Pipelines are the most secure transport system for Oil & Gas products. They are used to transfer liquid or gas for long distances from one place to another without loosing any product in between. In certain cases they can also be used as storage system in parallel. Typically a pipeline system is mainly based on a long and distributed buried piping infrastructure which is connecting various plant locations (like pump or compressor stations as well as terminals) and which is normally outside of a fenced and access controlled plant area. Therefore a pipeline can face various external environmental conditions which can not be always exactly predicted or controlled by pipeline operators. A part of these external conditions can also have an impact on the tightness of a pipeline system which creates a big variety of potential leakage scenarios. It is therefore necessary to monitor continuously the tightness of a pipeline system to mitigate all potential leakage scenarios. The necessary requirements are defined within the norms and standards (e.g. TRFL in Germany).
Pipeline operators do install Leak Detection Systems (LDS) for that purpose and a variety of various principals and methods are available on the market.
A general and brief overview of these Leak Detection Methods (“internal” and “external” systems) is provided within this paper from an independent point of view. Furthermore it will explain the different advantages and additional benefits for the pipeline operators.
“Internal” Leak Detection Systems are based on mathematical algorithms and forms an integrated part of the Control Center SCADA application software. “External” Leak Detection Systems are running in parallel to the pipeline system and can support the “Internal” Leak Detection Systems. Using specific fiber optic sensor cables do provide the latest developments within this field of application and can provide additional information (e.g. third party intervention, pipeline temperature profile, landslide or earthquakes along the pipeline).
ILF Consulting Engineers is involved as a designer within many international pipeline projects for more than 40 years. Acting as an independent owners engineer various types of Leak Detection Systems had to be specified, procured and commissioned depending on the project specific process conditions and environmental requirements.