Improved, Low-Stress Economical Submerged Pipeline
Tuesday, May 10 2011
This technology can safely transport large quantities of fresh water, oil, and natural gas underwater for long distances.
The solution is to have a submerged, compliant-walled tube that when filled, is lighter than the surrounding medium. Some examples include compliant tubes for transporting fresh water under the ocean, for transporting crude oil underneath salt or fresh water, and for transporting high-pressure natural gas from offshore to onshore.
In each case, the fluid transported is lighter than its surrounding fluid, and thus the flexible tube will tend to float. The tube should be ballasted to the ocean floor so as to limit the motion of the tube in the horizontal and vertical directions. The tube should be placed below 100-m depth to minimize biofouling and turbulence from surface storms. The tube may also have periodic pumps to maintain flow without over-pressurizing, or it can have a single pump at the beginning. The tube may have periodic valves that allow sections of the tube to be repaired or maintained. Some examples of tube materials that may be particularly suited for these applications are non-porous composite tubes made of high-performance fibers such as Kevlar, Spectra, PBO, Aramid, carbon fibers, or high-strength glass.
Above-ground pipes for transporting water, oil, and natural gas have typically been fabricated from fiber-reinforced plastic or from more costly high-strength steel. Also, previous suggested subsea pipeline designs have only included heavy fixed-wall pipes that can be very expensive initially, and can be difficult and expensive to deploy for long distances. A much less expensive Kevlar pipeline can be coiled up on a ship’s deck and deployed in the water as the ship moves. Support ships can be used to drop sand into conduits below the uninflated tube, so that the tube remains in place when more buoyant fresh water later fills the tubes.
This work was done by Jack A. Jones and Yi Chao of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-47455
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