Over 1 million kilometers (620,000 miles) of oil and gas transmission pipelines in North America require inspection and assessment to ensure the products transported reach their destinations safely – a total distance equivalent to 78 trips around the circumference of the Earth. Unfortunately, 70% of the transmission pipelines that require assessment are difficult-to-pig or unpiggable.
Although the majority of unpiggable pipelines do not pose a high operational risk, pipeline degradation can still occur. Even a pinhole-sized leak on a low-risk pipeline can cause significant environmental damage if it goes unnoticed for a long-period of time. Regardless of the type of pipeline, safe operation of energy pipelines is always paramount and requires owners to monitor, inspect and ensure their pipelines are running properly.
Conventional inline inspection (ILI) tools are limited in where they can be launched and retrieved in the pipeline. Typically, they cannot be used in unpiggable pipelines without the large expense of installing launch and and receive facilities (also known as pig traps).
While traditional ILI tools cannot inspect unpiggable pipelines, inline confirmation of containment tools can. Inline tools, such as the SmartBallTM tool, can identify leaks as small as 0.028 GPM (gallons per minute) in pipelines, as well as provide other data outputs such as continuous temperature and pressure profiles. These tools do not require a traditional launcher or receivers to be setup for the pipeline, and can be inserted through alternative methods including valved tee sections, blind flanges, ball valve launchers, removable pipe spool launchers and temporarily removed valves. Confirmation of containment tools are also not affected by tight radius bends and other difficult to navigate features found in unpiggable lines.
PureHM’s SmartBallTM platform is a confirmation of containment tool and part of a best-in-class pipeline integrity and leak detection program. In one single deployment, the SmartBall tool collects a variety of pipeline and condition data to ensure pipeline owners can make informed integrity decisions about their unpiggable, or piggable pipeline assets. Learn more about the SmartBall tool.