Hundreds and thousands of miles of pipeline transport oil and gas throughout different regions of the world, from the arctic to equatorial climates and to deep water regions far away from land. As demand for fuel continues to increase, companies will continue to explore and tap additional areas of the planet, creating a need for more pipeline systems to get hydrocarbon fuels from reservoirs to refineries to consumers.
Avoiding unnecessary costs
As a result, oil and gas companies shoulder the responsibility for extracting and transporting large quantities of fuel through pipelines without inflicting any environmental damage. In such an environment, poorly monitored pipeline infrastructures can drive up costs and increase the risk of damage to surrounding natural habitats and communities if leakage occurs.
Leak detection best practices and solutions
Leak detection is a prerequisite for safe and profitable operations. The latest standards and innovations can minimise the dangers of oil and gas pipeline leakage. Adopting pipeline leakage best practices can help companies become more competitive in an interconnected world where people worry about sustainability.
One common leak detection solution, computational pipeline monitoring (CPM), offers operators the ability to identify leaks and potential leaks faster and with greater accuracy. CPM systems help controllers leverage real-time field data to estimate hydraulic behavior of the product being transported and to detect operational anomalies, which may signal the existence of a pipeline leak.
CPM systems provide warnings regarding existing pipeline leaks and can help predict potential leaks.
However, the way in which CPM systems detect pipeline leaks can vary. Before selecting a CPM system, pipeline operators should evaluate their unique pipeline characteristics, business objectives, risk factors, and special safety concerns, such as proximity to environmentally sensitive or urban areas. Specific factors to consider include:
- Rate of false alarms and misses
- Sensitivity to pipeline flow conditions such as transients, shut-ins, starts, and stops
- Impact of instrument accuracy and configuration accuracy
- Personnel training and qualification requirements
- Required response time
- Leak location estimation and release volume estimation accuracy and precision
- Ability to detect pre-existing leaks
- Robustness/high availability
- Initial cost/tuning costs/maintenance costs
Industry guidelines and assessment tools allow organisations to evaluate their leak detection program and implement an appropriate solution. For example, API 1149, which is an American standard, serves worldwide as a best practice for analyzing leak detection systems. In addition, these standards help stakeholders to weigh the cost against the risk factors, and help determine the benefit of specific pipeline infrastructure enhancements on their leak detection capabilities.
Choosing the proper leak detection system solution requires a thorough evaluation, one which involves weighing a company’s business objectives against its threshold for risk. Leveraging an appropriate combination of technology and processes can help a company determine the right balance between risk and cost to ensure safe pipeline operation.