WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- Plans to use existing U.S. pipelines to carry increasing ethanol production poses the problem the fuel can dramatically degrade them, researchers say.
Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology warn that ethanol, and especially the bacteria sometimes found in it, can worsen fatigue crack growth rates by 25 times the rate in air alone.
Researchers evaluated fatigue-related cracking in two common pipeline steels exposed to ethanol mixtures, including simulated fuel-grade ethanol and an ethanol-water solution containing common bacteria, an NIST release said Wednesday.
"Substantial increases in crack growth rates were caused by the microbes," NIST researcher Jeffrey Sowards said. "These are important data for pipeline engineers who want to safely and reliably transport ethanol fuel in re-purposed oil and gas pipelines."
The tests were performed on common pipeline steels, which are alloys of more than a dozen metals.
Ethanol, an alcohol that can be derived from corn, is often utilized as a gasoline additive for its oxygen content and octane rating.