SOURCE: University of Alberta

University of Alberta

SOURCE: University of Calgary

University of Calgary

SOURCE: Genome Alberta

Genome Alberta

SOURCE: Memorial University

Memorial University

December 08, 2016 10:15 ET

University of Calgary, University of Alberta and Memorial University partner to tackle microbial-induced pipeline corrosion

Collaborative research project receives $7.8 million investment to address oil pipeline corrosion

CALGARY, AB --(Marketwired - December 08, 2016) - A collaborative research project involving four universities in Alberta and Atlantic Canada has received major funding to address the issue of pipeline corrosion caused by microbial activity.

The federal government announcement was made today by Minister of Science, Kirsty Duncan in Montreal. The $7.8 m comes through the Genome Canada 2015 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition (LSARP). It will support Managing Microbial Corrosion in Canadian Offshore and Onshore Oil Production, a four-year research project set to begin in January with an aim to improve pipeline integrity.

"This work will definitely help to pinpoint how microbial activity causes corrosion in carbon steel infrastructure and help in its early detection so we can minimize leaks," says Lisa Gieg, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary. "It's not just about pipelines, this research will look at all points of contact between oil and steel in extraction, production and processing. This work can help make the industry safer."

Gieg is one of three project leaders who include John Wolodko, an associate professor and Alberta Innovates Strategic Chair in Bio and Industrial Materials at the University of Alberta; and Faisal Khan, a professor and the Vale Research Chair of Process Safety and Risk Engineering at Memorial University in St. John's, NL. Also working on the project is Rob Beiko, an associate professor in computer science and Canada Research Chair in Bioinformatics at Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S., and Dr. Tesfaalem Haile who is a senior corrosion specialist at InnoTech Alberta in Devon, AB. Beiko will be building a database to analyse the microbiology and chemistry lab results, while Haile's team will be working with the University of Alberta to simulate microbial corrosion in the lab and at the pilot-scale.

"To some degree, [microbial degradation of pipelines] is akin to a cancer diagnosis and treatment in the medical field," says Wolodko. "While there is significant knowledge and best practices in diagnosing and treating cancer, it is still not completely understood, and significant research is still required to further eliminate its impact to society.

"While this problem is complex, this pan-Canadian project brings together research groups from across Canada in different science disciplines to tackle this problem collectively. By bringing this multidisciplinary focus to this problem, it is hoped that this research will lead to a better understanding of the breadth of microbes responsible for microbial corrosion, and will help academia and industry develop improved solutions to rapidly identify and mitigate this form of corrosion globally."

While researchers at Memorial University are involved in all stages of the project, Faisal Khan, Head, Department of Process Engineering, and Director, C-RISE, Memorial University, says the focus for Memorial is on how microbes cause corrosion. Khan leads Memorial's multidisciplinary team, which also includes Kelly Hawboldt, Department of Process Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science; and Christina Bottaro, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science.

"We know that microbes cause corrosion, but we are examining how they cause corrosion," said Khan. "We are identifying the chemical source and how it reacts to the surface of the metal to cause corrosion. The risk models that we're developing will link the corrosion process to the outcome. This will be very important for industry when evaluating their level of corrosion intervention and control, and where to focus their resources on corrosion mitigation."

Corrosion of steel infrastructure is estimated to cost the oil and gas industry in the range of $3 billion to $7 billion each year in maintenance, repairs and replacement. Microbiologically influenced corrosion is responsible for at least 20 per cent of that cost.

The research team will take samples from a wide range of environments including offshore platforms and both upstream pipelines and transmission pipelines, which are all associated with different fluid chemistries and physical characteristics. By using the latest in genomics techniques, the interdisciplinary team will be able to look for trends related to specific microbes and chemistries that lead to microbial corrosion. Ultimately, the project will lead to better predictions of whether microbial corrosion will occur in a given oil and gas operation.

All three project leads say the key to success in this project is collaboration. Bringing the experience, skills and expertise from across a range of disciplines and from multiple universities provides the best opportunity to succeed in finding solutions to ensure the safety of pipelines and other oil and gas infrastructure.

"Genome Alberta and Genome Atlantic are pleased to be supporting a major study that will develop technologies to proactively detect and pinpoint microbial corrosion in both offshore and onshore oil production," notes David Bailey, President and CEO, Genome Alberta.

"These researchers will apply their combined expertise to help address the protection of our natural environment, as well as our growing energy needs," says John Reynolds, acting vice-president (research) at the University of Calgary. "We look forward to working with our research partners and funders who have joined together to support this important work through this Genome Canada award."

This grant was one of 13 projects that received funding in an announcement made by the federal government Thursday. Combined with co-funding from the provinces, international organizations and the private sector, the total announcement is worth $110 million. This includes a second project involving a University of Calgary lead to research methods of bioremediation of potential oil spills in the arctic. All the funded projects involve emerging knowledge about genomics (e.g., the genetic makeup of living organisms) to help address challenges in the natural resource and environmental sectors.

The project will be managed by Genome Alberta in conjunction with Genome Atlantic, and with an international collaboration of partners that are working together to ensure safer and more secure hydrocarbon energy production:

Genome Canada, Alberta Economic Development & Trade, Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland & Labrador, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Natural Resources Canada, InnoTech Alberta, VIA University College, DNV-GL Canada, U of C Industrial Research Chair, and in-kind support from a variety of industry partners.

About the University of Calgary
The University of Calgary is making tremendous progress on its journey to become one of Canada's top five research universities, where research and innovative teaching go hand in hand, and where we fully engage the communities we both serve and lead. This strategy is called Eyes High, inspired by the university's Gaelic motto, which translates as 'I will lift up my eyes.'

For more information, visit Stay up to date with University of Calgary news headlines on Twitter @UCalgary. For details on faculties and how to reach experts go to our media centre at

About the University of Alberta
The University of Alberta in Edmonton is one of Canada's top teaching and research universities, with an international reputation for excellence across the humanities, sciences, creative arts, business, engineering, and health sciences. Home to 39,000 students and 15,000 faculty and staff, the university has an annual budget of $1.84 billion and attracts nearly $450 million in sponsored research revenue. The U of A offers close to 400 rigorous undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in 18 faculties on five campuses-including one rural and one francophone campus. The university has more than 275,000 alumni worldwide. The university and its people remain dedicated to the promise made in 1908 by founding president Henry Marshall Tory that knowledge shall be used for "uplifting the whole people."

About Memorial University
Memorial University is one of the largest universities in Atlantic Canada. As the province's only university, Memorial plays an integral role in the education and cultural life of Newfoundland and Labrador. Offering diverse undergraduate and graduate programs to almost 18,000 students, Memorial provides a distinctive and stimulating environment for learning in St. John's, a safe friendly city with great historic charm, a vibrant cultural life and easy access to a wide range of outdoor activities.

About Genome Alberta
Genome Alberta is a publicly funded not-for-profit genomics research funding organization based in Calgary, Alberta but leads projects at institutions around the province and participates in a variety of other projects across the country. In partnership with Genome Canada, Industry Canada, and the Province of Alberta, Genome Alberta was established in 2005 to focus on genomics as one of the central components of the Life Sciences Initiative in Alberta, and to help position genomics as a core research effort.
For more information on the range of projects led and managed by Genome Alberta, visit

Contact Information

  • Media contacts:
    Sean Myers
    Media Relations Advisor
    University of Calgary
    T: 403.220.4756
    C: 403.607.7618

    Helen Metella
    Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Science
    University of Alberta

    Jackey Locke
    Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science
    Memorial University
    (709) 864-8287