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Corrosion science upholds safety and lowers cost in the oil and gas industry

The need

While the UK’s energy infrastructure is shifting in favour of low carbon technology, the oil and gas sector is expected to maintain a critical role in UK energy security and the UK economy and jobs for many decades.

With future economic exploitation depending on extraction from deeper wells at higher pressures and in more aggressive environments for corrosion, there is a challenge to ensure that corrosion management is not compromised. Developments in corrosion control and materials research are required to ensure the safety and structural integrity of existing upstream assets under more demanding conditions, to support the introduction of advanced materials, and to increase the overall cost efficiency of oil and gas extraction while mitigating its ecological impact.

The impact

Our corrosion research, modelling, and testing provides the scientific framework that underpins the development of measurement techniques and international standards on which the oil and gas industry relies, in order to select appropriate corrosion control methods and to qualify materials for their intended service environment.

Our work is especially focused on harsh environments, including those in the presence of high concentrations of hydrogen sulphide (H2S). Material selection for such environments typically uses 'domain diagrams' depending on key environmental variables, demarcating safe and unsafe regions of application for a particular material. These domain diagrams are often based on the four-point bend test method, developed through our leadership and now defined in NACE standard TM0316. Careful experimentation at NPL has resolved reported discrepancies between the domain diagram boundaries as indicated by uniaxial tensile testing compared to the four-point bend test, giving clarity to aid the oil and gas industry in relevant test method selection.

Thermodynamic models are often used to predict chemistry in concentrated salt solutions at high temperature and pressure, but model validation has been challenging due to the difficulty of measurements in extreme environments. We have developed a unique experimental approach to measure the concentration of different dissolved gases at high temperatures and pressures, allowing validation and further refinement of thermodynamic modelling methods.

We are also currently developing new capabilities for corrosion testing at realistic field pressures (up to 1100 bar), where gas fugacity effects may alter model predictions compared to testing close to atmospheric pressure. These new facilities will enable us to remain at the forefront of research in this area and will yield improved recommendations on critical materials selection for devices and structures in the most demanding oil and gas industry applications.

Related:

Electrochemistry research

Harsh environments facility