The US Department of Energy (DOE) is looking for feedback from energy industry players for a new $10 million, 3-year joint government-industry research program to address "critical technology needs" of the US natural gas pipeline system, DOE announced Thursday.
With demand for natural gas growing, the DOE said, America's gas industry will likely be required to install enough new pipeline capacity in the United States in the next 15 years "to stretch from the Earth to the moon." At the same time, the existing 1 million-mile network of gas transmission and distribution pipelines is aging and will require life-extending maintenance and upgrading. New technology can help meet both challenges, said DOE.
The department's National Energy Technology Laboratory, its lead field center for fossil energy technology, posted the draft document on its web site and asked companies making proposals to submit comments by Oct. 24. The actual solicitation will be issued in early November, with proposals due in early January.
The increasing challenges facing the nation's natural gas delivery system were highlighted last December when the National Petroleum Council, an advisory committee to the Secretary of Energy, forecasted the need for more than 38,000 miles of new gas transmission lines and 263,000 miles of distribution mains by 2015.
The National Petroleum Council noted that about 150,000 miles of these high-strength, high-pressure pipelines currently crisscross the nation, moving natural gas from producing fields to local gas utilities. The Energy Department's upcoming solicitation requests research proposals to improve interstate pipelines and distribution lines. DOE said it expects to award multiple projects. Industrial participants are expected to contribute at least 35% of each selected project's cost.
The solicitation follows two major industry workshops DOE conducted this past May and June. Based on industry's identification of critical technology needs at these workshops - described in the report Pathways for Enhanced Integrity, Reliability and Deliverability - the draft solicitation encourages applicants to submit proposals in such areas as:
� Technologies to detect or alleviate third party damage to gas pipelines
� Improved, cost effective technologies for detecting pipeline leaks
� Improved sensors, meters and monitoring systems, including "smart pig" technology for inspecting pipes
� Better guided boring technologies for directional drilling and advanced trenching technologies
� Improved technologies or tools to gauge pipeline integrity and repair damaged pipe with minimal excavation
� More corrosion-resistant materials that can transport gas at higher pressures
� Technologies which allow location and/or detection of underground facilities including non-metallic pipes
� "Smart pipes" which could be self monitoring or even self-healing
� More fuel-efficient compressors that are capable of flexible compression operation
� Improved automated data acquisition, system monitoring and control techniques.
The department is encouraging prospective applicants to create teams, with each team required to have a technology developer and manufacturer or user of a particular technology or system.