Nico Hülsdau, Editor of 3R magazine, recently attended Rosen’s Energy and Innovation Forum, and reports here on the proceedings on behalf of Pipelines International.
International industry experts from 20 countries met in Lingen in Germany to discuss the future of the pipeline industry at the Energy and Innovation Forum on 10–12 May 2016.
The forum is organised by the Rosen Group and takes place every two years. The central theme of this year’s event was Pipeline integrity 2030: Ensuring future performance.
The focal points of introductory lectures on pipeline diagnostics and pipeline integrity provided the more than 150 participants with insight into future developments and demands in the pipeline industry, as well as answers to the inquiries “How can we transfer our know-how to the next generation in order to preserve our level of competency?” and “How will energy demands look in 2030?”
The subsequent workshops provided an opportunity to discuss the suggestions and theories from the lectures and to develop and extrapolate common insights.
More than anything, the intensive exchange among the participants that came from various fields, including pipeline operators as well as experts from agencies and the industry, was what made the forum so successful.
The 4th Energy and Innovation Forum, scheduled for 2018, is already in the calendars of the international pipeline community.
Turbulent times for the pipeline industry
The growing need for energy is closely connected with the continuing growth of the world population and the massive economic expansion in the emerging countries.
This would indicate the intensive construction of pipelines in order to fulfil these futures demands.
However, factors such as the extremely low oil prices and geopolitical conflicts of interest have led to a significant delay in planned construction projects and, in some cases, cancellation.
Current climate change policy discussions with the goal of zero CO2 emissions – in other words an actual withdrawal from fossil fuels – are also causing uncertainty among the traditional players in the energy market.
In spite of these conditions, and the massive expansion of renewable energy production in the form of wind energy or photovoltaics, pipeline networks will lose none of their current importance.
On the contrary: pipeline networks will remain an essential element of a secure energy supply in the future.
Gas and natural gas play a special role here. For one thing, electricity production with natural gas is much more environmentally friendly compared to burning coal or oil.
For another, natural gas pipeline networks are capable of storing energy from renewable sources.
Storage of volatile energy sources is an important precondition for the successful global conversion of our energy systems.
Further topics in this arena are the generation and use of hydrogen as an energy source, the transport of LNG, and CCS technology for underground storage of CO2.
Thus the design, construction and safe operation of pipelines will continue to be a major concern in the future.
Looking into the future together
“We cannot predict the future, but we can prepare ourselves for the future. That’s why we are here together.” With these words, the Rosen Group’s Founder and President Hermann Rosen opened the forum.
Technological progress and market globalisation demand an increasingly intensive engagement with these topics.
Information and experience exchange between the three relevant groups – operators, regulators, and technology and service providers – is decisive for the sustained development of the pipeline industry.
The promotion of such an exchange on an international level was the impetus for the inception of this series of forums, which began in the spring of 2012 with the theme of Innovation in the oil and gas sector and continued in 2014 with assurance, innovation, and safety as a focus.
The theme of this year’s forum was intentionally chosen as motivation to look beyond daily business, to reflect on the long-term perspective and the challenges and demands that the pipeline industry will likely face in the future, and to derive possible measures and solutions from this.
Thus, the topics of pipeline diagnostics and pipeline integrity were spotlighted.
An additional issue that the forum examined was the question of how acquired knowledge and know-how could be transferred to the next generation – a controversial topic that is currently a subject of much discussion in several industries due to the pending generation change.
Plenary session and workshops
The morning session focused on the topic of pipeline diagnostics. Discussions focused not only on the classic intelligent pigging for the detection, measurement and localisation of flaws (dents, corrosion, or cracks) in pipe walls, but also on the possibilities for measuring material constants and determining local mechanical states of stress.
These topics were examined by Dr Gerd Dobmann, former professor at the University of Saarbrücken and assistant director of the IZFP, Fraunhofer Institute Saarbrücken, in his lecture ‘Future possibilities in NDT for feature identification and sizing, material identification, and stress measurement’.
Dr Brian Leis, former senior researcher at the Batelle Institute in Columbus, Ohio, USA – a research facility specialising in pipeline technology – and currently active with the consulting firm B N Leis Inc., examined the ‘Added value of knowing actual material properties of pipe inspected for integrity assessment’ in his following lecture.
Dr Roger King, consulting engineer and internationally renowned pipeline corrosion expert, formerly with the University of Manchester and co-founder of UMIST, wrapped up the first lecture session with his talk ‘A corrosion engineer’s view’, in which he discussed the possible developments and challenges of the pipeline industry against the background of corrosion.
The lectures were followed immediately by the first workshops. Conference participants were able to choose between six different workshops, plus one additional workshop for the speakers and two additional workshops for Rosen’s staff.
Workshop facilitators used the ‘time-travel method’ to mentally transport the participants to the year 2030.
First the expected mega-trends were discussed, followed by special questions regarding the oil and gas industry in general and the pipeline industry specifically. The workshop results were recorded for subsequent evaluation.
After the workshops and a well-earned coffee break, the first keynote lecture of the day was held on the topic of competence and knowledge transfer.
Under the title ‘Competence – knowledge transfer to the next generation’, Dr Phil Hopkins, consulting engineer and visiting professor at Newcastle and Northumbria Universities in the UK, provided listeners with concrete information and suggestions on how the industry may ensure the availability of well-qualified, competent professionals.
Dr Hopkins is an internationally recognised expert on pipeline integrity and condition assessment, as well as a researcher at the former British Gas Engineering Research Station.
The three keynotes focused specifically on the data and information complexity that faces pipeline operators today.
Walter Kresic, technical director at Enbridge Pipelines, Canada – one of the world’s largest pipeline operators – kicked-off the afternoon session with his lecture ‘Assessment complexity’.
Professor Emmanuel Müller of the Hasso Plattner Institute at Potsdam University, Germany, covered the management of large amounts of data in his lecture ‘Big data analytics – what we can learn from other industries’, including an example of a concrete practical application for the use of large amounts of data with the ‘SmartMeter’ technology used by the energy industry.
Prof. Müller made a strong case for the intensive training of data specialists in order to fill this critical future field.
The final afternoon lecture was given by Dr Alan Murray, consulting engineer and, prior to his retirement, technical director for the pipeline regulatory authority in Canada, the National Energy Board, who spoke on the topic of ‘Missing procedures in pipeline-integrity management’.
This lecture session was again followed by facilitated workshops in which the contents of the lectures were discussed.
The extremely stimulating conclusion of the successful conference day was delivered by Kamel Ben Naceur, who has been the Tunisian Industry, Energy, and Mining Minister until 2014, with his keynote ‘Future energy demands 2030 and beyond’.
As director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Mr Ben Naceur brings nearly 35 years of experience in the international energy sector to the table.
In his presentation, Mr Ben Naceur outlined the current situation of the energy market with the effects of the low oil, gas, and coal prices, and described the expected developments of the global energy demands throughout the region through 2030 and beyond.
The projected changes in the shares of different energy sources in the worldwide electricity production energy mix through 2040 demonstrates clearly that while there will be a decline in the use of fossil fuels, we will still be dependent on them for some time to come.
Will there be a new energy era? The conclusions and results of the 2015 UN Climate Conference in Paris, which Mr Ben Naceur reviewed at the end of his lecture, give reason to hope.
The results of the workshops were gathered and evaluated on the evening of the lecture day, and Dr Phil Hopkins and Heinz Watzka presented these to the participants the following morning.
The look into the future promises a global increase in regulations that must be observed, as well as an exponential increase in the availability of structured and unstructured data.
The immense variety of information will significantly increase the complexity of decision-making processes. Technological solutions will be necessary in the future in order to make sensible decisions in the face of this enormous complexity.
These solutions will include automated analysis of data or their visualisation to facilitate quick and reliable filtering of useful or significant information.
Big-picture thinking and learning from other industries, such as the medical industry or the aviation industry, were other aspects of the discussions.
And, last but not least, the realisation that information is available worldwide and should be used on a global basis, rather than thinking and acting regionally. And here we come full circle, for this was precisely the reason for the inception of the Rosen Energy and Innovation Forum.
The event was embedded in a framework program which allowed the participants to take part in a factory tour and to learn about the company’s products and services at various information booths on the company grounds.
Held in the evening of the conference day, the Conference Dinner was utilised for further intensive idea and experience exchange in a casual atmosphere.
All in all, the participants were offered a lecture event with world-class speakers covering thought-provoking current and future topics pertinent to the pipeline industry.
With their thoughts in the future, the many participants travelled home with the prospect of meeting in Lingen again for collective exchange in 2018 at the latest.
For more information visit the Rosen website.
This article was featured in the September edition of Pipelines International. To view the magazine on your PC, Mac, tablet, or mobile device, click here.