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WVU receives continued funding for research in use of composites for pipe design, gas transport

Photo of Hota GangaRao, Udaya Halabe, John Zondlo

Hota GangaRao, Udaya Halabe, John Zondlo

For the second straight year, researchers at West Virginia University have received a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to study the use of composite materials for pipe design and gas transport.

Morgantown, W.Va.—
The research team— civil and environmental engineering professors Hota GangaRao and Udaya Halabe and John Zondlo, professor of chemical and biomedical engineering—will work to develop glass fiber reinforced polymer composite pipes including a range of joining systems, which are less corrosive and of higher strength when compared to traditional steel pipes.

“There are about 2.65 million miles of distribution mains plus transmission lines running across the U.S.,” said GangaRao, who is director of WVU’s Constructed Facilities Center and Maurice A. and JoAnn Wadsworth Distinguished Professor. “The gas pipeline industry needs cost-effective ways to transmit larger volumes of gas over long distances at higher pressures with at least 50 years of service life and composite piping systems can play a major role in filling this void.

“Current gas pipelines are made primarily of steel causing corrosion and hydrogen embrittlement,” GangaRao added. By comparison, GFRP composite pipes are non-corrosiveness and transparent to magnetic fields, and have a high strength-to-weight ratio with lower initial and life cycle costs.”

The GFRP pipes and joints will be designed, manufactured and evaluated under static and thermal fatigue load responses. Emphasis will be given to evaluate many thermo-mechanical properties under sustained internal pressures ranging from 6000 to 8000 psi and also on field implementation-related issues.

WVU has conducted extensive research in the integration of high strength polymer composites into highways, bridges, buildings, pipelines, flood control systems and utilities through its Center for Integration of Composites into Infrastructure. CICI is an Industry/University Cooperative Research Center that is funded through the National Science Foundation. Researchers have conducted projects for a number of state and federal agencies, including the West Virginia Department of Transportation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The two-year project received $300,000 in funding from PHMSA’s Competitive Academic Agreement Program, which provides funding for academic research and provides tomorrow’s pipeline safety workforce with an early opportunity to contribute safety solutions. University partners provide an additional cost-sharing match to the projects, bringing the total award to almost $400,000. Only three awards were made during this funding cycle. The College previously received $300,000 during the initial funding cycle.



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