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Combating corrosion

International experts convening in St. John's to solve offshore challenges


By Jeff Green

Researchers and industry are partnering for a workshop and research symposium with the aim of saving billions of dollars for the world’s oil and gas industries.

International experts will be in St. John’s June 26-27 for the event, which is being co-hosted by Memorial and Genome Canada. The focus will be on microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC): the deterioration of metals caused by metabolic activity of microorganisms.

From left Dr. Christina Bottaro; Dr. Faisal Khan; and Dr. Kelly Hawboldt.
From left are Dr. Christina Bottaro, Dr. Faisal Khan and Dr. Kelly Hawboldt.
Photo: Submitted

“Every year, tens of billions of dollar are lost in asset and downtime of equipment due to MIC,” said Dr. Faisal Khan, Canada Research Chair in Offshore Safety and Risk Engineering, and director, Centre for Risk, Integrity and Safety Engineering.

“A better understanding of MIC occurrence, early detection, its control and management will help in preventing these losses. MIC could also be a serious safety threat. Having better management of MIC will improve the safety of assets.”

MIC is a major source of corrosion to different assets of the industry, including pipelines, offshore production lines and gathering lines.

Cross-country research

Dr. Khan is organizing the workshop and symposium along with Drs. Kelly Hawboldt, professor, Department of Process Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science; and Christina Bottaro, professor, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science. Both Drs. Khan and Hawboldt are also researchers with the Ocean Frontier Institute.

“MIC is complex as it can both accelerate and inhibit corrosion.” — Dr. Christina Bottaro

All three are part of a collaborative research project involving four universities in Alberta and Atlantic Canada that received $7.8 million in federal government funding in 2016 to advance research on improving pipeline integrity. The project is managed by Genome Atlantic.

“MIC is complex as it can both accelerate and inhibit corrosion,” said Dr. Bottaro. “So, a better understanding of the interactions between the microbes, the chemistry of the environment and the corrosion process will allow industry to better predict when and how MIC develops.”

International reach

Dr. Khan says the workshop and symposium will allow researchers to share knowledge with industry and vice versa.

He says more than 100 people are expected to attend the event, which has also received support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and Petroleum Research Newfoundland and Labrador. Attendance is free, but registration is required.

“We will be discussing how microbiologically influenced corrosion may occur,” said Dr. Khan.

“How it could be detected and predicted using genomic analysis — this is the task the University of Calgary is leading. As well, we’ll be discussing how the corrosion rate can be modelled numerically and experimentally – the task the University of Alberta is leading. The risks associated with MIC to an asset, how to assess and best manage these – this is the task Memorial is leading.”

Dr. Khan also says they will discuss potential ways to share this knowledge with the broader audience in industry and academia through an effective communications strategy.

‘Unique environment’

“The offshore is a unique environment in that traditional solutions to problems such as corrosion and MIC are often not applicable or too costly to implement due to distance from shore,” added Dr. Hawboldt.

“In this work, we are modifying or creating new solutions to predict and manage MIC, solutions that can be applied to offshore regions around the world.”

More details about the Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion in Oil and Gas Operations workshop and research symposium are available online. To register, contact Dr. Khan via email.

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