Inspectioneering Journal

Detection of Small Leaks in Liquid Pipelines: Gap Study Analysis of Available Methods

This article appears in the September/October 2007 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.

Interested in a review of liquid pipeline leak detection technology focused on monitoring and detection of small leaks? The following research report from PRCI is now available.

Detection of Small Leaks in Liquid Pipelines: Gap Study Analysis of Available Methods - Product Code L52272, Contract PR-015-064503, Southwest Research Institute(R) Shane P. Siebenaler, SwRI(R) J. Christopher Buckingham, SwRI(R) Russell C. Burkey, SwRI(R) Terrence A. Grimley, SwRI(R) R. Edward Nicholas, Nicholas Simulation Services February 2007 196 pages.

Need: The integrity of the liquid pipeline network in the United States is of concern to the pipeline operators, the surrounding communities, and the government. During a recent Office of Pipeline Safety industry forum, concerns regarding the detection of small liquid leaks were discussed. The important topic areas related to small leak detection included identifying the available real-time monitoring and detection systems, assessing the need for new detection technologies, and understanding the performance of currently available systems.

Result: The member companies of the Pipeline Research Council International, Inc. (PRCI) sponsored a gap analysis study of detection of small leaks in liquid pipelines. The objective of the gap analysis project was to assess the gap between what liquid pipeline operators need in terms of leak detection and what various leak detection technologies can provide, specifically related to small leaks. For this gap analysis study, small leaks were considered to be pipeline releases that were less than 5% of nominal pipeline flow rate.

Benefit: Many of the gaps identified during the study focused on improving Computational Pipeline Monitoring (CPM) systems, since all of the operator respondents used these systems in some manner. Potential advancements for these systems hinged upon improving instrumentation and the modeling of complex conditions, such as slack line flow. Another key gap was the desire to lower the frequency of non-leak alarms without compromising leak detection sensitivity. Additional gaps were related to further investigation into external leak detection systems, since they might offer improved performance. The main identified gap regarding external systems was the lack of documented operational information.

For more information visit the PRCI at 713-630-0505 or web site

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