Around 3,5 million kilometers of onshore and offshore pipelines are installed around the world, almost ten times the distance from earth to moon. For managing this enormous length, standardized processes for guaranteeing the adequate quality level of pipelines have been refined along the time, covering all aspects of their lifecycle, from design to decommissioning. However, once the assets are approaching the end of their projected lifetime, all these mature processes are not as reliable as they were, and it generates constrains if companies require extend the lifetime of their pipelines.
With the aim of covering the gap of how to guarantee a safe operation beyond the established period by design, lifetime extension studies provide a mean for evaluating all the aspects and systems related to pipeline, projecting their integrity condition to expected period and defining a suitable integrity management plan for achieving it. Based on guidelines from ISO 12747 and NORSOK Y-002, a structured approach for lifetime extension is presented considering the following key elements: Assessment of legislation aspects, evaluation of current condition of pipeline, risk analysis based on threats affecting the asset, specific assessments for supporting systems, calculations and conclusions. This approach requires the integration of different disciplines and specialists, and it is particular for each case, for considering the heterogeneity in construction methods, materials and environments, as well as diversity of management systems and legislation frames.
Nowadays Oil & Gas operators are facing new challenges caused by global adjustments on energy industry. Investments are based on different criteria and they are not always aligned to original design premises; it means that companies require optimizing their OPEX processes while their assets continue ageing. Lifetime extension studies, either as second or third party, offer a reliable key for ensuring a safe and profitable extended operation.