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Fuel theft in transportation pipelines has significantly grown in the last years and countries in Latin America or even in Europe, starts to perceive the losses due to these criminal actions. This paper presents a pipeline monitoring system with specific technology to fight this battle.
The criminal activity has been in expansion due to its high profitability and can be easily distributed to informal buyers. The majority of the thefts in pipelines are done with the installation of a hot tap, valves and hoses that connect the pipeline to a clandestine reservoir, stolen tank trucks or directly to commercialization recipients.
The presented system has been used and shows excellent performance, identifying and locating clandestine taps, providing significant loss control for the pipeline companies affected. The main difference of this system is its location feature precision, because of the industry conventional systems can only inform about an imbalance between the input and output of the pipeline, possibly due to a theft, but are not capable of pinpointing a location, while this system is capable of providing the theft location within only 50 meters and in a matter of seconds.
The operation principle of the system is the negative pressure wave that is generated every time that fluid is extracted from a pressurized pipeline. This negative pressure wave is propagated up and downstream, and because of that characteristic it is possible to calculate the origin of the event. The system has been in development for years and a considerable amount of technology has been achieved in ways to eliminate false alarms, enhance sensitivity and performance. The system is composed by several monitoring points installed, in some cases until 30 kilometers apart from each other with GPS synchronization, and can be used to retrofit existing pipeline installations with no leak detection systems.