The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Goss Works on “Intelligent Pigs” for ExxonMobil

Mechanical engineering major Brian Goss joined ExxonMobil Development Company on June 1 as a summer engineering intern in the Subsea Riser Flowlines Group. Goss’ introduction to the energy industry has been a unique one. During the worst oil spill catastrophe in U.S. history, he has the rare opportunity to experience first-hand an inside technical perspective amidst a storm of media controversy and public outrage. Goss is supporting the Julia Project, a subsea tie-back to Chevron’s Jack St. Malo platform, located in the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite the six-month moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf, Julia is expected to launch production in 2015 and represents ExonnMobil’s deepest offshore venture to date, in a place that’s a staggering 7,200 feet from the mountainous sea floor. That depth presents a whole host of new design challenges. 

Goss’ role has been to evaluate the performance capabilities of two critical technology functions of the project: thermal “wet” insulation and inline pipeline inspection tools known as “intelligent pigs.”

Goss has investigated various multi-layered thermoplastic insulation systems intended to maintain the temperature of fluid contents above the wax arrival temperature and prevent hydrate formations during shut-in periods.

Additionally, Goss is assessing pigging tools in thick-walled riser pipe applications that rely on different inspection technologies such as magnetic flux leakage and ultrasonic. To ensure the integrity of pipeline over its long service life, intelligent pigs transverse the line and survey the pipe wall for various defects, including circumferential and axial corrosion pitting, grooving, and cracking.  

In order to determine if the project conditions warrant an extension of qualified technology, Goss has interfaced with “subject matter experts” managing projects offshore from Nigeria, Angola, and Norway. Goss has also engaged global manufacturers such as Bredero Shaw and General Electric, and has toured their production facilities to learn more about innovative insulation and pigging technologies.

By the end of his internship, Goss is expected to issue a technical report detailing his findings and formally present his recommendations to management so that ExxonMobil will be well-positioned to evaluate the economic and environmental benefits of this project.

“Brian surpassed our expectations during his summer internship in Houston,” said his supervisor, Marc W. Abbey. “He took on a very challenging assignment and exceeded in every way. We were impressed with his attitude, abilities, and style in achieving results. He also built up a strong network of technical experts along the way. We are hoping he will consider returning as a regular employee after graduation." (July 2010)