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DOE Seeks Comments on Pipeline Reliability Initiative

DOE Seeks Comments on Pipeline Reliability Initiative

The Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) last week issued a draft solicitation seeking natural gas industry comments on a $10-million, three-year program to develop technology innovations to strengthen the reliability of the U.S. gas pipeline grid.

The NETL, DOE's lead field center for fossil fuel technology, posted the draft to its web site (www.netl.doe.gov) last Wednesday, and asked interested parties to submit comments by Oct. 24. The final solicitation will be issued in early November, with proposals due in January.

The NETL is seeking research proposals designed to improve the reliability of either, or both, interstate gas pipelines and distribution lines. It said it expects to award partial funding for multiple projects, with industry participants to assume at least 35% of each selected project's cost.

The draft solicitation is based on recommendations made in a joint NETL and Office of Fossil Energy report, "Pathways for Enhanced Integrity, Reliability and Deliverability," that was released in September.

The solicitation seeks industry proposals in a number of areas: technologies to detect, alleviate third-party damage to pipelines; better technologies for detecting pipeline leaks; new technologies or tools to gauge pipeline integrity and repair damaged pipe with minimal excavation; more corrosion-resistant materials that can transport gas at higher pressure; technologies that allow location and/or detection of underground facilities, including non-metallic pipes; 'smart pipes' that could be self-monitoring or even self-healing; more fuel-efficient compressors; and improved automated data acquisition, system monitoring and control techniques.

The need for these technology improvements is becoming especially critical, the NETL said, given the aging of the U.S. gas pipeline infrastructure and the growing demand for natural gas.

The DOE sought funding for natural gas infrastructure research in its fiscal year 2001 budget for the first time. Last week, Congress forwarded an appropriations bill to President Clinton that included the administration's request for nearly $5 million for the domestic gas infrastructure initiative. The program will be headed up by the newly created Strategic Center for Natural Gas, which is part of NETL.

Susan Parker

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