Jenny Been certainly knows what she is talking about when it comes to factors that can cause corrosion in oil pipelines.
In fact, it was Been who led the way in 2011 (while with Alberta Innovates Technology Futures) by authoring a report debunking the myths spouted by opponents that oil obtained from oil sands is more corrosive than oil obtained by conventional means and is more likely to result in pipeline failures.
“This ‘first of its kind’ paper certainly got widespread attention,” says the TransCanada corrosion engineer.
“Oil or bitumen obtained from the oil sands is much like cold molasses at room temperature – before it can be transported by pipeline, it needs to be diluted with lighter petroleum products, which is why it is called ‘dilbit.’
“The study concluded that the dilbit properties are not unique and are comparable to conventional crude oil. It is definitely not more corrosive.”
“Prominent researchers and organizations have conducted studies, which came out after mine, that support the same conclusions,” she adds.
Additionally as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Corrosion Engineers, Been was one of the organizers of the 2012 conference on crude oil corrosivity, at which all leading scientists unanimously supported the earlier findings.
“Of course the frustrating thing is that you put all of this information out there, and opponents still come back with the same false negative claims!”
Been has brought that same leading-edge mindset and extensive history in pipeline corrosion research to TransCanada after spending many years in the industry working in a similar capacity with companies such as Shell and NOVA Chemicals, as well as at national and Alberta research facilities.
She explains, “I have always been intrigued by new technology and a desire to understand why and how things happen, and how we can use new understandings and technologies to improve our current processes as well as make them safer and more efficient.”
In her current project support role, Been is looking at incorporating processes right from construction through to operation to ensure pipeline integrity issues are addressed from the early stages.
Internal Corrosion – Oil Pipelines
Crude oil contains sediments, water, and bacteria that can lead to corrosion if not properly checked.
“Corrosion may occur when conditions exist that enable accumulation of water on the pipe wall,” explains Been.
Regulations dictate that the oil must contain less than 0.5 per cent solids and water combined. Under normal flow conditions, sediments and water pass through the line harmlessly. Some of these solids and water may drop out under low flow conditions. Accumulation of solids and water has potential to lead to corrosion if not properly maintained and cleaned.
The best way of removing these deposits is through the use of pipeline cleaning and inspection tools called pigs. There are two types of pigs that are used on TransCanada pipelines. One is used to clean the pipeline, and one that is equipped with hundreds of electronic sensors that inspect the quality of the pipeline inside and out to identify even the tiniest crack, flaw or sign of corrosion. The question has always been how often the cleaning procedure should be done.
“The U.S. regulatory board mandates we do at least two cleaning pig exercises in the first year and then once a year following that, as necessary,” she says.
According to Been, TransCanada has initiated leading-edge research to determine if more pigging needs to be completed.
“Through deposition modeling, supported with experimental testing, we are looking for answers to questions on where and when corrosion may occur.
“We hope to learn if flow control can be used as an efficient way to prevent under-deposit corrosion between cleaning pig runs.”
Been notes the familiar expression when talking about preventing pipeline corrosion. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” she says.
It is this leading-edge, collaborative technology development, together with shared industry learnings and best practices that will provide the tools to make informed integrity decisions.
“All of [this] enables us to operate our lines with increased safety, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness.”
TransCanada has been recognized for its leadership in research and development efforts to improve pipeline safety. We are always looking for new technologies to improve safety and will continue working with industry partners to reach our goal of zero incidents on our pipeline systems.