Inside the Pipeline Monitoring Operation
Pipeline companies use a wide variety of methods to monitor pipelines, from highly advanced technology to patrolling the pipeline right-of-way. Visual inspections are done regularly – either by walking, flying, or using drones – and the industry also uses electronic monitoring from high-tech control rooms and patrols inside the pipeline. It’s a billion-dollar industry and a major but necessary undertaking for pipeline operators.
The Control Room
Just like NASA has mission control in Houston, pipeline operators have a master control room where all their pipeline operations are monitored. Every pumping station, every remote sensor, every maintenance operation, and every patrol on the ground and in the air is monitored using a SCADA system (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) similar to those used to monitor airports and space stations. Any changes in regular operations are quickly detected.
Carefully monitored from the control room, remote sensors on the pipeline track any change in pressure, flow rate, or temperature. Using ATVs, crews also patrol the line conducting regular maintenance and keeping a careful eye on the pipeline right-of-way. Special video surveillance cameras called hyperspectral imagers may also be used; they are fitted with hydrocarbon sensors (hydrocarbons give off a unique hyperspectral signature) and temperature sensors that can detect leaks. Aircraft, like helicopters and drones, are also used to scrutinize pipelines from the air.
What Happens if a Leak is Found?
While it’s rare for something to go wrong, the possible results of a leak are too dangerous to ignore. An integrity dig can help find answers. If the control room spots a potential issue, an integrity dig may be necessary. This is when a section of pipeline is excavated to give pipeline operators an up-close view of the pipeline to determine if a repair or replacement is required.
Contact Submar today to learn about our anomaly and integrity dig services.