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Fiber Optic Sensors Prevent Corrosion of Natural Gas Pipelines

Image courtesy of National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).

The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is developing fiber optic sensor systems that will protect U.S. natural gas pipelines from the effects of corrosion. As opposed to conventional technologies that detect pipeline leaks and ruptures after the fact, NETL’s advanced fiber optic systems will be able to help prevent such failures from occurring. 

Researchers at NETL created optical fibers coated with corrosion proxy materials that are designed to deteriorate as pipelines corrode. These optical fibers are ideal for detecting corrosion within pipelines due to their size, flexibility, and ability to withstand harsh conditions. In addition, the laser light that transmits through the optical fibers enables inspectors to spot imperfections in the proxy film that are indicative of the onset of pipeline corrosion. 

NETL researchers also created a fiber optic sensor that directs laser light through an optical fiber to produce a wavelength. This wavelength can then be analyzed to detect the onset of water condensation, and such data is used to identify and mitigate pipeline corrosion.

By monitoring early signs of internal corrosion, fiber optic sensor systems can prevent potential failures and leaks in natural gas pipelines. In turn, this would minimize disruptions in the over 300,000 miles of large transmission pipelines that transport natural gas nationwide. 

Source: NETL, www.netl.doe.gov