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JTM Study Tour Trip Report
Every two years, selected Energy Pipelines CRC researchers attend the Joint Technical Meeting to present their research and collaborate with members of the pipeline community to discuss the current issues at large. In conjunction with the JTM, the Energy Pipelines CRC sponsors two young researchers to take part in JTM Tour along with four young pipeliners sponsored by APGA. The tour comprises of visits to industries involved in pipeline research, delivery, maintenance, and construction.
This year the Energy Pipelines CRC selected Facundo “Bob” Varela of Deakin University and Bradley Davis of the University of Wollongong. Bob’s contributions primary focus is on cathodic protection and ensuring the sustained longevity of Australia’s pipeline network. Bradley has recently been appointed as a Research Fellow and is involved in the ongoing Carbon, Capture, and Storage project, seeking to improve the predictive capacity of fracture arrest technology for pipes transporting CO2.
From the Australian pipeline industry, four young pipeliners were chosen through the APGA/AGIT scholarship. They were Arash Vahdat of ROSEN Australia, Donny Pascale of GPA Engineering, James McHugh of Worley Parsons, and Mieka Webb of the Energy Resources Division of the Government of South Australia.
The study tour visited several locations in the United States and Canada. In the U.S., they visited Columbus, Ohio; Houston, Texas; and Pella, Iowa. In Canada, they visited Regina, Saskatchewan, and Calgary, Alberta. In each location, they toured companies involved in either the production, distribution, maintenance, or research of hydrocarbon carrying pipelines.
On their first stop in Columbus, Ohio, the group visited DNV-GL. DNV-GL is a global company that specialises in many fields; however, the Columbus branch primarily services the oil and gas industry in its efforts manage risk and integrity issues for onshore transmission pipelines and drilling in aggressive environments. The group were given a walk-through of the labs, where many experiments were ongoing. After the tour, members of DNV-GL Columbus who investigated the cause of the Deepwater Horizon/Macondo Blow-Out Preventer failure gave a presentation on their work.
Next stop was the Center for Reliable Energy Systems (CRES), which was started in 2007 by Yong-Yi Wang. CRES provides solutions to high-impact and increasingly complex issues facing the energy industry. The group were presented with research topic ranging from the stresses induced when laying pipes in a trench to the assessment of crack clusters with intelligent interaction rules.
The group visited Keifner and Associates in their newly commissioned building, which housed all employees, materials, and testing equipment. Kiefner and Associates began in 1990 after the founder and namesake John F. Kiefner saw a need for qualified, experienced consultants to take on the challenges of the modern pipeline industry. John F. Kiefner played a key role in the early days of fracture control requirements while working at the Battelle Memorial Institute with the likes of Willard Maxey and Robert Eiber. John founded Kiefner and Associates after his retirement from Battelle, where he worked for 23 years. The tour consisted of a walk-through of Keifner’s pipe warehouse, which housed a number of pipes dating back to the 1960’s.
They were then shown some of the material testing done by Keifner and Associates to quantify material properties of a range of pipes. Lastly, some of the recent work done on pneumatic strength tests, induced stresses on pipes at crossways, and the development intelligent PIG technology was presented.
To wrap up the Columbus tour, the young pipeliners visited the renowned ROSEN company, who specialise in the research, development, production, and operation of inspection devices for pipelines. The ROSEN Columbus branch is supports the ROSEN USA flagship office in Houston. In Columbus, the ROSEN group focuses on advanced diagnostic services and integrity solutions. The group were shown the workshop, where devices were being serviced, which allowed a more intimate understanding behind the technology.
On the next leg of the Columbus trip, the group visited PRCI Technical, Plains All American Pipelines, Phillips 66, and the Shell Pipeline Company while in Houston, Texas
PRCI Technical have setup a new office and warehouse facility to Houston to manage and house a wide range of pipeline assets. They have an on-site in-line inspection rig, where various in-line inspection tool manufacturers can test their technology. Also on site are more than 1100 pipe samples, ranging from 6” to greater than 24”. The samples come from many different environmental conditions and contain a range of defect types and causes.
Plains is a publicly traded partnership that specilises in oil transportation, marketing, and storage in the U.S.; liquefied petroleum gas in Canada; and natural gas storage in Michigan and Louisiana. Plains owns nearly 37 million barrels of terminal and storage capacity and approximately 25,000 km of crude oil pipelines. Phillips 66 is a relatively new company that resulted from a separation of the ConocoPhillips into two separate businesses, with one focusing on Refining and Marketing and the other Exploration and Production. Phillips 66 focuses on midstream petroleum production, processing, transport, and marketing.
The last stop in Houston brought the group to the Shell Pipeline Company. While at Shell the group were treated to a truly inspiring presentation on the 1999 NTSB Pipeline Accident. This accident released nearly 5,640 bbls of gasoline, resulting in the deaths of two children and a teenager. Two of the men with significant involvement in investigation of the incident, Richard Klasen and Patrick Vieth, provided their stories to the attendees. By the end of the presentation the room was left silent. The talk reiterated to all those in the energy sector the importance of safety.
After Houston, the young pipeliners ventured to Pella, Iowa, where they visited Vermeer, one of the most prominent and well-regarded manufacturer of industrial and agricultural equipment. While not directly involved in the energy sector, Vermeer manufactures some of the largest trenchers and horizontal directional drill (HDD) rigs. Vermeer was originally founded by Gary Vermeer in 1948 and is currently by his grandson. The Vermeer’s facilities were considered spectacular. The group also lunched with the President and CEO Jason Andringa. Not only were their facilities impressive, the family atmosphere and hospitality of the hosts were truly inspiring.
The young pipeliners departed the U.S. and headed to Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, where they visited the Evraz North America (Evraz NA) steel and pipe mill. Evraz NA is a subsidiary of Evraz PLC and is one of the leading manufacturers of steel in North America. At Evraz, the group were taken through the entire process of pipe creation from treatment in the ladle furnace to plate rolling and finally to pipe forming. The group were also shown Evraz’s mechanical testing laboratory, where impact tests, tensile tests, and microstructural evaluations are performed.
The last part of the tour took place in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. There the young pipeliners visited with Alliance Pipeline, TransCanada, and the University of Calgary.
The first stop was the Alliance Pipeline main headquarters. The Alliance Pipeline stretches from north-eastern British Columbia and north-western Alberta in Canada nearly 3000km to Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. The pipeline delivers 45 million cubic metres of natural gas to Chicago each day. While at Alliance, the group was given a description of the pipeline, including its genesis, construction, and challenges. They also visited the control room, which monitors the entire pipeline.
During the TransCanada visit, the group was taken on-site to the Winchell Lake Compressor Station (WLCS), located about an hour’s drive from Calgary. This is one of many compressor stations for the 48” pipeline it services. WLCS’s compressor is driven by a 25MW RB211 gas turbine engine similar to the engine found on the Boeing 747. The group toured the entire site and were allowed inside the room where the compressor is housed.
The last visit was to the University of Canada’s Pipeline Engineering Centre (PEC). The PEC was established in 2003 to address the aging demographics of pipeline professionals. The centre provides both education and research for the pipeline community. The major research areas are in corrosion, nanotechnology, leak detection, soil subsidence, and new coating synthesis. As part of the tour through the laboratories, the group had a chance to observe the highly specialised equipment and some of the experimental setups used in their corrosion studies. The coatings lab uses a localised FTIR spectrometer capable of mapping the composition of heterogeneous coatings such as epoxies. The corrosion lab has a bench size fluid loop for corrosion erosion studies and an electrochemical atomic force microscope. The opportunity to observe some of the low-tech corrosion experimental arrangements and the interaction with the PEC was particularly beneficial for the study of the coating barrier properties currently undertaken at Deakin University.