Genome scientists at four Canadian universities are collaborating with international colleagues and industry to harness genomics in breaking down the microbial corrosion that can damage pipelines.
As long as oil and gas have been transported by pipelines, ruptures have produced both environmental and economic costs. And the main cause of pipeline incidents is metal loss – or corrosion – which causes roughly 35 per cent of pipeline leaks and costs $2.5 trillion around the world annually.
While that corrosion is caused by a range of internal and external factors, microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC) is to blame for 20 per cent of it. Genomics is helping industry to combat microbial corrosion through better understanding, mitigation and management of the MIC process.
"Ongoing collaboration between researchers and industry within the project will help facilitate the translation of our research outcomes to actual microbiologically influenced corrosion manage- ment practices in oil and gas operations."
- Dr. Lisa Gieg, associate professor, Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary
Leading the Genome Canada-funded project are Dr. Lisa Gieg, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary; John Wolodko, an associate professor and Alberta Innovates Strategic Chair in Bio and Industrial Materials at the University of Alberta; and Faisal Khan, a professor and the Vale Research Chair of Process Safety and Risk Engineering at Memorial University.
The leaders and their interdisciplinary team will be able to break down degradation trends associated with certain microbes and particular chemistries that produce corrosion. This will allow industry end-users of the technology to better predict where microbial corrosion will strike. While pipeline corrosion will be a major focus, the research will also look at all points of contact between oil and steel in extraction, production and processing to help make the industry safer.
The project is also investigating questions at the intersection of genomics and society to avoid unintended consequences, cultivate success and contribute to Canada’s leadership in the 21st century’s global bioeconomy. In particular, the project is studying the prevalence of MIC in Canada and abroad, the multidisciplinary nature of MIC research, and the translation and adoption of new knowledge and technologies in the oil and gas sector.
Key outcomes of the project will be translated into recommended guidelines and best practices documents for use by the Canadian and global oil and gas industry. “Ultimately, this project will identify the key performance indicators required to model and monitor for microbiologically influenced corrosion, along with optimizing treatment strategies to prevent or remediate the problem,” said Ken Wunch, Energy technology platform leader at Dow Microbial Control.
The $7.9-million Managing Microbial Corrosion in Canadian Offshore and Onshore Oil Production project is a collaboration between Genome Alberta, Genome Atlantic and other partners. Launched in January 2017, it is one of 13 projects funded as part of Genome Canada’s 2015 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition – Natural Resources and the Environment: Sector Challenges – Genomic Solutions. This $110-million program was designed to harness genomics to address challenges in Canada's natural resources and environment sectors.