Right of way (ROW) surveys and computational pipeline monitoring (CPM) are effective methods of leak detection, both targeting different indicators that pipeline containment is compromised.
ROW surveys are an excellent way to look for visual signs of a leak along the pipeline length and CPM is effective at identifying large, sudden losses of product that can be detected by measuring the difference of product at each end of the pipeline or by a sudden loss of pressure.
Where these systems fall short is the ability to detect pinhole leaks, which can lead to large losses of product over time. ROW surveys are only effective if a leak is visible and do not effectively pinpoint the leak location. CPM system thresholds typically operate at 2-3% of the total throughput, meaning significant product losses still fall well below their lower threshold.
Using inline leak detection tools, such as the SmartBall, at regular intervals can complement these systems and create a complete leak detection effort. The SmartBall’s ability to detect pinhole leaks below the lower threshold for detection by a CPM system, allows operators to be confident that small leaks are not going undetected in their pipeline.
Each time an inline inspection is completed it verifies that product is contained within the pipeline and a leak below the CPM detection threshold does not exist, effectively resetting its baseline to that lower threshold each time. Regular use of inline leak detection tools increases an operator’s confidence that product is contained within their pipeline.
The use of inline tools in co-ordination with ROW surveys and CPM completes a leak detection program and demonstrates to regulators that the pipeline is being operated as safely as possible with the best available integrity technology.