Dr. Mrinal C. Saha and Dr. M. Cengiz Altan recently received research funding from ConocoPhillips for research titled Measurement of Thermal Conductivity of Insulation Materials Containing Moisture at Different Temperatures. Saha and Altan are working to increase the reliability and longevity of the pipelines used to transport oil and natural gas across the world.
Through the years many different insulation materials have been used to prevent corrosion in the pipelines. However, recent studies have shown different types of insulation materials are often damaged by humidity and rain, which may cause severe corrosion to the pipelines. Not only is corrosion difficult to detect, but it could possibly cause structural damage in the pipeline.
Dr. Saha and Dr. Altan will perform relevant experiments and develop predictive models for the longevity of a safely functioning pipeline before it must be replaced. First they will test the effectiveness of different types of wet and dry pipeline insulation by measuring their thermal conductivity. Saha and Altan will perform accelerated testing using a freeze-thaw cycle to achieve maximum water absorption by the insulation in a reasonable amount of time. They predict most insulation will absorb 70-80 percent of water in one week, whereas reaching this level of absorption may take several years for pipelines without accelerated freeze-thaw cycles.
Following the thermal conductivity measurements of the wet insulation, Saha and Altan will begin developing a predictive life cycle model for the pipeline insulation. There are many factors affecting the longevity of the insulation, water being the major factor. Different model parameters, extracted from the experimental data, will be incorporated in developing the predictive model for the pipeline insulation.
“The outcome is very important because the process is not only applicable to the gas pipeline, but it is also applicable in other areas such as asphalt, pavement, household insulation, shingles and roofing, and so on,” said Saha. “This could really benefit the industry as a whole.”