Improved real-time continuous leak detection over long pipelines is needed to reduce the consequences of pipeline leaks. While a number of laboratory tests have been conducted on distributed fiber-optic sensing technologies, there is an incomplete picture in the literature as to how such laboratory results translate to performance in actual operational environments. To help generate such information, a field trial of a fiber-optic-based leak detection system was conducted at an operational site in Texas. The system was installed over a three-kilometer segment of a new produced water pipeline and monitored for several weeks. During this time, unannounced simulated leaks were executed to test system performance.
The overall objective of this project was to evaluate the performance of the distributed leak detection system on an operational pipeline over an extended period of time. This test evaluated the ability of distributed systems to recognize leak events, as well as third?party events. The target application was to detect the presence of small leaks (?0.25 inches in diameter) in buried pipes. Specific objectives included:
- Assessing the ability of the system to detect a range of simulated leaks in realistic field conditions.
- Assessing the system’s rate of false positives.
- Determining the operational envelope and limitations of such system in field conditions.
In addition to providing a description of the test site and a summary of results, this paper will provide insight into the methodology used to simulate leaks in an operational environment. It is critical to capture how to validate such a technology without generating an actual leak from a pipeline containing hydrocarbons.