Thermal Energy Transfer Across Alaskan Oil Pipeline

Friday, 13 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Nitin Pauletti, Cincinnati, OH
Cold temperatures in Alaska make oil inside the pipeline more viscous. This slows down the oil flow and could lead to an expensive pipeline shut-down. This project tested the hypothesis that insulators with a low thermal conductivity will slow down the cooling of a liquid inside a metal container more effectively than insulators with a greater thermal conductivity. Thermocouples were used to measure cooling of windshield wiper fluid in a tin box after it was placed on a dry-ice block inside a Styrofoam box. Different insulation materials made of polyethylene and polyurethane were tested. From time-dependent temperature profiles, apparent cooling rates were calculated using the linear decrease in fluid temperature inside the tin box and compared to the control experiment without insulator. For the best insulator, the polyethylene-based Brand B, the temperature of the liquid decreased ~17-fold slower than without an insulator. Based on these results, insulating the pipeline with this material will help to keep the oil less viscous because of reduced loss of energy that keeps the heat inside the pipe.