... Canadian Universities Partner to Tackle Pipeline Corrosion  

Canadian Universities Partner to Tackle Microbial-Induced Pipeline Corrosion

canadian-universitiesA collaborative research project involving four universities in Alberta and Atlantic Canada has received major funding to address the issue of pipeline corrosion caused by microbial activity.

The federal government announcement was made today by Minister of Science, Kirsty Duncan in Montreal. The $7.8 million comes through the Genome Canada 2015 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition (LSARP). It will support Managing Microbial Corrosion in Canadian Offshore and Onshore Oil Production, a four-year research project set to begin in January with an aim to improve pipeline integrity.

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“This work will definitely help to pinpoint how microbial activity causes corrosion in carbon steel infrastructure and help in its early detection so we can minimize leaks,” says Lisa Gieg, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary. “It’s not just about pipelines, this research will look at all points of contact between oil and steel in extraction, production and processing. This work can help make the industry safer.”

Gieg is one of three project leaders who include John Wolodko, an associate professor and Alberta Innovates Strategic Chair in Bio and Industrial Materials at the University of Alberta; and Faisal Khan, a professor and the Vale Research Chair of Process Safety and Risk Engineering at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Also working on the project is Rob Beiko, an associate professor in computer science and Canada Research Chair in Bioinformatics at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Dr. Tesfaalem Haile who is a senior corrosion specialist at InnoTech Alberta in Devon, Alberta. Beiko will be building a database to analyze the microbiology and chemistry lab results, while Haile’s team will be working with the University of Alberta to simulate microbial corrosion in the lab and at the pilot-scale.

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While researchers at Memorial University are involved in all stages of the project, Faisal Khan, Head, Department of Process Engineering, and Director, C-RISE, Memorial University, says the focus for Memorial is on how microbes cause corrosion. Khan leads Memorial’s multidisciplinary team, which also includes Kelly Hawboldt, Department of Process Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science; and Christina Bottaro, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science.

Corrosion of steel infrastructure is estimated to cost the oil and gas industry in the range of $3 billion to $7 billion each year in maintenance, repairs and replacement. Microbiologically influenced corrosion is responsible for at least 20 per cent of that cost.

The research team will take samples from a wide range of environments including offshore platforms and both upstream pipelines and transmission pipelines, which are all associated with different fluid chemistries and physical characteristics. By using the latest in genomics techniques, the interdisciplinary team will be able to look for trends related to specific microbes and chemistries that lead to microbial corrosion. Ultimately, the project will lead to better predictions of whether microbial corrosion will occur in a given oil and gas operation.

All three project leads say the key to success in this project is collaboration. Bringing the experience, skills and expertise from across a range of disciplines and from multiple universities provides the best opportunity to succeed in finding solutions to ensure the safety of pipelines and other oil and gas infrastructure.

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This grant was one of 13 projects that received funding in an announcement made by the federal government. Combined with co-funding from the provinces, international organizations and the private sector, the total announcement is worth $110 million. This includes a second project involving a University of Calgary lead to research methods of bioremediation of potential oil spills in the arctic. All the funded projects involve emerging knowledge about genomics (e.g., the genetic makeup of living organisms) to help address challenges in the natural resource and environmental sectors.

Read the full press release here.

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