The Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory(NETL) last week issued a draft solicitation seeking natural gasindustry comments on a $10-million, three-year program to developtechnology 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 ( last Wednesday,and asked interested parties to submit comments by Oct. 24. Thefinal solicitation will be issued in early November, with proposalsdue in January.

The NETL is seeking research proposals designed to improve thereliability of either, or both, interstate gas pipelines anddistribution lines. It said it expects to award partial funding formultiple projects, with industry participants to assume at least35% of each selected project’s cost.

The draft solicitation is based on recommendations made in ajoint NETL and Office of Fossil Energy report, “Pathways forEnhanced Integrity, Reliability and Deliverability,” that wasreleased 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 technologiesor tools to gauge pipeline integrity and repair damaged pipe withminimal excavation; more corrosion-resistant materials that cantransport gas at higher pressure; technologies that allow locationand/or detection of underground facilities, including non-metallicpipes; ‘smart pipes’ that could be self-monitoring or evenself-healing; more fuel-efficient compressors; and improvedautomated data acquisition, system monitoring and controltechniques.

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

The DOE sought funding for natural gas infrastructure researchin its fiscal year 2001 budget for the first time. Last week,Congress forwarded an appropriations bill to President Clinton thatincluded the administration’s request for nearly $5 million for thedomestic gas infrastructure initiative. The program will be headedup by the newly created Strategic Center for Natural Gas, which ispart of NETL.

Susan Parker

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