Researchers at Edinburgh Napier University have completed a short project that studied the feasibility of applying a new coating process, which was initially developed for use in the production of solid oxide fuel cells, to the oil and gas industry. The project secured industry support through the Aberdeen-based global technology facilitator, ITF.
During the manufacture of solid oxide fuel cells, the electrodes are applied to a solid electrolyte in the form of a coating. Work on coating techniques relevant to fuel cell manufacture has been ongoing at Edinburgh Napier University’s Advanced Materials Centre for a number of years, and researchers there have developed and patented a process that they believe has the potential to reduce solid oxide fuel cell manufacturing costs by a factor of four.
Alan Davidson, director of the centre, is currently seeking partners to commercialise the coating for that purpose, but during the course of a market assessment it became apparent that the coating may also have benefits for the oil and gas industry.
“The main advantage of our coating process is the ability to deposit graduated composite layers on to items of complex geometry,” says Davidson. “We approached ITF because we felt the process, which allows a high percentage of ceramic to be co-deposited with metal, could also be beneficial in other situations where protection against harsh conditions such as combined heat, wear and corrosion is required.”
The project received support from the facilitator’s Pioneer Fund, which supports very early stage technology ideas.
Currently available coating methods include electroplating, which is suitable for complex geometries but only deposits metal, and thermal spraying, which is commonly used in the oil and gas industry, but is difficult inside tubing. The new process offers to overcome some of the limitations of these alternatives, in a low capital cost process.
Initial results from lab tests are promising and the researchers are now seeking further support for a second phase that will include scaled-up tests and the development of a portable in-situ repair version.
ITF senior technology analyst Mark Anju says of the project: “The key benefit of this coating process is that it can be used to coat difficult geometries and cross sections with uniform protective coatings. Within the oil and gas industry it may provide a route to reducing the investment for downhole tubing, and can also be tailored for specific applications – the coating chemistry can be adjusted to vary the coating composition on specific sections of a geometry to achieve the optimum level of protection required”.
ITF is a not-for-profit organisation owned by 30 global oil and gas companies, and was established to facilitate collaborative technology innovation and deployment in the oil and gas and related industries. Projects that receive support from ITF’s Pioneer fund also require matching funds from a member company champion.