Kinder Morgan Successfully Completes Tests of Ethanol Transport in Pipeline: To Offer the Service by Mid-November

Jose Michael

19 October 2008

A pig train will prepare the pipeline for ethanol transport. Click to enlarge. Source: KMP

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (KMP), the largest independent owner/operator of refined products pipelines in the US, recently successfully completed a series of tests to demonstrate the commercial feasibility of transporting batched denatured ethanol is the 195-mile, 16-inch gasoline pipeline between Tampa and Orlando, Florida. The pipeline is one of its Central Florida Pipeline Company’s assets.

KMP is finalizing mechanical modifications to the pipeline to support ethanol transportation, and intends to offer this service to its customers by mid-November. The company has also completed modifications to tanks, truck racks and related infrastructure for new or expanded ethanol service at various terminals in the Southeast and Pacific Northwest. KMP said that it has invested approximately $60 million in these ethanol-related projects.

Earlier experiments with transporting ethanol in conventional mixed product pipelines have shown several problems, from difficulty in maintaining the quality of the fuel to facility material failures due primarily to stress corrosion cracking (SCC), according to the Association of Oil Pipelines (AOPL). Currently, ethanol is transported from production facilities via barge, railcar or truck to fuel terminals for blending with gasoline; The blend is then delivered by truck. However, the least expensive distribution option for ethanol would be by pipeline.

To prepare its gasoline pipeline to accommodate ethanol, KMP replaced components in stages during periodic shutdown, including meter prover seals, pump main seals, and flexatalic spiral wound stainless gaskets. Pump impeller metallurgy, main line block valves, and O-rings in most instruments are ethanol compatible.

Among other applications, pigs (pipeline inspection gauges) are used to clean debris from pipelines, either purely mechanically (e.g., using attached brushes or scrapers), or in combination with chemicals.

To clean and prepare the pipeline for ethanol transport, KMP uses a cleaning pig train propelled by a typical gasoline batch. The final stage of the cleaning train contains inhibitor to precondition the steel. Cleaning chemicals and waster are captured at Orlando and disposed of at an approved site.

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