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CUI Solutions – a paradigm shift towards safe, efficient and environmentally friendly maintenance of insulated pipes

Alternative title: CUI Solutions - et paradigmeskifte innen trygt, effektivt og miljøvennlig vedlikehold av isolerte rør

Awarded: NOK 5.0 mill.

Project Number:


Project Period:

2021 - 2022

Funding received from:

There are hundreds of kilometers of insulated pipe networks within the oil & gas-, chemical- and process industry on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, as well as onshore. Insulation is commonly used for fire protection, noise reduction or to stabilise process temperature. Even though the insulation is encapsulated, water finds its way into the system and can cause corrosion under insulation (CUI). CUI can lead to downtime of a plant and potentially cause major accidents. The uncertainty of where the water has migrated, forces operators to manually inspect insulation and cladding on a regular basis. This procedure is immensely costly and ineffective, as the check is sometimes conducted too late, or may reveal a completely unaffected piece of pipe. Inspection is presently not governed by the underlying physical mechanisms. Annual costs related to CUI maintenance within the oil & gas industry in Norway are on the order of billions NOK. SINTEF Energy Research is developing state-of-the-art models, that capture important moisture migration physics in insulation materials under realistic plant conditions. Using these models, we are able to predict where moisture accumulates in the pipe system and ultimately can cause CUI. This information is of significant value for the plant operator's maintenance plan, which can become more targeted. Focused maintenance will increase plant integrity, i.e. reduce the potential for major accidents, reduce waste production, improve HSE conditions for inspection personnel, and reduce the plant operator's maintenance budget. In this project, we have investigated how our modelling software can be turned into a profitable business.

This project paves the way for commercialisation of the technology in terms of a start-up company. The technology will enable predictive CUI maintenance in the petrochemical, maritime and chemical process industries. This can reduce the cost by more than 50%, which globally amounts to more than $50 billion per year. Since insulation materials are unrecyclable, the technology is environmentally beneficial as massive amounts of unnecessary, non-degradable waste are avoided. Increased plant integrity achieved by focused maintenance on the critical parts of the plant, will decrease the likelihood of leakage – minimizing the environmental footprint. A reduced probability for major accidents and superfluous maintenance activity (e.g. work at heights) can be expected. Information on the corrosion state of a plant can also be of value for authorities such as the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway. In summary, this project supports actions 9, 12 and 14 of the UN Sustainability Goals.

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