3 Steps to Maximising Pipeline Integrity
Today, almost half of the oil and gas transmission pipelines are more than fifty years old. Ageing infrastructure is posing huge challenges for pipeline operators in keeping their pipelines running optimally and profitably in the face of increasing regulatory requirements, maintenance, reliability and safety issues. As commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences – environmental damage, economic loss and casualties, any pipeline failure may significantly affect the business performance of the pipeline companies.
To prevent pipeline incidents, ensuring maximum pipeline integrity is crucial for pipeline companies to sustain and profit in this competitive market. Pipeline Integrity management is not only about preventing incidents. It requires a holistic approach to effectively prevent, detect and mitigate pipeline leaks during its lifecycle.
A holistic approach to achieve Maximum Pipeline Integrity
Pipeline integrity requires a comprehensive program to ensure that hazardous commodities are not inadvertently released from pipeline. If a release does occur, steps will be taken immediately to minimise the impact. The 3-step holistic approach to achieving maximum pipeline integrity is fundamental to improve performance and safety:
Step 1: Prevention Activities
As the old saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure”. Prevention is the first and foremost strategy when it comes to pipelines. The best defense against a release is to proactively minimise the chances of occurrence in the first place. The costs associated with avoiding a release are much less than the eventual costs of clean-up, fines, and other civil liabilities — not to mention the damage to a company’s reputation. Companies can leverage analytics and simulation to help anticipate potential threats to pipelines and identify anomalies or issues before they become problems. A “cradle to grave” approach to Prevention from design to operations can be summarised as follows:
a) Design & construction
Pipeline must be properly designed and constructed according to the technical requirements (e.g., hydraulic calculations, physical properties of piping). Testing of the pipeline prior to commissioning must be thorough and cannot be compromised. Protective technology can be used to further enhance the pipeline’s structural integrity.
b) Operation & maintenance
Once the pipeline is operational, monitoring the operational and structural conditions of the pipeline is crucial to identifying circumstances that could lead to a commodity release. Inspection and monitoring technologies provide pipeline companies with the information they need to accurately assess the health of their pipeline and perform proactive maintenance on “at risk” areas.
c) Training & education
Apart from the technology, having a team of competent pipeline operators is equally important to achieve maximum pipeline integrity. Training operators on how to recognise situations or conditions that could potentially lead to a commodity release is clearly an important step in prevention. Operators can practice standard operating procedures for realistic experiences to be able to handle abnormal conditions in a safe and controlled classroom environment before they get deployed to the facilities.
Step 2: Detection Activities
As pipelines can stretch to hundreds and even thousands of miles long across different terrains, pipeline operators are facing mounting challenges to monitor and detect pipeline issues before a commodity release starts to occur. The ability to notice small operating changes that could indicate a release and, if a leak has indeed occurred, enables operators to localise the problem and shut down the pipeline quickly to keep the size of an incident, if any, as small as possible. This is a key component of pipeline integrity management. Companies can leverage either an external-based system – sensing, image or patrol-based- or/and internal based system also known as computational pipeline monitoring (CPM) to detect commodity releases after they have occurred; CPM is not a new concept and has been around for more than 30 years. It uses software that takes a variety of measurements available on the pipeline to detect anomalies or conditions on the pipeline that could indicate a commodity release. The CPM methods outlined in RP API 1130 that are commonly used today by pipeline companies are as follows:
- Line balance CPM techniques
- Real-time transient model (RTTM) CPM
- Statistical analysis CPM
- Pressure/flow monitoring CPM and lastly,
- Acoustic/negative pressure wave technique.
In general, these technologies are based on satisfying mass balance and signature recognition. As no one size fits all, deploying multiple detection technology to improve leak detection is often necessary to pick up different types of leaks that may exhibit dissimilar flow patterns and go undetected under a single technology. Identifying pipeline leaks quickly is key to minimising risks.
Step 3: Mitigation Activities
Minimising the impact of a commodity release to prevent catastrophic events is the third aspect of pipeline integrity. A release is normally classified as either major or minor. Major releases are emergency situations that result from a rupture to the pipeline that would pose environmental and safety hazards to the surrounding areas. Whether the commodity release is classified as a major or minor release, the mitigation process begins with identifying the location of the commodity release, recovering from effects and remediation of site.
Are you ready to achieve Maximum Pipeline Integrity in your enterprise today?
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Eddy currently manages Industry Solutions marketing at AVEVA, driving awareness of new solutions that enable enterprises to stay ahead of the curve. Over the past 15 years, he has been involved with product management, marketing and sales management in the Industrial Automation space. He is a strong advocate for leveraging technology to improve operational processes to enable a profitable and sustainable future for every stakeholder, Eddy holds a MBA from National University of Singapore and a Bachelor in Engineering from Nanyang Technological University.