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 Seminar participants visited CBMM's mine in Araxá

What started out as an idea for a small round-table discussion grew into an international seminar because of the significant interest expressed by professionals around the world. The Microalloyed Steels for Sour Service International Seminar was attended by over 120 specialists from 19 countries, representing the entire sour service sector supply chain. The event was sponsored by CBMM and hosted by the University of São Paulo's (USP) Polytechnical School's Metallurgical and Materials Science Department.

Researchers, academics, steelmakers and end users discussed the particular challenges involved in establishing specifications and manufacturing steel products for application in sour service oil and gas exploration. Sour service denotes the condition where hydrogen sulfide is present, thus creating an environment that can lead to embrittlement of the material. To avoid failures in the linepipe used to transport sour oil and gas, it is imperative to design and deploy pipe that is resistant to the potentially detrimental effects of this operating environment.

Technical papers were presented by the world's leading specialists in the field, including representatives from major steelmakers, renowned academic institutions and research institutes (available for download he​re). In addition, presentations were delivered by end users regarding their specific needs for this challenging application, such as Petrobrás, the Brazilian oil exploration company that is developing large off-shore pre-salt petroleum deposits. 

Because the event brought together the foremost authorities from across the sector, lively, productive discussions exemplified the complexities involved in the exploration of reserves containing sour gas, as well as the dilemmas faced by the entire supply chain to safely extract resources by using the right steel, bearing in mind that manufacturers must produce the material economically in plants that may be designed for other products.

Referring to sour service environments, CBMM's CEO Tadeu Carneiro remarked at the seminar's opening, "The replacement for steel is better steel. More efficient steel is the answer. And this is one more example of where niobium improves steel properties." Microalloying design was indeed a topic of intense debate, with representatives of academia discussing their findings while those from the manufacturing side pointed out that the industrial scale presents a unique set of circumstances not often confronted in the laboratory.

The two-day seminar included a visit to USP's state-of-the-art Sour Service Laboratory, the construction of which was funded by CBMM. Professor Neusa Alonso Falleiros described the substantial efforts made to ensure safe working conditions since sour service laboratories are by their nature potentially hazardous. She went on to explain that USP has a long history of training Brazil's foremost scientists and strong partnerships with companies like CBMM serve to further enhance student preparation. 

A round-table discussion attended by the authors and led by eminent steel authority John Malcolm Gray provided a fitting end to the technical program by offering attendees an opportunity to debate the many provocative points raised during the seminar. Participants noted that the most valuable, and unique, aspect of the Microalloyed Steels for Sour Service International Seminar was the chance to focus on a technically difficult topic together with their peers at the highest professional level.  

Following the close of the technical program, some 80 conference participants traveled to Araxá, Minas Gerais, site of the CBMM's niobium mine and headquarters, to see firsthand the world's largest fully-integrated, cutting-edge niobium products manufacturing facilities.