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Petronas Works to Commercialize Innovations

Petronas has a goal of transforming itself from a technology user to a technology developer, and the fruits of that drive were on display at the OTC Asia.

The technology division of the Malaysian national oil company was doing more than just displaying innovations at the conference, it was creating international markets for them.

Petronas signed a worldwide distribution deal with Clairant, a Swiss seller of specialty chemicals for HycaPure, during the conference. The liquid-infused pellets remove mercury from gases, including difficult-to-remove organic and inorganic varieties of mercury.

Elsewhere in the exhibit hall, Cameron was displaying a new filter that employed a membrane created by Petronas to remove carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide in a new two-layered canister filter.

Those are early fruits of a drive to change the mind-set of a national oil company with large international ambitions. Competing for prime opportunities in other countries will require it to build a reputation for solving problems other companies cannot.

In the past, Petronas’ approach was to use proven technology only, said Colin Wong Hee Huing, vice president of technology and engineering at Petronas. “Only in recent years has the organization gone from being a national oil company to an international one. We aspire to be more than good at managing oil and gas. We need to be strong in research to become highly technically capable,” he said.

Its priorities are driven by needs closer to home. The starting point of the technology development’s work is the problems faced by the company as it works to extend the life of the country’s older fields, bring on new fields where the gas is laden with contaminants, and control its systems better. “It is a disciplined system with seven steps for technology development” from idea to deployment, he said.

The search that led to the membrane system to remove carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide addresses a major problem posed by many of the fields left to develop in Malaysia, where the percentage of contaminants often exceeds the natural gas.

The mix of gases is slowed by a complex maze of polymer fibers. The lighter carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide molecules rise and are removed, while the larger hydrocarbon molecules travel downward. The remaining contaminants are removed using amine, a commonly used solvent.

Within the next month, a pilot project will test how it works, with a goal of a full-scale test sometime next year, Wong said. The upside is carbon dioxide cleanup units are able to reduce the level of contaminants to 7% of what comes out of the unit, compared with 20% previously, said Shahida Mohd Shariff, general manager of the technology and engineering division at Petronas, adding that the group is now working on improvements to push that down to less than 1%.

The test unit is a production of collaborations with outside experts. The membrane work was in partnership with Dalian Institute in China. Further contaminant reduction using the solvent recovery process was developed with UOP, a Honeywell subsidiary that sells equipment and chemicals to hydrocarbon processors.

If it performs well, the Petronas’ engineering department will scale it up for offshore facilities, where the more efficient process will hopefully allow units with less than half the footprint of current technology, saving precious space on offshore facilities, Wong said.

A much more effective membrane has multiple advantages, Shariff said. “We use less amine, less ground, and less weight.”

Petronas wants to turn contaminants removed from gas streams into marketable chemicals. That will require pipelines capable of moving the corrosive mix to land. That goal led to the development of an impermeable carbon fiber composite liner that can be inserted into pipes to prevent corrosion.

Another line of composite research is aimed at extending the life of pipes in older fields, where the cost of replacing pipes is prohibitive. The goal is an improved wrap that can be installed on older lines that prevents contact with salt water and strengthening them as well. New inspection equipment that can run through a pipe or be mounted on a remotely operated vehicle is under development to ensure those pipes do not leak.

Sensors used for critical metering systems have a maddening tendency to drift away from true readings. That led to a program to create a monitoring system that compares readings, highlights which systems are likely drifting off, and presents what the accurate reading is likely to be.

Petronas Works to Commercialize Innovations

Stephen Rassenfoss, JPT Emerging Technology Senior Editor

01 May 2014

Volume: 66 | Issue: 5

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