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Techlines provide updates of specific interest to the fossil fuel community. Some Techlines may be issued by the Department of Energy Office of Public Affairs as agency news announcements.
Issued on:  May 31, 2001

Moving Natural Gas Reliably to Consumers...

Secretary Abraham Announces Natural Gas Pipeline Modernization Projects to Support National Energy Plan

Morgantown, WV - With President Bush's new National Energy Policy calling attention to the challenges facing America's aging network of natural gas pipelines, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham today announced 11 new government-industry projects that will develop high-tech ways to improve the safety and performance of the nation's gas delivery system.

Included in the array of innovations will be new types of miniature robots and other sophisticated detection devices that can pinpoint leaks or corrosion in both the large gas transmission lines that crisscross the country and the smaller distribution lines that deliver gas to homes and businesses.

One project will develop an automated warning system to prevent nearby digging from damaging buried pipelines. Another will study how a natural pepper extract might prevent a pipeline from corroding.

"If our projections are correct, by 2020 Americans will be consuming 50 percent more natural gas than today. The President's energy policy calls for new technologies that can help ensure the safety and integrity of moving gas from the wellhead to consumers. These are the first projects in our program that will help meet this critical need," said Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham.

When President Bush announced his National Energy Policy earlier this month he cited the need to modernize the nation's gas delivery system. "We will need newer, cleaner and safer pipes to move these larger quantities of natural gas - up to 38,000 new miles of pipe, and 263,000 miles of distribution lines," the President said.

The Energy Department will provide just over $4.4 million over the next three years to the projects, with industrial partners contributing another $3.6 million, or an average of 45 percent of the projects' costs.

Abraham said that the department intends to negotiate new research contracts with:

  • New York Gas Group, New York, NY, to develop a self-powered, remote-control robot for inspecting the inside of "distribution mains," the pipelines that bring natural gas into homes, businesses and power plants. Total project cost: $1.2 million; DOE share: $495,000; participant share: $672,000. Project duration: 12 months.

  • Tuboscope Pipeline Services, Houston, TX, to develop a sensing system that uses sound waves and electromagnetic means to locate and gauge the severity of corrosion cracking in pipelines. Total project cost: $984,000; DOE share: $639,000; participant's share: $344,000. Project duration: 12 months.

  • SQM Technology, Inc., La Jolla, CA, for a "magnetic telescope" that an inspector can use from the surface to "see" defects in underground gas lines. The system will use an electric current in a superconducting magnet to illuminate problem areas, such as pipeline walls that are being worn away by corrosion. Total project cost: $942,000; DOE share: $612,000; participant's share: $330,000. Project duration: 36 months.
  • Battelle Memorial Institute, Columbus, OH, which will attempt to expand the capabilities of "magnetic flux leakage" technology to locate cracks in gas pipelines. Currently, operators use the method to detect metal loss in a pipeline by measuring variations in a magnetic field as it passes through a pipe wall. In this new project, researchers will develop new ways to analyze the magnetic flux in ways that reveal actual breaks in the pipe material. Total project cost: $284,000; DOE share: $184,000; participant's share: $100,000. Duration: 12 months.
  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, to improve the reliability of pipeline compressor engines by developing a highly reliable, high-efficiency micro-pilot ignition system that could be retrofitted to the thousands of 20- to 50-year old compressor engines now used throughout the nation's pipeline network. Total project cost: $$1.7 million; DOE share: $500,000; participant's share: $1.2 million. Duration: 36 months.
  • Gas Technology Institute, Des Plaines, IL, to lead three projects:
    1. to develop a low-cost imaging sensor designed as a flat plate or flexible mat that could be placed on the ground to create images of subsurface plastic pipes, or ceramic and metallic objects. Total project cost: $626,000; DOE share: $368,000; participant's share: $258,000. Duration: 18 months.

    2. a joint effort with Nicor Gas, to develop an optical fiber device that would be buried above a pipeline and sound an alarm when construction or other equipment that could damage the pipeline is nearby. Total project cost: $447,000; DOE share: $291,000; participant's share: $258,000. Duration: 24 months.

    3. research into the use of natural products, such as pepper extract, to prevent or reduce corrosion of pipelines caused by microbes in surrounding soil. Total project cost: $783,000; DOE share: $509,000; participant's share: $274,000. Duration: 36 months.

  • Southwest Research Institute of San Antonio, TX, will also work on three projects to develop:
    1. a low-cost, rugged device that uses sensing coils wrapped around a pipe to map out corroded surface areas. Total project cost: $100,000; DOE share: $65,000; participant's share: $35,000. Duration: 12 months.

    2. an electromagnetic technology that can be installed in a "smart pig" - an inspection device that moves through a pipeline - to locate dents, gouges and other damage that can cause a pipeline to fail. Total cost: $400,000; DOE share: $260,000; participant's share: $140,000. Duration: 12 months.

    3. a surge detector which can be used with new control system algorithms to reduce instances when the equilibrium between the flow of natural gas through piping and through compressors becomes unstable, causing surges of natural gas than can damage equipment. The research institute will team with Siemens Energy & Automation Inc. and the Gas Machinery Research Council. Total project cost: $588,000; DOE share: $368,000; participants' share: $220,000. Duration 36 months.

The department's Strategic Center for Natural Gas, at its National Energy Technology Laboratory, will oversee the projects.

- End of Techline -

For more information, contact:

News Media Contact:
Drew Malcomb, DOE Office of Public Affairs, 202-586-5822

Program Office Contacts:
Rodney Anderson, National Energy Technology Laboratory, 304-285-4709, e-mail: rander@netl.doe.gov

Daniel J. Driscoll, National Energy Technology Laboratory, 304-285-4717, e-mail: ddrisc@netl.doe.gov

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Page updated on: March 30, 2004 

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