Nanotechnologies Address Pipe Corrosion



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The boom in the gas and oil business, both in the United States and globally, has refocused attention on efforts to reduce corrosion on the surfaces of pipes and equipment used in the industry.

A study conducted by Exxon Mobil and presented to the European Federation of Corrosion found that between 40 and 60 percent of piping maintenance costs are related to corrosion under insulation (CUI), a term for localized corrosion that occurs at the interface of a metal surface and the insulation on that surface.

The Exxon study found that the highest incidence of leaks in the refining and chemical industries is due to CUI, and not to process corrosion.

“CUI is real threat to the on-stream reliability of many of today’s plants,” says Michael Twomey, who has written extensively on the subject for industry publications.

Francesca Crolley, vice-president of business development for Florida-based Industrial Nanotech, which develops applications for sustainable nanotechnology coatings sold worldwide, says many manufacturers have had to concede energy loss in certain process-related equipment due to the inability to insulate with traditional coatings. Her company offers nanocoatings as a way to insulate, and prevent corrosion and CUI, and do so with short-term payback and long-term performance.

Nanotechnology, Energy Savings

“Many times, equipment is left uninsulated due to the limitations of the past,” Crolley says.

“With new nanotechnology-based innovations, this is no longer the case. More of this wasted energy loss can be recaptured, and insulation now has the ability to prevent corrosion and CUI rather than causing it.”

Nanotechnology is simply the manipulation of materials at a smaller scale than was previously possible, Crolley says, and by manipulating matter at the nanoscale, materials have the ability to be built from the atomic level up with much less waste.

“Science has also found that materials can take on different attributes when you manipulate them at this scale, such as silver taking on anti-microbial properties,” she says.

Nansulate is a patented nanotechnology-based coating line from Industrial Nanotech that the company says has been providing significant energy savings and protecting equipment from corrosion for manufacturers for several years. This technology transforms insulation into a simple, spray-on thin film application and can be installed with minimal disruption of production activities.

Protecting Pipelines in Argentina

Nansulate is being used by Enap Sipetrol to insulate an oil pipe on an offshore platform off the coast of Argentina. Offshore marine environments are one of the harshest on equipment, coatings and insulation.

Crolley says the coating application was done over an oil pipe that transfers petroleum from the vertical separators to the connection of the pumps that impulse the fluid to the platform, where the petroleum is then transferred onshore.

The purpose of the application was to reduce heat energy loss of the petroleum along the pipeline. The Nansulate coating was applied to the exterior of the pipelines at an average of 350 microns dry film thickness. The pipelines’ surface temperature was measured to indicate reduction of heat loss. Prior to being coated, the average temperature of the pipeline exterior was 140°F; after coating, the average pipeline exterior temperature was 107.6°F. The coating also provided corrosion protection in the severe marine environment.

Nansulate has four main characteristics designed to combat problems with CUI:

Low thermal conductivity, making it an insulator.

Corrosion resistance.

Resistance to moisture.

A clear finish that enables visual inspection without insulation removal. 

Crolley says that, as the science of nanotechnology progresses, it will continue to change the way the energy industry sees traditional methods of insulation, asset protection and other process activities. She adds that, as more companies explore the uses of nanotechnology for energy savings, more new technology products will be commercialized that provide other sustainable benefits for manufacturers looking to reduce costs.

“The key is to be open to innovations,” she says. “Seek them out regularly, review them thoroughly, and implement a plan to evaluate them in your facility to your organization’s benefit.” n

Information in this story provided by Industrial Nanotech. For more information on Industrial Nanotech, please visit Industrial-nanotech.com.



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