Unlike inline inspection, above-ground inspection and hydro testing, inline leak detection is not currently mandated on all pipelines in North America. However, in specific cases, inline leak detection can be mandated. An example of this is a major operational change – such as a flow reversal – that might result in regulators mandating specific inspections for a period after the project. Additionally, a major leak event can result in reactionary regulation that requires the operator to complete unscheduled inspections to regain the license to operate.
While no formal regulation exists, industry regulators are becoming less tolerant of leaks, particularly if they are close to environmentally sensitive areas. This is evident based on the regulatory reaction and penalties paid by operators that have had significant leak events.
To demonstrate to regulators that the proper management of a pipeline is in place, operators often proactively complete inline leak detection to showcase that all available solutions are in place to reduce risk and confirm product containment. Beyond regulation, regular use of inline leak detection allows operators to identify any potential leaks earlier. Discovering a leak through inspection helps reduce the negative public perception that occurs when the public discovers a leak. Early identification also reduces the potential consequence of failure that can result from a leak going undetected for a long period of time.