“Pipeline integrity” refers to a comprehensive program that ensures hazardous commodities are not inadvertently released from a pipeline and minimizes the impact if a release does occur. There are three phases to “pipeline integrity:” prevention, detection, and mitigation. Prevention, the first line of defense against the release of hazardous commodities, encompasses activities and solutions that seek to avoid commodity release from occurring in the first place. Prevention is obviously of paramount importance and its process can be split into three categories, which include design and construction, operation and maintenance, and training and education.
The first phase involves properly siting the route and specifying the technical requirements, like hydraulic calculations and physical properties of piping. There are a few important considerations for process simulation, design and construction, which include how best to:
- Avoid geo-hazards along pipeline route
- Ensure that the pump or compressor is sized correctly
- Ensure that surge suppression equipment is sized correctly
- Protect the pipeline against corrosion
Pipeline simulation tools and technologies make it easier than ever for pipeline operators to address these design and construction factors.
Once a pipeline is in service, continuously monitoring the operational and structural conditions within the pipeline is critical to warn of circumstances that, if not mitigated, could lead to a release. Inspection and monitoring technologies provide pipeline operators with the information they need to accurately assess the health of their pipelines and perform proactive maintenance on “at risk” areas. Some of the most important aspects to monitor and inspect include:
- Operating pressure
- Internal and external integrity of the pipeline
- Depth of cover
- Ground temperature and excavation activity
Educating and training pipeline operators is the final stage of prevention once the pipeline is designed, constructed, and brought into service. In charge of operating expensive pipeline assets, operators should be required to go through training, or at least have certification, to meet the best practices for prevention. This will ensure that they are exposed to situations or conditions that could potentially lead to a commodity release. Taking precautions to educate residents and third parties have sufficient information can also help avoid problems.
Interested to learn more about the 3 phases of pipeline integrity – download the whitepaper.
The saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” holds true for pipeline integrity. The costs associated with avoiding a release are much less than the cost of cleanup, fines, and other civil liabilities – not to mention the damage to a company’s reputation. The best defense against a release is to proactively minimize the chances of its occurrence in the first place. With technology and tools existing today that help anticipate potential threats to the pipeline and identify warning signs, pipeline operators can work to prevent pipeline leaks before detection and mitigation practices are needed.