It is estimated that the global transmission network spans over 3 million kilometers in length, and that half of the constituent pipelines have already surpassed their original design life. This infrastructure is expected to remain operational almost indefinitely, acting as a major enabler for the energy transition by continuing to transport hydrocarbons, as well as hydrogen, biofuels and CO2.
The transport and containment capabilities of aged pipelines can be impaired by damage accumulation through time?dependent mechanisms, with nucleation and progression rates affected by multiple factors, ranging from design and construction to environment and service, varying along a pipeline length and service life. As difficult as they might be to manage through the spans of space and time involved, the influence of these tangible factors is well?discussed in technical literature and addressed in Integrity Management and Regulatory Frameworks already in place.
Less often discussed is the influence of intangible factors, which can indirectly affect the condition of pipelines. The importance of competence in the management of critical assets has already been noted, but the influence of broad social, cultural and economic factors remains unexplored.
This paper intends to initiate a discussion of the theme. Using corrosion “prevalence” as a representation of pipeline condition, a cross-sectional analysis was conducted on data from over 6,700 inspected pipelines (29 million individual pipe joints) within 80 national and 503 private pipeline networks and over 100 million metal loss features.
Significant disparities were observed between networks in geographical locations of different socioeconomic backgrounds. The magnitude and replicability of such divergences suggest the influence of socioeconomic – and other intangible – factors is worthy of further exploration. Insights derived from such studies could be used to support the creation of evidence-based regulations and policies that will optimize the availability of these critical assets for future generations.