PRCI: a collaborative approach addressing the needs of the oil and gas pipeline industry

When I joined the Pipeline Research Council International (PRCI) in 2010, the industry had just witnessed three traumatic failures that would dramatically shape the industry in North America and around the world.

These failures included the Deepwater Horizon incident, the San Bruno failure, and the Marshall, MI rupture.

Even though the Deepwater was not a pipeline-related issue, in the court of public opinion it was one more tragic issue of the oil and gas industry and it shaped public opinion about pipeline safety.

These incidents have shaped my time at PRCI and the direction of the pipeline industry.

NACE informing PRCI

Prior to joining PRCI, I spent 13 years at the National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE) International.

My work at NACE has had a key impact on my work at PRCI. During my tenure at NACE, the need for asset preservation of the world’s critical infrastructure began receiving more and more attention.

From bridge collapses to water pipeline failures to oil and gas pipeline incidents, the need to focus more attention on these vital assets and the need to prevent or mitigate the deadly impact of corrosion was growing.

During my time at NACE, I was able to lobby the United States (US) Congress to fund a study to look at the impact of corrosion on the US economy.

The Cost of Corrosion study found that corrosion costs the US about $US300 billion annually and of that $US7 billion is attributable to oil and gas pipelines.

With this information, NACE began working closely with government bodies in the US to reduce the impact of corrosion.

We were able to work with Congress to establish the US Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight.

This was the first co-ordinated effort within the US DoD to address their $US20 billion corrosion problem.

Corrosion impacted everything from fighter jets to tanks, and so it has been a very successful program and the DoD has a since shown over a 5-to-1 return on its investment.

The program is making a difference in the life of the warfighter.

My other key area of focus at NACE was pipelines.

We worked closely with Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHSMA) and developed standards for the industry to be a basis for regulation.

From the development of Direct Assessment techniques to corrosion integrity management tools, these are a part of the resources that NACE provided PHMSA and the industry.

Through my relationship with PHMSA and other industry trade associations, I was able to establish NACE as a resource of the pipeline industry.

We have seen a number of improvements in the pipeline industry from these efforts.

PRCI: a leader for the global industry

My transition to PRCI was ideal. It provided me the opportunity to work with the industry to develop answers to the many challenges facing them, from corrosion to in-line inspection to new design for pipelines to environmental issues to mechanical damage and ensuring the safe operations of the overall system.

PRCI is the leader in developing the key resources for the industry.

PRCI was established by the energy pipeline industry for the pipeline industry.

PRCI is a partnership collaboration of 39 of the world’s leading oil and gas pipeline operators and we represent about 60 per cent of the total transmission pipeline in the world through members and our partnerships.

We are focused on three key areas dealing with pipelines: corrosion, operations and integrity; and design, materials, and construction.

We also are addressing three areas on the facilities side: compressor and pump stations; measurement; and underground storage issues.

It has been an amazing experience to be involved with and the research that PRCI has produced will provided a number of tools to the industry that will enable enhanced safety and integrity of the critical infrastructure.

Recent PRCI research projects

Recent projects conducted by the PRCI should have strong application potential to the Australian pipeline industry, and these include:

Leak protection in CO2 pipeline valves

Research has recently been completed to develop guidelines for pipeline valve stem seals in carbon dioxide (CO2) rich applications such as enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and carbon capture and storage (CCS).

In particular, guidance was needed to ascertain when standard O-rings may be used, when a switch to rapid gas decompression (RGD) resistant O-rings is recommended and when O-rings should be replaced by more robust energised lip seals and/or by more robust seal materials.

The guidelines would interface with both NORSOK M 710 Rev. 3 and ISO 23936-2, and give specific details on procedures, steps and decisions that are taken when attempting to qualify seals for dense phase CO2 use. In order to develop these guidelines, well established sealing compounds, having proven RGD resistance, were selected for study, along with materials which were not known for their RGD resistance. RGD testing was performed on housed O-rings of each compound using CO2 rich applications.

Review of compressive strain capacity assessment methods

Buried pipelines subjected to non-continuous ground movement such as frost heave, thaw settlement, slope instability and seismic movement experience high compressive strains that can cause local buckling (or wrinkling), in which the pipe wall buckles like a thin cylindrical shell in axial compression.

In a strain-based design and assessment framework, excessive local buckling deformation that may cause loss of serviceability, or even pressure containment in some cases, is managed by limiting the strain demand below the strain limit.

The determination of compressive strain limit is typically performed by full-scale structural testing or non-linear finite element analysis, that takes into account material and geometric non-linearity associated with the inelastic buckling of cylindrical shells.

Before performing testing and numerical analysis (or when such options do not exist), empirical equations are used to estimate the strain limit.

This research evaluated a number of representative equations by comparing strain limit predictions to full-scale test results.

Work prior to this study has identified the importance of key variables that have the greatest impact on the local buckling behaviour.

This evaluation focused on how existing equations address these key variables, and their performance with respect to key variables and in different ranges.

Technology Development Center

On 7 July 2014, PRCI broke ground on a new Technology Development Center (TDC) in Houston, Texas.

The TDC is a major commitment by the energy pipeline industry to address the key issues that it is facing to ensure the safety of the national and international pipeline system.

Since the creation of the PRCI pipeline repository in 2012, PRCI has been progressively building a unique, world class inventory of pipeline samples to support technology development.

The benefits of having such an establishment available to the industry have already been realised, as the current site has been utilised for evaluation and development of new technologies, providing a location for accumulation of former in-service pipe materials with real-world pipeline features/flaws that are invaluable to PRCI’s research and development program and the industry, and supporting industry-sponsored workshops.

The TDC will open with over 600 test specimens available for advancing pipeline research.

It will be a key enabler to understanding and improving current inspection and integrity assessment technologies, and promoting the development of new technologies for pipeline integrity management.

If you are interested in learning more about these projects or others or the TDC, visit the PRCI website: or contact Cliff Johnson:

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