Tag Archives: Integrity

Warding off Corrosion Alaska’s Aging Pipelines – A New Growth Industry

On Tuesday, the University of Alaska-Anchorage held a grand opening for its new BP Asset Integrity and Corrosion Lab. The new facility, made possible by a $1 million gift from BP, expands the university’s mechanical engineering program.

The lab’s birth comes as Alaska’s oil pipeline and the corrosion experts who know how to diagnose and manage it are both aging. It holds promise for both technological innovation and developing a home-grown workforce to keep pipelines in good working order for decades to come.

“Having well-trained engineers on staff that are very familiar with the fundamentals of corrosion is a great step in the right direction,” said Matt Cullin, a mechanical engineer and assistant professor at UAA, who will serve as the lab’s director.

Costly corrosion

The grand opening comes one day after BP’s court-ordered deadline to pay the state of Alaska $255 million for money the state lost in revenue when more than 5,000 barrels of crude oil spilled on the North Slope in 2006, forcing a pipeline shutdown.  The company’s Alaska and national reputation has been tarnished by spills, ensuing lawsuits, and criminal charges – all evidence of greater scrutiny by federal regulatory agencies.

Corrosion-weakened pipes caused the North Slope pipeline failure. The company also had to pay a $20 million criminal judgment and a separate $25 million civil judgment in connection with the spills. When the civil judgment was ordered in May 2011, it was the largest per barrel penalty levied by the Department of Justice to date.

In the years since, BP has spent even more money on its Alaska operations at Prudhoe Bay, the nation’s largest oil field. Replacing the old system that leaked and caused the spills cost upwards of $500 million. The company has tripled the amount it spends each year on corrosion prevention and maintenance – up to $120 million in 2011. It’s renovated other lines and doubled its pipeline inspections to 160,000 per year, 110,000 of which specifically look for corrosion.

“BP has spent the last several years systematically strengthening safety and risk management based on lessons learned from 2006. We have made significant improvements in safety and reliability on the North Slope,” said Dawn Patience, spokesperson for BP.

The $1 million gift to UAA for an Alaska-based corrosion lab offers another investment in the long-term maintenance and management of Alaska’s pipelines.

“This will dramatically increase the capability of integrity testing in Alaska — providing results in a timely manner (and) providing students with the opportunity of hands-on research and internships in multiple industries in Alaska – not just oil and gas,” Patience said.

‘Driving a Pinto’ 

”Corrosion is going to be the biggest single threat to flow assurance in the next century,” according to Cullin, who likens the condition of Alaska’s pipeline infrastructure to an old car. “We’re driving a Pinto around.”

To keep the old car going, you could rebuild it each month to keep everything in working order. But that’s not financially viable. Pipeline management, as with the car, is about striking the right balance, Cullin said.

Preventing corrosion isn’t as simple as replacing a bad alternator. “Every day,” Cullin said, “corrosion is trying to outwit you.”

The trans-Alaska pipeline and the pipelines of Prudhoe Bay that feed it have been in place more than three decades, moving the oil that for decades has largely paid for Alaska’s state government. New pipeline-integrity engineers will continue to be in demand.

In addition to oil and gas, corrosion experts are needed in the aviation, military, shipping, fisheries and water-wastewater industries.

Alaska’s ‘corrosion crime lab’ 

The crown jewel of Cullin’s program is a $250,000 scanning electron microscope capable of making tiny details visible to the human eye. It will be able to detect minute surface changes in sections of pipe, and also identify particles.

“I kind of think of this as the corrosion crime lab for the state of Alaska. It’s kind of like CSI Sherlock Holmes style. We want to track down the root cause of the failure,” Cullin said.

Answering those mysteries could determine if a corrosion problem was due to not enough inhibitor injected into the pipeline, or to a surface film that may have prevented the inhibitor from working, or if the pipeline’s main material was faulty from the start.

The exciting part for Cullin is that it will give all levels of academics the opportunity to get involved – undergraduates, graduates and faculty. The idea is to create a lab where industry-funded research projects take place, and also where state and government entities turn for new information and ideas. Through a “corrosion track” – a series of two courses broken up by field experience over the summer – students in engineering and other relevant disciplines should be able to hit the ground running after graduation, Cullin said.

Cullin expects the corrosion classes will have a lasting impact on his students, something he calls the “corrosion glasses” effect. Regardless of what discipline they enter, he’d like to see them always have an eye out for whether designs or other new ideas adequately account for corrosion control. “I absolutely feel that they will match up to anybody from any other school with their fundamental knowledge about corrosion,” he said.

In addition to cultivating a home-grown work force, there’s another upside for industry: a quicker turnaround on failure analysis when something goes wrong. Instead of packing up parts and sending them to Houston, the material could head to UAA.

“It’s really going to be an all-purpose facility,” Cullin said. His goal is for the lab to become self-sustainable within five years, paying for itself through private or government research projects and possibly renting out time on the new microscope, which other departments have already expressed interest in.

SOURCE: http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/warding-corrosion-alaskas-aging-pipelines-new-growth-industry

Corrosion Mentor & Expert Jeff Didas Joins MATCOR

Jeff Didas
Jeff Didas Joins MATCOR

Doylestown, PA (April 24) – MATCOR, Inc. the trusted full-service provider of proprietary cathodic protection products, systems, and corrosion engineering solutions proudly announced on Corrosion Awareness Day that Jeffrey L. “Jeff” Didas joined the MATCOR Engineering team as Senior Corrosion Engineer.

Didas brings to MATCOR more than 38 years of experience in the corrosion industry, having worked for some of the world’s largest pipeline owner/operators and energy companies.

In the role of Senior Corrosion Engineer Jeff will report to Glenn Shreffler, MATCOR’s Executive Vice President and will be responsible for assisting the Engineering team on all aspects of corrosion control, and overseeing the pipeline integrity service offerings provided by MATCOR.

Shreffler said, “Jeff will provide corrosion engineering solutions to the most complex corrosion problems facing our clients around the world.”  He continued, “Jeff brings a wealth of skills and experiences that will benefit our clients and the entire MATCOR team, and that is priceless.”

Didas sits on the Board of Directors for NACE International and is recognized as the current Treasurer. He has been a member of NACE since January 1, 1975, and has an outstanding track record of leadership and volunteerism within the organization.

Didas has delivered many presentations and published several technical papers at NACE conferences as well as the Appalachian Underground Corrosion Short Course. In appreciation for his many years of commitment to NACE, he received the Distinguished Service Award in 2001.

Jeff Stello, MATCOR’s President and CEO said “We are thrilled to add someone like Jeff Didas to our Engineering team.  His skills, experiences and reputation are unmatched in our industry.  We are confident that Jeff will improve our ability to better serve our clients and to add value in many other ways such as helping to develop younger engineers and technicians on the MATCOR staff.”

Didas attended Thomas A. Edison State College in Trenton, NJ, where he received his BSET in electrical engineering. He acquired his ASEE in Electronics Technology from Springfield Technical Community College, Springfield Mass.  In addition, Didas is certified as a NACE Corrosion Specialist, Cathodic Protection Specialist, Coatings Specialist, Chemical Treatment Specialist and a Level 3 certified Corrosion Inspector and is an SSPC certified Protective Coatings Specialist.  Along with his full-time role at MATCOR and responsibilities at the NACE Board of Directors, Didas is also a NACE Cathodic Protection instructor.

Oil spill brings calls for scrutiny of small lines

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A northwestern Montana oil spill that went unreported for a month has led to calls for increased scrutiny over the thousands of small flow pipelines within the nation’s oil and gas fields.

Flow lines are completely contained within the fields and pipe unprocessed oil, gas and water from wells to holding tanks and separating facilities and aren’t regulated like larger pipelines, such as the one that broke under the Yellowstone River earlier this month.

But flow lines often face the same issues of corrosion and defects, and should fall under the same federal regulation as larger transmission pipelines, conservation advocates say.

“They’re unregulated lines and they periodically have nasty spills,” said Lois Epstein, engineer and Arctic program director for The Wilderness Society in Alaska. “It’s a problem. Whether there is any motivation to do anything about it, is where we’re at right now.”

The broken line at the Cut Bank oil field on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation 50 miles east of Glacier National Park may have been slowly leaking oil for up to two weeks before FX Energy Inc. discovered it on June 12. FX Energy officials attributed the break to shifting ground during last month’s heavy rain and flooding.

The Salt Lake City-based company fixed the break and shut down the two small oil wells that fed the line, but never reported it to the tribe or the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the tribe’s mineral leases.

The spill — estimated to be up to 840 gallons — then spread nearly a mile down a steep coulee and into the Cut Bank Creek before a neighboring landowner discovered the stained ground on July 12.

A cleanup crew has been digging oil by hand from the steep, treacherous ravine for more than a week. There have been no signs of wildlife affected by the spill.

The company is paying for the cleanup and has pledged to permanently plug the wells that fed the broken line. Grinnell Day Chief, the tribe’s oil and gas director, said the company has been very cooperative.

FX Energy is one of the largest of the 15 oil and gas companies with production or exploration leases on the Cut Bank field. Combined with its five wells at Bears Den field and a small interest in two wells at Rattlers Butte field, FX Energy leases a total of 10,732 acres in Montana and produces 184 barrels of oil per day.

The broken flow line is one of many that gather oil from FX Energy’s 125 wells on the declining field, which has been producing oil since the 1940s. Many of the 4-inch flow lines are 40 or 50 years old, said Don Judice, the BLM’s Great Falls supervisor.

Because the failed line only carried unprocessed oil from wells to a central tank and never left the oil field, there were no requirements to inspect it, test it for corrosion or perform any preventative maintenance to ensure it doesn’t break.

“Only when a pipeline is used for longer-range transportation does it get more scrutiny,” Judice said. “There’s not a requirement within the regulations for the testing of flow lines.”

But depending on the outcome of an investigation into the recently discovered spill, federal officials may require FX Energy to upgrade all of the aging flow lines that carry oil from the wells to tanks on the Cut Bank field, Judice said.

It was not immediately clear how many flow lines there are, since the lines generally gather oil from more than one well. Judice and Day Chief each said they recalled only one other significant spill from a flow line in the past decade.

Day Chief said another oil company that leases a different part of the sprawling field is already in the process of voluntarily upgrading all of its flow lines. He said the tribe hasn’t discussed recommending a similar remedy for the FX Energy itself, but would support the BLM if it required FX Energy to do so.

“We would back that 100 percent,” Day Chief said.

SOURCE – and to Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Oil-spill-brings-calls-for-scrutiny-of-small-lines-1567351.php#ixzz1T7KnbGlW

Santa Monica’s Famous ‘Chain Reaction’ Sculpture Corroding

A temporary fence was placed around the Civic Center sculpture Chain Reaction earlier this week while engineers assess the structure’s integrity.

The sculpture by political cartoonist Paul Conrad was dedicated in 1991 and is made of copper tubing over a fiberglass core with an internal stainless steel frame that rests on a concrete base.

Upon observing members of the public, including children climbing and interacting with sculpture, Ron Takiguchi, Santa Monica building officer, was impelled to make an examination of the structure’s safety and noticed signs deterioration, said Jessica Cusick, cultural affairs manager for the city of Santa Monica.

“We hope to have [an estimated date for the removal of the fence] in a week or so,” Cusick said.

To protect the public, officials have constructed a temporary fence for both the safety of the structure and those that congregate around it, she said.

While conducting his examination, Takiguchi found that many of the fasteners which attach the copper tubing chain of the fiberglass core are missing or not fully imbedded and some exhibit severe corrosion, according to a statement released by the city.

The city is planning a review of the structure which will be conducted by an independent structural engineer and coordinated by the building officer and a qualified arts conservator.

After evaluating the structural integrity of the sculpture, the team will recommend how to best proceed, according to officials.

The sculpture was a gift to the city and was approved by Santa Monica City Council in 1991 after public process and debate, according to officials. The work was funded by a private donation to the Santa Monica Arts Foundation.

SOURCE: http://santamonica.patch.com/articles/santa-monicas-chain-reaction-sculpture-under-evaluation