Use of titanium in oil & gas industries

The global marketplace of oil and gas has begun to increasingly rely on the use of titanium. With a high strength-to-weight ratio and excellent corrosion resistance, the metal can be used for the most challenging applications. It is particularly beneficial for exploration, production and refining. Keep on reading and discover more information on the use of titanium in these two industries.

Use of titanium – oil & gas industry

In the oil industry, titanium is used for both exploration and production. You will also see titanium being used for construction, engineering and refining. Pipelines are nowadays built with titanium as main constituent and underwater operations rely on it, given its excellent resistance to corrosion (seawater, as we all know, is highly corrosive).

The different grades of titanium are employed for the development of heat exchangers (tube-in-shell, plate type), as well as pumps and valves. Data logging equipment, various fixtures and fittings, as well as tanker purge systems can be developed from titanium. Submersibles, which are used in underwater operations, and cathodic protection anodes complete the list of titanium applications.

In recent years, titanium has begun to be used for the making of downhole tubulars. These are components of oil and gas wells, requiring an excellent resistance to corrosion and amazing strength. Titanium is now used for HPHT well applications – high pressure high temperature – demonstrating not only resistance to corrosion but also to stress corrosion cracking.

Why is titanium the favorite?

As the interest in hydrocarbon reserves becomes more prominent, the wells for extraction are reaching deeper levels. This means that the equipment used must be able to resist higher temperatures, as well as a higher level of pressure and tensile loading. Titanium seems to be the correct response to all of these requirements.

The high levels of activity in the oil and gas industries have pushed the demand for titanium even further. Corrosion resistant alloys, such as the ones made with titanium, are especially used for tubular equipment.

The alpha-phase titanium alloys offer the highest resistance to corrosion but it is important to know that all titanium alloys can resist fluid damage (and especially the one caused by seawater). The corrosion resistance of titanium is ensured by the oxide layer present on the surface of the metal, which is also responsible for its added strength and stability.

Low-pressure seawater piping is made from titanium, as well as coiled tubing, bolts and various downhole tools. Drilling risers and riser taper joints are made from titanium and its alloys (different grades). In the future, manufacturers hope that the metal might be used for subsea piping.

Titanium, a versatile metal for the oil and gas industries

The oil and gas industries appreciate titanium for being a metal that is both versatile and valuable. Recognizing the incredible qualities of titanium, manufacturers have begun to add titanium to steel alloys. This increased not only the strength and density of the material, but also its corrosion resistance.

The titanium-steel alloy has a widespread use nowadays, especially for the lining of downhole tubing. Compressor parts are also made from high-strength titanium alloys. These are durable and guarantee a longer service life, in comparison to the parts that contained only steel alloys.

The fact that titanium is resistant to seawater is not news. However, it is worth mentioning that titanium presents excellent corrosion resistance to other environments as well, including those with carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide.

In the gas industry, it is a preferred choice, as it is capable of maintaining its strength at extremely low temperatures (used for the liquefaction of natural gas). The tubing of heat exchangers is made from titanium, these being used in liquefied natural gas plants. You will also see titanium being employed for the lining of pressurized vessels (such as those in LNG tankers).

Titanium in offshore applications

The offshore oil and gas industries rely heavily on titanium and its alloys for a wide range of applications. The metal is appreciated for its excellent corrosion resistance, not only in seawater but also in the petroleum refinery environment.

In the past few years, the titanium demand for offshore application has increased tremendously. This is especially seen in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea, where titanium and its alloys are used regularly. The use of titanium has eliminated the corrosion problem faced with steel (crevice corrosion in particular). Fire and service water piping, low-pressure ballast and various fittings are developed from titanium today.

Unlike some years ago, titanium has now a competitive and rather stable price. Given this stability, it should come as no surprise that it is used for the development of a wide range of products, including piping, fittings and various systems, all for offshore applications.

Cold bending is used for the making of titanium piping, as this method reduced a huge percentage of the welding work. As titanium pipes have a low weight, the installation process is facile and does not require more than one person. Moreover, the pipes made from titanium do not require to be painted. Shot blasting and the treatment of pipe surfaces (post-installation) are not required either.

Titanium pipes are also used for fire systems. Thin-wall welded titanium pipes comply with existent fire regulations, having passed fire tests as well. They have an unparalleled resistance to shock, as well as a high tolerance to damage. This means that they have the best chances for survival in case of various disasters, involving fires, explosions and so on.

On offshore platforms, titanium fire water systems are commonly used. The same goes for titanium pipework, valves and nozzles. Even deluge system detectors and sprinklers are made from titanium. High-pressure heat exchangers are developed from titanium alloys, most commonly from Ti-6A1-4V. These have a reduced weight and volume, offering a considerable advantage.

In short, titanium plays a well-deserved role in the oil and gas industries. It is especially appreciated for its strength-to-weight ratio and corrosion resistance, being suitable for seawater applications. The offshore industry relies heavily on the use of titanium and its alloys, whether for fire systems, heat exchangers or piping.