Uses for Beryllium in the Oil, Gas & Alternative Energy Industries
Beryllium is in wide use in the energy field to extract oil and gas, and has a big role in helping to find tomorrow’s clean and affordable energy sources.
Beryllium and beryllium-containing materials lower the cost of oil and gas exploration on land and in deep water. They’re also helping lead the way to new and affordable sources of traditional fossil-based fuels, and increasingly, to exciting alternative energy sources.
Helping stop the bleeding during the Gulf Oil Crisis
Copper beryllium materials played an indispensible role in capping the Macondo Well in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster. Due to the material's incredible strength, resilience to stress and ability to slip over other materials without galling, copper beryllium clamps were used to securely fasten the capping stack to the damaged well pipe. In addition, only copper beryllium has the strength, flexibility and transparency to magnetic fields that allowed the sensitive equipment to locate the blown out well and determine the precise location of the drill bit for the relief well bore.
Supporting Oil Exploration and Production
Alloys containing beryllium are used to extend the reach and effectiveness of oil and gas drilling equipment. Exploration crews depend on beryllium’s non-sparking properties to reduce explosion and fire risks. New directional drilling techniques, developed in the late 1990s, are helping rig crews reach more remote deposits. Yet, they depend on material that can operate reliably with electrical controls far from the drill head under high stress and elevated temperatures to prevent very costly drilling failure. Non-sparking copper beryllium alloy materials, which combine strength, conductivity, durability, and corrosion resistance, help make this possible.Beryllium-containing x-ray tubes and detectors monitor the well flow rates of water and oil and gas as these materials are brought to the surface.
Capturing Solar’s Potential
Alloys containing beryllium provide the thermal management, conductivity, and strength required in the electrical terminals that join the components of thin-film solar panels. The superior thermal properties of beryllia ceramic allow concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) solar cells to operate at very high solar concentrations — 1,000 times the intensity of the sun—yet keep vulnerable electronics in the CPV cool enough to operate efficiently. This technology is already delivering electricity to power grids in areas throughout the world with abundant sunshine.
Containing Nuclear Fusion
Fusion reactors employ beryllium for its neutron reflecting and moderating properties, as well as its ability to withstand the extraordinarily high temperatures associated with fusion energy. Fusion holds promise for delivering virtually unlimited sources of energy with virtually no greenhouse gases and little nuclear waste compared to traditional nuclear fission reactors. Beryllium has been qualified for use in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, a partnership that will operate the world’s largest prototype fusion reactor. Beryllium components are already proven in the smaller Joint European Torus (JET) experimental reactor located in England.