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University study shows cow urine can prevent pipeline corrosion

A research led by a lecturer at the Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, Ikwo (FUNAI) has shown that cow urine can curb pipeline corrosion.  

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 The research, by Professor of Environmental Microbiology Chuma Conlette Okoro, centred on novel technology of remediating problems associated with souring and corrosion in the petroleum industry.

 Prof Okoro’s study was funded by the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) which has been financing research activities in relevant fields in the oil and gas industry in the last decade.

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 Pipeline corrosion, which is decay or deterioration of pipelines buried underground, exposed to the atmosphere, or submerged in water, is a growing problem in the oil and gas industry.

Pipelines transporting crude oil, water and gas from onshore oil producing facilities in Nigeria are usually subject to frequent dirt, solid deposit accumulation and corrosion despite treatment programmes adopted by companies.

Any of these problems or combination of them can result in costly operational problems like high maintenance costs, expensive parts replacement and unscheduled shut down.

According to researchers, pipeline and facility corrosion is a major issue globally and about 20-30% of corrosion is related to microbial activity originating from hydrocarbon and ground water sources.

It cost Nigeria’s oil sector $600 million annually to manage souring and corrosion related problems.

Global corrosion research expert, NACE International, estimates the global cost of corrosion to be $2.5 trillion, equivalent to roughly 3.4 percent of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In one of its 2016 report, NACE said implementing corrosion prevention best practices could result in global savings of between $375 billion and $875 billion.

Current technologies used to control corrosion include chemical biocides which are anti-microbial chemicals that are used to kill microbes or control their proliferation by inhibiting their growth and reproductive cycle.

But the research by Prof. Okoro, a professor of Environmental Microbiology at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, Ikwo (FUNAI) Ebonyi State, found that a number of microorganisms that subject these facilities to corrosion and souring have developed resistance to major biocides.

Okoro and his team of researchers have come to the limelight with current research on the substitution of chemical biocides with green natural biocides such as cow urine.

Okoro in his research, for which he received a grant from the PTDF in 2004/2005, diagnosed the microbial communities associated with souring and corrosion at Bonga terminal facility, Obigbo pipelines, Bongo deep offshore facility and Escravos among others.

The investigation found a number of microorganisms that subject these facilities to corrosion despite chemical treatment programmes on them.

The investigation discovered that the microorganisms have developed resistance to major biocides used to mitigate corrosion and souring in the oil and gas industry hence the need for possible alternatives.

Prof Okoro has thus advanced his research to focus on remediation technology that can substitute chemical biocides which have become ineffective with green natural biocides such as cow urine.

“We are looking at the potency of cow urine as a major raw material for that green biocide,” Okoro said when interviewed on the sidelines of the 2017/2018 PTDF annual oil and gas research grant competition close out seminar held in Abuja recently.

According to him, “If that urine becomes effective it will save Nigeria a lot of money from sourcing foreign exchange. We are hoping that the oil and gas industry will massively invest in ranching and that would help in solving the farmer/herder crisis.”

Speaking on the research, the Executive Secretary of PTDF, Dr. Bello Aliyu Gusau, said Prof. Okoro’s work was among five others the PTDF has funded within the 2014-2015 research grant cycle. 

He said the fund’s focus was on homegrown solutions to the basic challenges in the oil and gas sector in the country.

Gusau said one of the researchers had also developed a zeolite catalyst for the purpose of import substitution using 100 per cent local materials.

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