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Carbon and energy footprint of nonmetallic composite pipes in onshore oil and gas flowlines

A. Zubail, A. Traidia, M. Masulli, K. Vatopoulos, T. Villette, I. Taie
Journal of cleaner production 2021 v.305 pp. 127150
carbon, carbon dioxide, carbon footprint, corrosion, cradle-to-gate, glass, oils, raw materials, steel, thermoplastics
A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) analysis was conducted to compare the carbon and energy footprint of several non-metallic composite pipes and carbon steel (CS) pipes used in onshore sour oil and gas (O&G) production flowlines, based on a specific deployment case (cradle-to-gate scenario). This work provides a systematic approach to assessing the carbon and energy footprint of fiber reinforced thermoplastic/thermoset pipes used in the O&G industry, while also accounting for the end-of-life recycling at the material phase, through the use of the recycled-content allocation method. The impact of corrosion allowance (CA), commonly used at design phase of CS pipes, is explicitly included and discussed. From the raw material extraction to the installation phase, all non-metallic pipe technologies assessed in this study were found to have a lower carbon and energy footprint than CS pipes. The reduction in CO₂ emissions can reach up to 60% while the energy footprint can be reduced by up to 50%. The material phase, particularly the composite layer for non-metallic pipes, was found to be the main contributor to the product footprint for all pipe technologies and any optimization in this phase could translate into a significant reduction in the overall CO₂ footprint of the pipe. The manufacturing phase is the second largest contributor to the emissions and was found to be (on average) five times bigger for CS pipes than any of the non-metallic pipe technologies assessed in this study. The use of stronger and lighter fiber reinforcements (e.g., carbon fibers) to substitute conventional glass fibers in RTP pipes enabled a noticeable reduction in the product weight. However, the potential in reduction of overall emissions was outweighed by the exceedingly high carbon intensity of carbon fibers. The results of this study are supporting an ongoing strategy for mass deployment of nonmetallic pipes (a traditional driver in reducing operating costs) and provide a path for cleaner production and distribution of hydrocarbon resources. The conclusions of this work could be further developed by accounting for the operational phase of the pipes in question.