OPSPARC: Underground Oil Pipeline Solution

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Environmental Studies

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OPSPARC: Underground Oil Pipeline Solution

KEYSTONE PIPELINE CORROSIONContributing Factors—Keystone Pipeline Corrosion Anomaly Investigation Final Report,” prepared for and accepted by TransCanada, 2013.02.12, p. 28.

PROBLEM IDENTIFICATION:Keystone XL Pipeline and the Ogallala AquiferThe Keystone XL pipeline is the fourth installment of the pipeline that would travel from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska. The proposed pipeline would travel 1,179 miles to an existing pipeline that leads to oil refineries. TransCanada is building the pipeline and estimates that it would carrry 830,000 barrels per day.The proposed KXL path poses an water contamination concern because the pipeline crosses the Ogallala Aquifer. The Ogallala Aquifer supplies drinking water to more than 2 million people in the Midwest Region.If the KXL pipeline leaks into the Ogallala Aquifer, the leak could have many different effects on the environment. Tar sand is highly toxic and can emit toxins such as sulfur, lead, and mercury into water.The KXL is a thirty-six inch crude oil pipeline with an anti-corrosion coating. The pipeline that would be used to transport oil would use TransCanada technology. However, statistical data from the United States Department of Transporation shows that oil leaks are happening with the current technology. For example, a Keystone Pipeline from Phase 1 is shown to have corroded with the current technology.

SPINOFF TECHNOLOGY:NASA Spinoff technology is technology that was originally created to meet space mission needs. These technologies have been released to the public and now provide benefits as commercial products or services.Zinc-Silicate CoatingThe zinc-silicate coating research appeared in the 2017 NASA Spinoff. The zinc-silicate coating is a NASA invention that is now being developed by a company named Polyset. NASA originally developed the zinc-silicate coating for reducing corrosion at Kennedy Space Center. The zinc-silicate coating has also been applied to oilrigs. Both of these environments contain ocean salt, which is highly corrosive. In both cases, the zinc-silicatecoating permanently bonded with metal and provided a corrosion barrier. The zinc silicate coating is a long lastingsolution for reducing steel pipe corrosion. It did not allow water damage even if the surfacewas scratched or the coating was over-applied.

SPINOFF INNOVATION:Spinoff Technology SolutionThe NASA Spinoff Technology will be used to engineer a safer oil pipeline for protecting the Ogallala Aquifer.The entirety of the thirty-six inch diameter Keystone XL steel pipeline will be coated inside and out with the zinc-silicate coating. The long-lasting anti-corrosion coating will help to reduce the corrosion that occurs both inside the pipeline from the tar sands and outside of the pipeline from soil.The coated steel pipeline will be enclosed in another pipe that is constructed from PVC. The PVC pipe will be 1.5 times larger than the steel pipe. The PVC pipe willprovide a secondary location for holding any oil from an interior leak. The PVC pipe is a morecost effective approach than a secondary steel pipe. The secondary pipe will be more flexible and add strength to the pipeline system.Finally, the secondary PVC pipe will provide a relief port to a surface monitoring location and pump station so that a leak will be immediately recognized and the oil will have a location foremergency pumping. The secondary pipeline model will be applied over the Ogallala Aquifer.Spinoff Model Criteria The Spinoff model is designed to meet three goals for protecting the Ogallala Aquifer:1. Provide a zinc-silicate coating to the inside and outside of the steel pipeline to prevent corrosion and leaks.2. Create a cost-effective fail-safe for potential pipeline damage.3. Create a method for recovering lost oil for reuse.Spinoff Model ConstraintsWe didn't have access to the NASA zinc-silicate coating and instead used an anti-rusting spray paint. The secondary pipeline does not have a protective coating. Fianlly, we could not thoroughly test the idea with actual tar sand, underground placement, and weather conditions.Spinoff BrainstormIn our first design, the oil relief ports were connected between the PVC pipeline and steel pipeline. We brainstormed that we could return leaked oil to the steel pipeline. This idea was changed so that the valve only connected the top of the PVC pipeline to the ground above, so that a pressure change leak could be detected.We had also originally planned to use carbon nanotubes epoxy on the PVC pipeline for extra strenghth. Our carbon-nanotube research convinced us that it was potentially harmful to the environment and needs additional testing.

Underground Oil Pipelines: Engineering an Alternative


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