Protective Coatings of Pipelines Can Decrease Oil and Gas Accidents and Save Lives

Materials Studio, Petrochemicals

oil and gas
New internal and external pipeline coatings should be considered using novel software.
Image source: Flickr user Thomas Rousing

According to a report by ProPublica, pipeline accidents have killed more than 500 people, injured over 4,000 and cost the U.S. nearly $7 billion in property damages since 1986.1 Though this might seem relatively insignificant compared to the 32,675 deaths due to road accidents in 2014 alone2, critics argue that oil and gas pipelines can and should be safer, an initiative that begins with improving our country’s aging pipelines or more immediately, the type of coatings the oil and gas industry uses to protect them.

The Current Paradigm of Pipe Coating

Most pipes used in the oil and gas industries are made of steel and corrode due to repeated exposure to water and air.3 Other factors that impact the longevity of oil and gas pipelines include the climate, properties of the substrate that travel through the pipeline and its rate of flow, the presence of impurities, the liquid’s flammability and the pipe’s location (underwater, underground, above ground).4 Generally, in considering oil and gas coatings for pipelines, internal coatings must withstand the “high impact of fast moving particles,” whereas external coatings must withstand a variety of environmental conditions as a pipeline moves from desert conditions into Alaska, for example.5 Though researchers have made a variety of internal and external pipeline coatings for oil and gas companies, “Current protective coating technology…is recognized to have both technical and economic disadvantages.”6 Here’s where novel thinking combined with powerful software could make a difference in the oil and gas industries.

Software to Propel Oil and Gas Industries to Their Next Levels

The oil and gas industries must consider many components in determining the types of materials to use for external and internal coatings. Luckily, the use of specialized software to analyze the results of smart experiments can go a long way toward determining the best types of materials to use in coatings.

Location, location, location: In determining the best types of coatings to use, one experiment that could prove especially useful to the oil and gas industries is to test different pipe samples in controlled test environments that mimic the cold conditions of the Arctic or the heat of the New Mexico desert enables researchers to determine how various pipe coatings respond in different environments. Those that are most promising can then be modified to seek further improvements. Specialized software would play a significant role in interpreting the data because it would enable researchers to monitor the pipe conditions remotely and then analyze those results to test the performance of different coatings. This information could then be accessed remotely by many different party members so that an informed decision could be made concerning the best coatings. Information derived from different test environments in different facilities could also be shared among collaborators in various locations using electronic lab notebook software.

Make the masterbatch: Beyond even the ability to monitor conditions, software such as BIOVIA Materials Studio enables researchers to consider the behavior of new polymer mixes that might better serve the needs of the oil and gas industry. Especially for pipelines under extreme conditions, these environments require special coatings and so the development of advanced coating materials is essential. Especially given public backlash against the building of pipelines in environmentally vulnerable areas, if certain polymer, anti-corrosion coatings improved the safety profile of pipeline coatings, more groups might consider investing in these new technologies to expand the number of pipelines across the country. BIOVIA Materials Studio can be especially useful in this regard because it enables researchers to construct and characterize the behavior of polymers, which in turn allows them to predict key properties of these materials such as its cohesion, wetting, mechanical behavior, adhesion and more. Coupled with the experimental environments discussed above, simulation software can enable the oil and gas industries to develop novel and effective internal and external coatings.

BIOVIA Materials Studio is a complete software package that enables researchers to more easily create new polymer coatings for pipelines, while analyzing the performance of these and existing coatings, among many other capabilities. To consider how BIOVIA Materials Studio can assist your company in doing more, please contact us today.

  1. “Pipelines Explained: How Safe Are America’s 2.5 Million Miles of Pipelines?” November 15, 2012,
  2. “List of motor vehicle deaths in U.S. by year,” February 13, 2016,
  3. “How the Oil Patch Works,” September 2013,
  4. ”Protective Epoxy Coatings for Oil and Gas Pipelines,”
  5. “Tubular & Casing Protective Coatings,”
  6. ”Protective Epoxy Coatings for Oil and Gas Pipelines,”

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