The behaviour of elastomeric polymers (e.g. rubbers) depends very strongly on their environment. Factors such as temperature, pressure, exposure to aggressive chemicals and the age of the polymers have dramatic impacts on their physical characteristics and mechanical performance. One major challenge when selecting polymer materials for use in any application is understanding how the materials respond to the range of parameters which may occur during application. It is well known that low temperatures pose a major threat to the performance of elastomers since very low temperatures can lead to shrinkage, excessive stiffness and a transition from rubbery to brittle behaviour.
Although the use of elastomers in the oil and gas industry is relatively low compared to other materials, the role of elastomer is essential: many seals are primary barriers against leakage. O-rings and seals are used in pressure containing equipment from downhole through seabed trees up to deck equipment and can be exposed to cold ambient air or subjected to transient de-pressurisation causing rapid cooling. Since most of the undiscovered reserves of oil and gas on the Norwegian Continental Shelf lie in polar areas, unlocking these resources requires significant R&D efforts to surmount the current shortcomings in material technology.
The objective of the TREC project is to develop new material solutions to perform in low temperature environments without compromising other properties required of elastomer seals. Key tasks within the TREC project are:
- Design and manufacture of new elastomeric materials with enhanced low temperature behaviour
- Characterisation of mechanical properties of developed materials, both in the short term (i.e. tensile properties, hardness) and long term (i.e. compression set and stress relaxation).
- Understanding the way in which these materials change over time due to ageing in air or aggressive chemical media representative of the oil field environment.
- Making computer models to predict which material formulations will perform best in sealing applications.
- Developing seal leakage tests to determine how developed materials really perform when pressurised.
About the TREC project: The TREC project is a Knowledge-building Project funded by a consortium of private companies and The Research Council of Norway through the Large-scale Programme for Petroleum Research (PETROMAKS2). The TREC project runs from 2014-2018 and is managed by SINTEF Materials and Chemistry in a consortium with FMC KONGSBERG SUBSEA AS, STATOIL Petroleum AS and the Department of Engineering Design and Materials at NTNU. Two PhD students based at NTNU are funded by the TREC project.