NDT.net October 2006, Vol. 11 No.10

Battelle Updates: Benchmarking of Emerging Pipeline Inspection Technologies

Issue Sommer 2006
Pipeline infrastructure is a critical element in the energy delivery system across the United States. Its failure can affect both public health and safety directly and indirectly through impacts on the energy supply.

With passage of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (PSIA) in 2002, industry is now required to invest significantly more capital to inspect and maintain their systems. The PSIA requires enhanced maintenance programs and continuing integrity inspection of all pipelines located within "high consequence areas" where a pipeline failure could threaten public safety, property, and the environment. Inspection of the pipeline from the inside, commonly referred to as "pigging," is a reliable and economical method to meet this requirement. However, a large percentage of these pipes cannot be inspected using typical pigs due to diameter restrictions, pipe bends, and valves. In other pipe infrastructure, pressure differentials and flow are too low to move a pig forward.

To enhance safety for unpiggable pipelines, research programs have been initiated to develop advanced in-line inspection (ILI) technologies capable of maneuvering around the various pipeline restrictions/limitations to detect mechanical damage, corrosion, and other threats to pipeline integrity. Through these efforts, several projects have matured to a stage where practical demonstration of their detection capability is necessary.

With funding from the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), Pipeline Safety R&D Program, and the Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) Gas Delivery Reliability Program, Battelle developed and conducted live technology demonstrations for several of these innovative pipeline inspection technologies.

Battelle was instrumental in developing the demonstration protocol, collecting field pipe samples with corrosion and stress corrosion cracking anomalies, manufacturing pipe samples with corrosion and mechanical damage anomalies, providing facilities to conduct the demonstration, and supplying documentation of the pipe samples and inspection results.

While research reports, review meetings, and conference presentations are commonly used to disseminate information, live demonstrations provide additional information on the current state and future potential of each development. Demonstrations are challenging to technology developers because newly developed technologies must be sufficiently reliable to obtain results in a fixed time frame. While the pressure to demonstrate the best capability of their technology advances is enormous, the developers understand these events are needed to bolster support for continued development.

With the ultimate goal of ensuring the safe, reliable, and environmentally sound operation of the nation's pipeline transportation system, in-field technology demonstrations are necessary to facilitate technology transfer from government-funded R&D programs and to strengthen communication and coordination with industry stakeholders. Through these efforts, it is anticipated that prototype systems can be built to traverse all pipes (including unpiggable lines) of various diameters while providing continuous, real-time detection of pipe anomalies or defects. For additional information on Battelle's pipeline safety and security capabilities, contact Dr. Bruce Nestleroth at (614) 424-3181, nestlero@battelle.org.

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