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In Situ X-ray Tomography Study of the Breakdown of Sweet and Sour Oilfield Corrosion Scale [Sponsor - BP International Ltd; Fully Funded]

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  • Full or part time
    Dr B Connolly
    Prof P Withers
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

This PhD is part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in "Materials for Demanding Environments" [CDT in M4DE], is sponsored by BP International Ltd and will commence October 2017.


Corrosion of metallic structural materials is an unfortunate and relentless problem that has plagued the oil & gas industry for decades and continues to have a massive impact on the global economics of production. In the North Sea it has been estimated that 60% of the maintenance budgets are directly due to pipeline corrosion as a result of multiphase flow and flow assurance issues. Although the oil & gas sector may be conceived as a declining industry, it should be pointed out that this is not the case in the EU with oil & gas companies generating more than €400bn to the economy each year.

Given the on-going importance of the industry it is imperative to develop technologies to limit the expense of maintenance and loss of production time due localised corrosion events. In order to develop these technologies a more robust understanding of the mechanisms involved in the development of corrosion scales, breakdown of these scales and subsequent localised attack and possible cracking in both sweet and sour pipeline environments is needed.

Project Outline

In this project the focus will be placed on characterising the differences between a protective and a non-protective corrosion scale formed on low alloy steel substrates. In situ x-ray tomography experiments will be performed in conjunction with advanced electrochemical techniques (e.g., electrochemical noise, electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, scanning electrochemical probe techniques) to elucidate the mechanisms for scale breakdown leading to localised pitting as a function of simulated pipeline environments.

The outcome of the research will provide understanding of the mechanical and chemical processes that lead to failure of the pipe. Information from the study may also lend in developing technologies such as novel inhibitor systems that will improve the protective nature of the corrosion scale therefore limiting the probability of loss of production due to pipe failure.

It should be noted that the student will be able to use the world-class x-ray imaging facility at the University of Manchester (i.e., MXIF) to perform experiments in situ in bespoke environmental chambers capable of simulating pipeline environments. The student will also have the opportunity to utilise the synchrotron based x-ray beamlines in Europe and the US for complimentary experiments to those performed in Manchester.

Characterisation of the corrosion scales both from an electrochemical and structural nature will be a key component in the project. Again the student will be able to utilise the University of Manchester’s world-class facilities which include suites of the latest electron microscopes and analytical equipment to develop mechanistic understanding of the degradation mechanism of this systems.

About BP International Ltd

BP is one of the world’s leading international oil and gas producers. They provide customers with fuel for transport, energy for heat and light, lubricants to keep engines moving, and the petrochemical products used to make everyday items as diverse as paints, clothes, and packaging.

This PhD studentship will be part of the BP International Centre for Advanced Materials (BP-ICAM) community. BP-ICAM brings the full spectrum of academic knowledge under one umbrella, providing the opportunity for collaboration across disciplines. The problems are complex and require an interdisciplinary approach. The practical involvement of BP helps ensure that ICAM’s innovative research will deliver real-life applications and solutions.

Funding Notes

Funding Notes: Funding covers tuition fees and annual maintenance payments of £17,000 tax free. Students with a first class/2.1 degree (or equivalent) in Engineering, Materials Science, Metallurgy, Physics, Chemistry or another aligned science or engineering subject are encouraged to apply. Applications will be reviewed as they are received until a candidate is selected; therefore candidates are encouraged to apply early.
Funding is only available for UK / EU candidates.

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