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HPIn Brief

01.01.2012  |  Thinnes, Billy,  Hydrocarbon Processing Staff, Houston, TX

Keywords: [pipeline imaging] [refining] [oil] [idling] [acquisition] [PAO] [petrochemicals] [US Department of Energy] [LPG]

Pipeline imaging

A group of physicists and engineers in Berkeley, California, have developed a new safety system to monitor and prevent pipeline ruptures by using magnetic-resonance imaging (MRI) medical technology to remotely monitor the structural integrity of metal pipelines.

The new technology would help prevent failures such as the PG&E pipeline incident in San Bruno, California, as well as other leaks, explosions and disruptions, according to the scientists at 4D Imaging, the Berkeley company that invented and patented the MRI-based pipeline-monitoring system.

The system transmits the status of a pipeline to the Internet and gives pipeline operators a real-time picture of the health of the pipeline, checking for fractures at welds or support systems and corrosion failure.

After installation of the MRI monitoring system, the status of the pipeline can be visualized via the Internet. The monitoring is constant, and any change in the mechanical health of the pipeline is measured and transmitted immediately to operating officers and pipeline managers.

The MRI system can be installed on any pipeline. It works by wrapping the pipe in wire coils, which accomplishes two things: First, one set of coils is electrified, which magnetizes the steel pipe (over 90% of the world’s pipelines are steel). Next, a second set of coils detects the magnetic field being given off by the now magnetized pipe. Conveniently, when steel corrodes and degrades, it becomes less magnetic, so variations in the pipes’ magnetism represent areas that may have corroded or become compromised.

If the level of corrosion exceeds 0.008 of the pipe, the system will issue a warning that the area of pipe has become compromised. The pipe’s temperature is also measured, both to account for changes in magnetism unrelated to corrosion and to keep track of heat or cold stresses.

The coils electrify and record their data one at a time in sequence along the length of the pipeline. It takes the system about three seconds to thoroughly test a segment of pipe. HP

US refiner Sunoco is indefinitely idling the main processing units at its refinery in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, citing deteriorating refining market conditions. The company said it now expects to begin idling the Marcus Hook facility immediately while it continues to seek a buyer and also pursues options with third parties for alternate uses of the facility. Sunoco said it also intends to increase the capacity utilization rate of its Philadelphia refinery and will continue to operate the refinery as long as market conditions warrant. However, if a suitable sales transaction cannot be implemented, the company intends to permanently idle the main processing units at the Philadelphia refinery no later than July 2012.

Chevron Phillips Chemical has successfully completed the acquisition of a polyalphaolefin (PAO) plant in Beringen, Belgium, from Neste Oil. A company spokesperson said the deal will help the company better service the growing demand for PAOs that are used in high performance lubricants and other applications. The agreement was first announced in September.

Honeywell’s UOP plans to expand its portfolio of natural gas treatment technologies through an exclusive marketing alliance with the Netherlands-based Twister B.V. UOP will now offer the Twister supersonic gas separation technology, which is used to remove water and heavy hydrocarbons present in natural gas when it comes out of the ground. The technology expands UOP’s current suite of natural gas processing technologies and equipment that remove impurities such as water, carbon dioxide, sulfur compounds and mercury from natural gas streams, and that separate and recover natural gas liquids. UOP has also acquired a minority position in Twister B.V., the company said.

OriginOil has announced the funding of a new research agreement with the US Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL). Under the agreement, OriginOil and INL will collaborate with a goal toward establishing industry standards for algal biomass, a critical step toward making algal biofuels a competitive alternative to petroleum. Under the terms of the new Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), OriginOil will provide INL with its extraction technology, and contribute its knowledge of how to stimulate oil production and pre-treat for consistent extraction of the algae and its co-products.

Plains All American Pipeline is converting an existing Oklahoma liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) pipeline into crude oil service. The pipeline, which extends from Medford, Oklahoma, to PAA’s crude oil terminal facility in Cushing, Oklahoma, will provide an initial crude oil throughput capacity of 12,000 bpd by January 2012 and will be expanded to 25,000 bpd by July 2012.

The oil and gas division of GE will supply advanced combustion technology to reduce gas turbine emissions at the Qatargas 1 utility complex in Qatar. The technology is being installed in order to meet new regulations from the Qatari Ministry of Environment. GE will provide a combustion system designed to achieve low emissions levels of 25 parts per million (ppm) for nitrogen oxide. The system will be used to upgrade six gas turbines that are providing the power for three onshore LNG trains at the Qatargas 1 site.

Investment in high-voltage transmission (greater than 345 kilovolts) in the US is expected to top $41 billion over the next 10 years with more than 40% of it being made in just the first three years, according to a new IHS study. Growing power demand, increasingly rigorous reliability standards and the ongoing drive to integrate larger amounts of renewables into the power mix are among the major factors driving transmission investment, the study finds. HP

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