more mixed results, in large part because many of these deepwater species have not been sequenced and added to DNA catalogs. As more species are sequenced and cataloged, eDNA studies in deepwater environments will become more accurate and complete.
Regulatory agencies are starting to take notice of these new analytical methods. Battelle’s validation studies are an important step toward getting regulatory approval to replace or supplement traditional study methods for required environmental impact studies and monitoring. For example, eDNA could be a cost-effective way to monitor “sentinel species” to evaluate environmental impacts over time.
Battelle is continuing to advance the science of eDNA collection and analysis for the oil and gas industry. One exciting possibility for the future is the marriage of eDNA analysis with automated sampling techniques using Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) like Bluefin. Combining robotic sample collection with eDNA analysis would further reduce the time, costs and risks of field biodiversity studies and long-term monitoring.
An innovative optical sensor designed by Battelle could give the oil and gas industry a powerful new tool for rapid field detection of oil in sediments. The sensor builds on existing Sediment Profile Imaging (SPI) technology to allow field researchers to identify the presence of hydrocarbons in near-real time rather than waiting for lab results. The technology could help oil companies speed up characterization of benthic environments and reduce the costs of analytical testing by eliminating samples that do not show signs of hydrocarbon contamination.
Battelle is in the process of adapting off-the-shelf SPI technology with an ultraviolet light source to detect fluorescing hydrocarbons. SPI systems have long been used to capture photographs of sediment. Using an SPI, researchers can cut a small wedge in the sediment and then take a picture using a camera, a mirror and a light source. Because hydrocarbons fluoresce with a unique white light signature under UV light, replacing the traditional flash with a UV light source allows researchers to visually see whether hydrocarbons are present in a given sample. Battelle is developing image analysis protocols that will provide semi-quantitative information about the concentration of oil in the sample. Using this system, field researchers can rapidly analyze sediment across a large area to see where oil is present and in what approximate concentrations. More expensive lab testing can then be reserved for only sediment samples of interest based on the field results.
Using optical sensing to screen sediment samples could reduce the time and costs associated with aquatic and marine baseline site characterization, contamination risk assessment, spill response and long-term monitoring. By providing results in real time, it will allow the industry to identify problem areas after a discharge event much more rapidly so remediation efforts can begin sooner. It will also provide rapid real-time environmental measurement for routine monitoring and assessment that could enhance capabilities to differentiate sources such as natural seeps, leaks and spills.
Battelle has already completed proof-of-concept studies to validate the method and calibrate the image analyzer. It could be made commercially available later this year. Battelle is actively seeking collaborators to conduct field testing for specific applications and bring the new optical sensor to market.
Pressure vessels used by the oil and gas industry have thick, magnetic walls that make non-intrusive inspection (NII) difficult or unreliable. Battelle is refining several NII methods to increase their accuracy and reliability in detecting corrosion, cracks and other flaws inside pressure vessels.
NII methods use electromagnetic currents or radiography to detect differences in the inside surface of a metallic structure that can indicate corrosion or cracking. Much like doctors use x-rays or ultrasound to generate medical images, inspectors can use techniques like micro-focus eddy currents or neutron radiography to “see” inside a metallic object by analyzing changes in a current or reflected radiation. These techniques have long been used to detect corrosion and other flaws in pipelines, airplane hulls and other metallic structures. However, they are generally unreliable when applied to oil and gas pressure vessels, which tend to have thicker, ferrous walls that dissipate the electromagnetic signals.
Finding better non-intrusive inspection methods for pressure vessels would provide significant cost savings for the oil and gas industry. Manual inspection requires pressure vessels to be brought offline for the inspection period, interrupting normal operations. Sending human inspectors into the vessel also presents health and safety risks for personnel. Many NII methods can be conducted without taking the pressure vessel offline, significantly reducing operating disruptions and costs associated with inspection. Rapid, cost-effective NII methods could allow for more frequent screening of pressure vessels, faster identification of emerging problems, and more focused use of offline manual inspection.
Battelle researchers are developing new methods to adapt existing NII technologies to the challenges of oil and gas pressure vessels, building on research originally done for the U.S. Department of Transportation. In one study of micro-focus eddy current techniques, Battelle developed a proprietary method to reduce the magnetic permeability of a ferrous material in order to reduce signal loss and scattering as the current moved through the material. This allows the transmitted pulse to stay focused and retain a large enough amplitude to penetrate the thick magnetic walls of the pressure vessel and generate reliable data about the thin nonmagnetic metallic coating on the inside. A second study examined a neutron backscatter technique that could be used as a rapid screening tool to identify areas of concern. Battelle is also studying a number of other NII methods to determine their applicability for pressure vessels and other oil and gas applications. The methods include multi-level magnetization (MLM) techniques for mapping wall stresses, Barkhausen demodulation for crack-stress mapping, robotic intrusion methods similar to pipeline inspection crawlers, large-scale radiographic inspection, differential stress via magnetic measurement and the synthetic aperture focusing technique (SAFT).
Battelle is continuing work on a comprehensive study of electric resistance weld (ERW) pipe failures. The Longitudinal ERW Seam Failures study will identify actions that could be implemented by pipeline operators to reduce the risk of longitudinal seam failures in ERW pipes.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA), part of the Department of Transportation (DOT), initiated the study in response to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Recommendation P-09-1, which identified areas of concern related to ERW pipe. Battelle was contracted to lead the study in 2011, and is working with Kiefner and Associates (KAI) and Det Norske Veritas (DNV) as subcontractors.
ERW pipe is often found in pressure pipes commonly used to carry natural gas. ERW, a technique used since the 1920s, uses an electric current to bond the seams of steel pipes without the use of welding filler material. Until the 1970s, manufacturers used a low frequency AC current to heat the edges of the seam. However, over time these welds were found to be susceptible to selective seam corrosion, hook cracks and inadequate bonding of the seams. While a more reliable high frequency process is now used for new pipeline construction, thousands of miles of original ERW pipe are still in use today. Reliable methods are urgently needed to evaluate the condition of this existing infrastructure and identify pipelines at risk of failure.
The goal of Phase I of the project was to develop a better understanding of the current state of these issues, including failure rates, conditions that predict failure, and the reliability of current testing equipment. Researchers gathered extensive data on the failure history of vintage ERW seams, including flash-weld (FW) pipe and selective seam-weld corrosion (SSWC), and performed a technical literature review. Researchers also developed experimental studies to better characterize the failure of ERW/FW seams and analyzed the effectiveness of existing in-line inspection (ILI) and hydrotesting technologies for detection of flaws in ERW pipes. Study data was used to quantify the resistance of ERW/FW seams and their response to pressure and develop predictive modeling methods. The final report detailing Phase I activities and results is publically available on the PHMSA website.
Phase II work is still ongoing, and is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year. In Phase II, researchers are working to develop workable hydrotest protocols for ERW/FW seam defects and improve the sensors, interpretive algorithms and tool platforms of ILI and in-the-ditch-methods (ITDM) to improve defect detection. They will also validate computational models used to assess and quantify defect failures and develop a software tool to support integrity management of seam welds. The final reports for Phase II will be available in early 2016.
Battelle has a long history of pipeline safety and integrity work for the oil and gas industry. Battelle is an industry leader in advancing the science of corrosion detection and mitigation, including development of new detection technologies for Microbial Induced Corrosion (MIC) and the Battelle Smart Corrosion Detector Bead. At the Battelle Pipeline Inline Inspection Facility in West Jefferson, OH, researchers evaluate in-line inspection devices (pigs) to find out how accurately they pinpoint pits, cracks, thinning walls and other pipeline flaws. The facility has one of the largest archives of pipes in the world, with pipe diameters ranging from 16” to 42” and various materials characteristics.
Battelle also performs extensive field work including pipeline evaluation, risk analysis and mitigation. In a current project for a commercial customer, Battelle researchers are using operational analysis and computational modeling methods to determine where and how operational failures are likely to occur in a cross-country hydrocarbon fluids pipeline. Battelle will use the analysis to make recommendations for both operational changes and physical changes to the pipeline itself in order to reduce the risk of future operational problems or pipeline failures.