Getting to and extracting oil and gas from reservoirs — whether onshore or in deepwater —has always been a challenging proposal. Pressures, temperatures, and the materials that must be drilled through require specialized equipment that is durable, chemically resistant, and can be sealed well from other external forces and materials. But the industry, as always, is pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. As exploration and extraction teams turn to non-traditional reservoirs with pressures greater than 20 kpsi and temperatures exceeding 350°F, advanced materials are required to ensure safe and efficient operation.
The materials used in hydrocarbon exploration and recovery have developed in several different ways. When exposed to hydrogen, steel’s mechanical properties tend to weaken. And when exposed to chloride, carbon dioxide, and sulfides, costly corrosion builds up, further weakening steel. As such, steels and other advanced alloys (PDF) have been developed for not only their strength but also their ability to resist the effects of corrosion. This includes outer protections such as cladding and barrier coatings applied to metals, with research into nanotechnology and self-repairing synthetics heavily driving innovation in corrosion resistance.
As we continue to seek new and novel ways to extract valuable energy resources, research into advanced materials for oil and gas applications will continue to be vital. In fact, the European Conference on Fracture, held in Italy for 2016, will feature a mini-symposium on challenges in developing materials for oil and gas applications in high-pressure and high-temperature environments. Among the topics that will be discussed are the state of corrosion-resistance alloys, non-metallic materials, and typical materials failures. Several universities around the world such as the University of Manchester and Qatar University have their own advanced materials research centers breaking new ground in the industry. And of course, research is also happening from within the industry, including the BP International Centre for Advanced Materials, a $100 million research center that “aims to advance the fundamental understanding and use of materials across a variety of energy and industrial applications.”