Hot tapping and product theft on pipelines: A way to detect and locate these spots during normal operation
Proceedings Publication Date
About 10 years ago, theft on pipelines had been a crime that was taking place in only a few regions far away from Europe. Within the last years this problem approaches nearly every country faster and faster. In 2013 there had been the first big incident of this kind in Germany. A 12” product line had been tapped, product had been stolen and 5000 m³ of soil had been polluted. Still this isn’t common practice here in Germany, but it starts to become so. In Other countries the situation is much worse. Nigeria for example is losing almost 15 % of its oil production through theft on pipelines. At current prices this would mean a financial loss of almost 3 Billion $ per year. Another example for the increase of vandalism is Mexico where an incline of up to 58% of registered pipeline taps took place in the first quarter of this year compared to last year`s first quarter Today the criminals are working very sophisticated with a lot of experience and professional equipment, so that there occurs for example no big pressure wave that can be detected by pipeline monitoring systems. Also the holes they drill are so small, they cannot be detected with online leak detection systems. Even the amount of product removed is small enough to not be detected by the flow measurement of the pipeline. One of the few ways to detect and locate spots where hot tapping and theft is taking place are leak detection pigs like the ones from GOTTSBERG Leak Detection. Defects along the pipeline that are too small to be detected with metal loss or crack detection pigs can lead to leaks that then will also not be recognized through permanent monitoring technologies. These are without exception not capable of finding small leaks of less than a few hundred liters per hour leak rate. The GOTTSBERG tools however have a certification from the German TÜV for a smallest detectable leak rate of 6.8 liters/hour at 6 bar, which corresponds to a drilling hole of around 0.3 mm. Additionally the GOTTSBERG tools are the only intelligent pigging devices in the world with an ATEX certification for Zone 0. This means an immense simplification when it comes to handling and regulations for the use of the pigs in explosive atmospheres. The presentation will give an overview on the world wide thievery of product out of pipelines and its development in the past and future. Using the example of the Gottsberg Leak Detection tools, different approaches in detecting and locating these leaks during normal pipeline operation will be presented.