Oil and gas innovation to benefit Japanese nuclear sector

Article by Amanda Jasi

RAWWATER Engineering Company, which developed specialist alloys for the oil and gas industry that are being adapted to support Sellafield decommissioning challenges, has announced a contract that will take it into the Japanese nuclear sector.

Rawwater provides the oil and gas sector with contract research and consulting. The company pioneered bismuth-based alloys as superior, cost-effective alternatives for traditional oil and gas well plugging techniques. Rawwater adapted its technology by combining bismuth with other metals, creating alloys that can be tailored to expand, contract, or remain neutral as needed when they solidify, offering significant benefits to the nuclear industry.

The new contract was made with Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), a major Japanese energy operator. TEPCO is to explore using Rawwater’s Molten Metal Manipulation (M3) technology across its nuclear power plants.

M3 technology comprises a range of application techniques which employ Rawwater’s bismuth alloys to provide on-site cast metal seals in high risk industrial sectors, including oil and gas, defence, and nuclear energy. M3 technology can be used to prevent fluid leakage by filling large openings or micron-sized cracks or pores. Using this technology Rawwater’s alloys can be deployed in the air or underwater to stabilise structures and provide radioactive shielding.

Other key features of Rawwater’s M3 technology include reduced recovery costs and extreme longevity. In the oil and gas sector, bismuth’s underwater cast metal seals are expected to last 3,000 years, a world-first.

Trials using M3 technology in simulated Sellafield applications are producing “extremely encouraging” results.

The contract between Rawwater and TEPCO was brokered by the UK National Nuclear Laboratory, which will monitor the Rawwater project. The NNL offers world-leading nuclear expertise and innovation and is the only UK organisation able to provide technical support across the whole nuclear industry.

NNL is to produce independent reports for TEPCO which will include results from demonstrations at NNL’s Workington facility in Cumbria, UK. The NNL’s Workington laboratory provides a dedicated facility for non-radioactive test rig activities.

Rawwater is also working with the Ministry of Defence to engineer its M3 technology into a backpack that could provide instant, emergency metal repairs on the front-line. It would enable military personnel to spray solidifying material over a damaged surface for immediate repair. This, for example, would allow troops to repair fuel tanks damaged under fire without having to empty the tank.

Robert Eden, Founder and Manging Director of Rawwater, said: “We're delighted the versatility and effectiveness of M3 have been acknowledged so widely and are excited by the prospect of working with such prestigious partners.”

Kat Lennox, Account Director at NNL, said: “We very much look forward to continuing our work with TEPCO and Rawwater as they explore the full potential of this highly promising technology.”

Rawwater transitioned into the nuclear sector through Sellafield’s Game Changers, an innovation programme designed to identify and develop technologies which can offer significant, pioneering advances in the decommissioning of the UK’s nuclear facility, Sellafield. The programme is delivered by the NNL and FI360, which supports early-stage technologies from concept to commercial product.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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