Alvaro Rodriguez, Marketing and Development Manager for the Energy Transition, explains the methods behind this evolution, and what Vallourec can offer today.
Energy providers worldwide are making their entrance into sustainable energy markets. However, while green energy projects are critical to decarbonization, many energy providers struggle to properly equip their ventures, uncertain which suppliers can provide reliable technology.
“Industry players involved in the energy transition expect solutions that have been properly engineered. They need the same level of support and expertise that we have already offered for decades in oil and gas,” says Alvaro Rodriguez, Marketing and Development Manager for the Energy Transition. “They are looking for equipment that ensures the safety and integrity of their assets. This includes tubing and casing connections that remain gas-tight in the harsh conditions created by the low-carbon applications that are key to accelerating the transition and meeting global decarbonization objectives. In light of this, our challenge is to develop and qualify solutions in a timely manner, so we can fully support our customers worldwide.”
Testing our versatile VAM® connections
Vallourec is no stranger to low-carbon technologies, having supported geothermal projects for over 30 years. Today, the group is leveraging its extensive expertise in oil and gas to adapt its premium VAM® connections to green energy markets.
“At the Vallourec Research Center for Connections (VRCC) in France, our experts undertook an iterative process, mixing innovation and fast-track development,” Alvaro says. “They work in state-of-the-art testing facilities where they are able to apply mechanical loads, such as tension or pressure, and extreme temperatures to full-size connections. This enables them to assess how connections would perform in a real well, for either standalone or cyclical events.”
Each sustainable energy solution comes with its own challenges. For Vallourec, this means testing VAM® connections under varying conditions, and tailoring offers to individual applications.
Pioneering solutions for CCUS and hydrogen storage
For CCUS (Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage), there are currently no industry-wide standards for validating tubing or casing connections. Vallourec sees this as an opportunity to showcase its long-lasting expertise on connection design and validation. Our research teams quickly focused on developing in-house testing and qualification protocols that are relevant and representative of the real application. Testing is focused mainly on applying extreme thermal and loading conditions and ensuring that connections remain tight, even under severe temperature fluctuation and depressurization.
Results show that VAM® connections perform well in the conditions required for CO2 storage wells. In wells, the temperature range reaches as low as -80°C (-112°F) in worst-case scenarios and cycles down to -35°C (-31°F) in more standard operational conditions. “We physically tested operational conditions, but also survival loads, including the worst-case scenario: a blow-out of the CO2 stream. Then we tested operation loads again to ensure our tests reflected real-world conditions,” Alvaro says. “The results confirm that VAM® connections are suitable for CO2 storage wells.”
Similar to CCUS, hydrogen storage projects face a lack of industry standards, including for casing validation, leaving Vallourec to create its own testing methodology. When testing the VAM® 21 connection, Vallourec paid close attention to avoiding leaks and managing safety risks.
“Ensuring VAM® connections are hydrogen-tight is a must, as this gas can be flammable and a leakage can be critical for well integrity,” Alvaro emphasizes. With the support of external partners, Vallourec proved through full-scale tests that VAM® 21 remains gas-tight with mixtures from 5% hydrogen and 95% nitrogen up to 100% hydrogen gas. The team then focused on creating a safe and accurate way to test and validate VAM® 21 for hydrogen storage wells.
“The challenges in hydrogen storage wells come from the fluid itself, but also from the well life-cycle and particular load scenarios, such as cyclical pressure loading or temperature variations,” Alvaro explains. “Hydrogen is also more prone to leakage than other gases, so sealability is non-negotiable. By qualifying our premium VAM® 21 connection, we can offer a leakproof connection for hydrogen storage wells.”
Wide-ranging connections for geothermal wells
Vallourec already qualifies its VAM® connections for geothermal projects, through stringent protocols including Thermal Well Casing Connection Evaluation Protocol (TWCCEP), which is an increasingly common requirement for geothermal operators. “The main challenges for geothermal wells are associated with high temperature, which leads to compression stress and the potential for equipment collapse,” Alvaro says. “Our teams test our connections to overcome these challenges and ensure well integrity.”
Both premium and semi-premium connections are suitable for geothermal projects, depending on their purpose within the well. For non-critical areas, Vallourec’s semi-premium DWC/C-IS, BIG OMEGA-IS, and DINO VAM® connections are available and have already been selected by our geothermal customers. For critical strings like production casings, geothermal operators can rely on premium VAM® connections such as VAM® 21, which are qualified to TWCCEP standards and can withstand high temperatures and extreme pressure.
“Vallourec can support geothermal operators as they optimize their designs, providing reliable and proven connections for all the strings in the well,” Alvaro says. “We’ve already undertaken many complex projects, such as the GreenFire geothermal energy plant in California. For this project, Vallourec engineered a proper solution that over-performed the existing solutions for these geothermal wells. The result was dramatically increased output and reduced levelized costs of energy.”
Transformative connections for energy providers
Motivated by changing regulations and climate change pledges, energy providers are seeking equipment suppliers who can support their decarbonization projects quickly and reliably. By adapting our premium and semi-premium connections for clean energy applications, Vallourec is prepared to help energy providers decrease emissions and produce renewable energy.
Vallourec has always pioneered complex technologies, and today’s solutions are only the beginning. As the energy transition advances, our experts will run ahead of it, building the solutions clients need.Alvaro Rodriguez Marketing and Development Manager for the Energy Transition