Pipelines are not something at the front of everybody’s mind, but the crucial piping infrastructure that invisibly links our national, regional and city areas is an integral part of the energy industry and a key focus of the Energy Pipelines Cooperative Research Centre (EPCRC).
A return in excess of $4.50 for every dollar the EPCRC spends is a tangible measure of the success of this well-established CRC.
Now in its seventh year, the EPCRC is currently working on four key program areas: more efficient use of materials; life extension of new and existing pipelines; advanced design and construction; and public safety and security of supply.
“The suite of topics is quite broad. We cover projects from basic materials research, and welding, corrosion and crack management, through to age maintenance, quality of coatings of pipelines, and cathodic protection [a mechanism used to reduce and prevent corrosion]. And how you do that is a mixture of both science and real-world experience,” says EPCRC CEO David Norman.
“What we have set up to deliver is an agenda of applied research driven by industry needs.”
The National Facility for Pipeline Coating Assessment (NFPCA) is a perfect example of how the EPCRC works via research to assist industry. An initiative of the CRC, the NFPCA is an independent facility established to perform oil and gas pipeline coating testing services.
“One of the things that industry needed was an ability to test coatings and one of the things we’ve been able to do is to satisfy that local need,” Norman says.
Prior to the establishment of the NFPCA, companies had to send coatings overseas to have them assessed. Now samples can be sent to Victoria to be tested, saving shipping costs and wait times, as well as growing local industry.
The EPCRC is now planning its next 10 years and is looking at how it can continue to add value to industry and the nation through its research projects. The organisation is also reaching out to the broader industry to identify the new challenges for which targeted research can assist with solutions through to 2030.
“By pooling our resources more widely across a whole industry, we have achieved things that never would have occurred if left to just one or two companies,” Norman explains.
“The CRC Programme is an excellent mechanism to bring together groups to tackle challenges and deliver solutions,” he adds.
The three key themes developing for the future are: life cycle management of pipelines, including research to better optimise how pipelines are designed and built, operated and decommissioned; security of supply with regards to urbanisation, public safety, and management by planning authorities; and future fluids and pipeline opportunities in the future energy transition.
As the world moves to lower carbon and potentially zero emissions, pipelines will have a critical role through their use for services other than for what they were originally designed – such as the role of storing gas in pipes rather than just transportation.
“We’ve been able to demonstrate that we provide in dollar terms in excess of what the average CRC provides for every dollar invested,” Norman says.
“We are excited for what the future holds as we continue to work closely with industry.”
– Penny Pryor