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September 2014 - Issue 3
Welcome to our quarterly eNewsletter focused on the powerful new diagnostic capabilities that Battelle Oil & Gas delivers and the people who make them happen.
Battelle works with Oil & Gas professionals and others to advance the industry with the latest science and technology. The Battelle Oil & Gas newsletter will keep you up-to-date on cutting edge technologies, processes and applications.
Researchers at Battelle’s Florida Materials Research Facility are testing a novel approach to reducing the impact of Microbial Induced Corrosion (MIC) on offshore mooring chains. An antimicrobial wrap developed by Battelle scientists is under investigation as a possible solution to a widespread industry problem.
Early failures of mooring chains due to corrosion are a growing problem for offshore oil & gas operations, costing the industry tens of millions of dollars each year. A single mooring system failure can cost operators $10-$40 million to repair or replace. A string of early failures, with mooring chains losing significant diameter in 5-7 years instead of the expected 20+ years the chains were designed for, has the industry scrambling for answers. One theory is that reduced oxygen levels in some areas of the ocean, particularly in tropical or subtropical regions, have encouraged the growth of anaerobic corrosion-causing bacteria which may be causing the chains to fail more rapidly than anticipated. If this is the case, antimicrobial wraps may offer protection from the bacteria and slow down the corrosion process.
Scientists at FMRF have set up testing environments for mooring chains to simulate conditions in the Gulf of Mexico and African offshore environments. The outdoor subtropical corrosion facility at Daytona Beach is rated one of the most corrosive environments in the United States, and has been equipped for a variety of controlled exposure, submergence and fouling studies. Researchers are monitoring corrosion development in mooring chains below the surface, at the tidal zone, and in the splash zone in this controlled environment. By comparing chains with and without an antimicrobial wrap, researchers will be able to evaluate the efficacy of the wrap for slowing corrosion.
Battelle has a long history of corrosion work for the oil and gas industry, including work in advanced materials, corrosion detection, and mitigation. The innovative antimicrobial polymer being tested by Battelle materials scientists could be used for new mooring chains or retrofitted onto existing installations. If the tests are successful, Battelle will seek partners to manufacture and commercialize the wraps.
How do you select an Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) strategy for maximum results? Battelle has developed an innovative business model to help oil producers take the guesswork out of EOR—without spending a dime up front.
Battelle is currently working with small and mid-sized oil producers in Ohio to optimize EOR efforts and maximize the amount of oil recovered. In many of the oil fields in the region, only 10-15% of oil can be recovered through primary production. With large producers snapping up leases for the shale gas boom, options are limited for small producers who want to expand their operations. By using EOR methods, producers can extend the life of their existing wells and increase their lifetime production by 50-100%.
But it’s not always easy for producers to know the optimal EOR strategy in advance, or estimate the amount of oil they will be able to produce. Battelle uses the latest reservoir modeling tools to estimate future well productivity and evaluate different EOR scenarios. By looking at the reservoir models as well as the local geology, available resources, and resource costs, the Battelle team is able to help producers select the strategy with the highest return on investment. Because smaller producers are not always able to invest in this kind of advanced analysis up front, Battelle makes these services available for a percentage of future revenues on the wells they are analyzing.
In one case, Battelle is helping a group of producers in Ohio maximize the remaining production in a declining oil field. Battelle estimated the future production for the field using their EOR design tool. Then, they used the design tool to evaluate how different scenarios for EOR would impact the individual wells together and separately. The analysis showed that by pooling the leases together, production for all producers would be higher than if they continued to operate separately.
Battelle has decades of experience in the oil and gas industry, and advanced computational tools developed through years of government and industry research. Now, these tools that were previously available only through large complex government science contracts are accessible and affordable for even small producers.
Pipeline inline inspection devices, also known as “pigs”, can provide critical early warning of potential failure points in an oil and gas pipeline before a problem occurs. But how do you know if the pig is accurate?
When working correctly, inspection pigs can detect minute flaws in pipelines before they can be detected by visual inspection. Pigs can also efficiently inspect miles of pipeline at a time, flowing through the pipes along with the gas or liquid. Inspection pigs are designed to detect cracks, pits, thinning pipe walls or coatings, and signs of corrosion so they can be fixed proactively. However, there are very few facilities that are able to measure the accuracy of the devices.
Battelle operates one of only a small number of pipeline inline testing facilities in the world. At its Pipeline Inline Inspection Facility in West Jefferson, OH, researchers evaluate 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. The pipes all have known cracks and flaws that have been carefully measured. By pulling the inspection pigs through the pipes using a cable, researchers can see which flaws are picked up and which are missed.
The process acts as an important quality control check for manufacturers and oil and gas pipeline operators, as well as for the Department of Energy (DOE). Manufacturers contract with Battelle to evaluate or calibrate new pigging devices before they go to market. Pipeline companies may ask researchers to test and compare several different kinds of inspection pigs to determine which one is best suited to their pipeline characteristics. Using the carefully calibrated quality tests, Battelle scientists are able to help manufacturers improve the accuracy of the pigs and buyers make informed decisions on pig selection.
The paper was delivered by internationally recognized microbiologist Dr. Ronald Atlas of the University of Louisville at the American Chemical Society conference in San Francisco in August 2014.
Three sites in Barataria Bay, LA, including two coastal salt marsh locations impacted by the release of Macondo oil (MC-252) and one unimpacted reference site, were studied between 2011 and 2013. Samples collected from these sites were analyzed to determine the concentration of oil components as well as the structure of the microbial community. Researchers measured concentrations of saturated hydrocarbons, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and petroleum biomarkers to 1) determine if the hydrocarbons were associated with MC-252 oil, and 2) to calculate the extent of oil degradation. The project team also extracted DNA from the samples and used whole metagenome sequencing to determine the relative abundances of different species of microbes, including those known to degrade oil.
No MC252 oil was detected in the surface sediment at the reference site, and the microbial community was very diverse. At a heavily oil-impacted aerobic site (containing oxygen in the sediment), the concentrations of petroleum hydrocarbons, which were attributed to MC-252 oil, declined significantly from 2011 to 2013. These samples showed relatively large proportions of the aerobic hydrocarbon-degrading bacterium Marinobacter hydrocarbonoclasticus. By comparison, at a heavily oil-impacted site which was anaerobic (containing very little oxygen), the concentrations of petroleum hydrocarbons, which were also attributed to MC-252 oil, did not decline as drastically between 2011 and 2013. At this site, a single bacterial species,Desulfococcus oleovorans, accounted for more than half of the overall microbial community in 2011. In both cases, enrichment of oil-associated microbial populations declined between 2011 and 2013, and microbial diversity returned to the high levels similar to those observed at the unimpacted site reference marsh.
Battelle is a leading provider of advanced biological and hydrocarbon analyses to the oil and gas sector. Our research laboratories employ biomarker and other high-resolution capabilities to support advanced hydrocarbon analysis, finger printing and source attribution, and ecological risk assessment. Our microbial genomics team uses molecular biology metagenomics, metaproteomics, and metatranscriptomics to identify microrganisms involved in hydrocarbon biodegradation and associated metabolic pathways.
Battelle is starting limited manufacturing of a new explosive initiator device for oil and gas development. The new initiator has been shown to be more reliable and accurate in explosive timing than similar devices available in the market today.
Initiators are used to trigger explosions for downhole and hydraulic fracturing operations. Reliable timing is critical to ensure worker safety, avoid expensive equipment damage or production delays, and ensure that the explosive is triggered at precisely the right location.
The device developer came to Battelle to manufacture the device because of their clean room production capabilities and unique expertise with energetic materials. Energetics must be carefully processed and handled to avoid explosions during manufacturing. Battelle leveraged extensive experience working with microchip initiators for military, construction and mining applications to develop a stable, repeatable manufacturing process and improve the initiator design for safer tooling. In addition to feasibility testing and small-scale manufacturing, Battelle provides materials development and selection, modeling, prototyping and design selection services for wide range of energetic devices.
The initiators are currently undergoing qualification testing with one of the largest global oil field service companies. They could be available for the commercial market as early as 2015.
Battelle is embarking on an internally funded research and development project to develop new materials solutions for High Pressure, High Temperature (HPHT) environments. The project will adapt innovations from adjacent industrial and governmental applications, such as aerospace and national security, to oil & gas applications. Potential solutions under investigation include super-strong adhesives that can be applied and cured underwater; polymers able to withstand the temperature and corrosive environment encountered in downhole applications; and coatings able to reduce noise and control impact between objects.
Downhole environments for oil & gas exploration and production present some of the most challenging conditions on earth for equipment manufacturers and material designers. Existing materials and equipment don’t always hold up well under the extreme conditions, while the costs associated with downhole equipment failure can be high—a critical seal failure can cost millions of dollars in damages and lost productivity.
Battelle’s advanced materials team is developing new solutions for HPHT environments, building on their past experience working in similar or harsher environments for commercial and government clients. The materials team continues to actively work to develop other specialized materials solutions to improve sustainability, costs or performance in the field. Areas of high interest include development of coatings able to detect and heal corrosion occurring on metals, batteries better suited for use in downhole tools and data loggers, and green material alternatives for hydraulic fracturing operations. These projects and others currently under development at Battelle will give oil and gas developers and equipment manufacturers new answers for improved downhole reliability and performance.
Battelle is moving to a new Massachusetts location in Norwell and in Houston so we can serve our Oil & Gas clients even better. Our new facility has state-of-the-art analytical equipment for fast, accurate answers to complex problems, and meets all state and federal emission control standards. We are solving some of the biggest challenges in the Oil & Gas industry today, from hydrocarbon forensics to sustainable fracking water solutions.
You will no longer find us in Duxbury, so please update your Battelle contact information with our new address and phone number:
Battelle Norwell (formerly Duxbury)
141 Longwater Place
Norwell, MA 02061
11767 Katy Fwy Ste 340
Houston, TX 77079
Jonathan Thorn is the laboratory directory of Battelle’s analytical laboratory in Norwell, Massachusetts. With 20 plus years of experience in analytical and environmental chemistry, he has participated in a wide array of environmental chemistry projects for a variety of government and commercial clients.