How do inline leak detection tools identify a leak?
Oil and gas pipelines have well-defined leak detection protocols to proactively identify leaks. The most common is computational pipeline monitoring (CPM), which works by continuously comparing the amount of product entering the pipeline to the amount of product exiting the pipeline – any discrepancy may indicate a potential leak along the pipeline. Most operators also use right of way surveys to look for signs of lost product that aren’t picked up by the CPM system.
While both methods are relevant, the majority of leak detection programs lack the accuracy and sensitivity provided by inline tools that can confirm product containment.
Inline tools are the most sensitive solution for identifying leaks, some of which can identify leaks as small as 0.03 GPM (115 mL), which is hundreds of times smaller than the lowest volume leak a CPM system can find.
Certain inline tools, such as PureHM’s SmartBall system, use an acoustic sensor that records data for the entire length of an inspected pipeline. The sensor identifies the sound created by product escaping a pressurized pipeline. The reason that these tools are so sensitive when compared to complementary systems is that the sensor directly passes the source of a leak and is never further that one pipeline diameter away from the leak itself.
While the acoustic sensor identifies and records a variety of sounds throughout an inspection, the acoustic signature caused by product leaving the pipeline is distinct and easy to discern from other sounds.