The current state of the oil and gas market has placed many companies in a difficult situation. Plummeting prices have eaten into the profits that firms once enjoyed only a few years ago. These days, we’re more likely to hear about closing oil operations and employee layoffs. Combined with the impending Great Crew Change, it’s safe to say that the industry must collectively evaluate their options in order to maintain a healthy future. However, as with most things, the solution likely rests with innovation, so how can companies use technological advances to maximize margins?
New Oil and Gas Pipeline Technology May Make Offshore Drilling a More Attractive Option
This blog has previously discussed the industry’s interest in extracting oil from deep-sea areas due to an overall decrease in the global crude supply. While the idea of a lower supply goes against conventional wisdom of the past decade, the reality is that much of the boom resulted from shale oil obtained from hydraulic fracturing. If that controversial source is removed, the oil market presents a different picture.
At first glance, focusing on the potential of offshore drilling seems to be just as controversial.1 When underwater equipment and pipelines fail to withstand the surrounding marine environment or maintain a constant temperature, the chances of an environmental disaster skyrocket. No company wants to repeat past mistakes and cause another well-publicized spill that will draw public scrutiny upon an industry already under fire for its use of hydraulic fracturing.
Advances in oil and gas pipeline technology may be able to increase the safety of underwater drilling. For example, some companies are developing polymers that can serve as effective pipeline insulation. Insulation plays a key role in underwater oil operations because of the need for a thermal barrier between oil flowlines and seawater. Improper insulation can risk clogging pipelines, thus increasing the chances of rupture.2 Given the importance of insulation in underwater oil operations, selecting it as a focus of study is an obvious choice. Likewise, firms should look at other key elements when determining areas that would benefit from innovation.
Utilizing polymers in oil and gas pipeline technology has the potential to offer other advantages beyond improving the insulation of deep-sea pipelines:3
- Reduce installation costs
- Improve resistance against external deep-sea pressures
- Increase oil and gas flow
- Decrease the amount of steel used in pipeline construction
The last reason, in particular, is especially attractive for two reasons. By transitioning to a 100% polymer construction, companies will no longer have to worry about potential rusting of steel equipment, which can lead to mechanical failure. In addition, the production of polymer-based equipment for underwater oil and gas pipelines will eliminate the creation of hazardous particles that are currently formed in present manufacturing processes. The associated safety concerns will be effectively addressed.
Innovative Polymer-Based Oil and Gas Pipeline Technology Is the Future of the Industry
The use of polymers in offshore oil construction has the potential to increase the safety of deep-sea drilling operations while maintaining margins. For instance, increasing oil and gas flow in underwater pipelines would boost productivity, while decreasing the amount of incorporated steel would mean less dedicated resources required for costly equipment upkeep and replacement. On the other hand, the versatility of polymer-based materials offers a wide range of applications for the industry. Depending on the need, companies can develop polymers that are flexible yet tough or ones that are thick and durable. What if companies could develop a polymer that is 500 times stronger than present materials? Imagine if that material also provided a thermal barrier. This would certainly be ideal for an underwater pipeline.
BIOVIA Materials Studio is a complete modeling and simulation platform that allows scientists to develop innovative, new compounds and polymers for a variety of needs and that meet different specifications. Its features enable researchers to both visualize a material’s molecular structure via 3D modeling tools and predict its behavior and properties. When developing materials for oil and gas pipeline technology applications, the ability to ascertain whether a potential polymer will have the strength or thermal properties needed for deep-sea environments is crucial for success. Furthermore, Materials Studio can reduce the costs associated with developing new polymers through the use of powerful screening capabilities and improve efficiency by automating repetitious tasks. If your firm in interested in a tool that aids your effort to develop innovative advances in oil and gas pipeline technology, then please contact us to learn more.
- “Offshore drilling: why it makes economic sense to wait,” April 11, 2016, http://www.oilvoice.com/n/Offshore-drilling-why-it-makes-economic-sense-to-wait/f633ea40b832.aspx ↩
- “Materia supplies Shell with pipe insulation for deepwater projects,” April 8, 2016, http://www.energyglobal.com/pipelines/contracts-and-tenders/08042016/Materia-supplies-Shell-with-pipe-insulation-for-deepwater-projects/ ↩
- “Polymer aerogel to optimise oil and gas pipeline applications,” February 5, 2016, http://www.materialsforengineering.co.uk/engineering-materials-news/polymer-aerogel-to-optimise-oil-and-gas-pipeline-applications/114978/ ↩