2D nanomaterial coating on elastomers to reduce gas permeation
The Weir Group PLC provides a comprehensive range of products and services for the oil and gas industry and are committed to creating innovative engineering solutions for their customers.
In the oil and gas industry, high pressure and high temperature (HPHT) sealing is a key challenge as producers continue to push boundaries and explore deeper, higher pressure reserves. As a result of permeation, existing elastomeric seals eventually allow the passage of small quantities of gas, resulting in a reduction of seal life and leakage of harmful gases into the environment. In most cases, equipment has to be taken offline to replace seals, which can result in production losses. Extending the life of seals would reduce downtime, help improve efficiency and, ultimately, protect the atmosphere.
The Weir Group identified an opportunity to develop a coating material combining a 2D nanomaterial with polymers that would either reduce or eliminate gas permeation. They recognised that the creation of an impermeable barrier for seals, could result in a change to industry standards. This would have a vital impact on both the environment and the industry.
Recognising the need for external expertise to develop and test the material, the Weir Group worked with OGIC and selected Heriot-Watt University as their academic partner.
In phase one of the project, Heriot-Watt developed a polymer-nanomaterial coating that bonds to HNBR1 and FKM2 elastomers.
In the subsequent phase, Heriot-Watt undertook a critical evaluation of the polymer-nanomaterial coating. They established the nanomaterial dispersion in the polymer matrices; established the bonding strategies between the coating and the elastomers and tested the nitrogen gas permeation rate through a coated elastomer seal under HPHT conditions. In order for tests to be conducted to the API standard, Heriot-Watt constructed and commissioned a dedicated pressurization rig and cells.
The Weir Group will now establish links with key stakeholders to evaluate the potential to scale up the technology for commercial use and enable this technology to support reducing fugitive emissions in the oil and gas industry.
“Through OGIC we have been fortunate to work with Weir to explore and develop a range of polymer nanocomposite coatings for potential HPHT sealing applications. Such applications present challenging environments for many polymers to operate in, making research within this area stimulating to work on. It is also particularly fascinating to us to interface so closely with Weir and be able to see and appreciate the immediate relevance of the research within technological applications.”
David Bucknall, Professor of Materials Chemistry,
“This was a very focused application of 2D nanomaterial and one which may deliver significant benefits across the oil and gas sector, not just confined to HPHT applications and may impact many other elastomer sealing applications.
The support provided by OGIC was essential in identifying academic expertise that can undertake the experimental tasks, investigation and understanding required to deliver focused feasibility projects like this and their financial support creates an environment for OEMs to explore new technologies ahead of conventional technology development programmes, accelerating technology discovery and application.”
Dr Douglas Watson, Weir Advanced Research Centre,
The Weir Group PLC