There are thousands upon thousands upon thousands of miles of oil and gas pipelines across the U.S. It is impractical – well, impossible really – to personally inspect every square inch of these pipelines on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, spills are a fact of life. A 50-year-old pipeline is going to be full of dings, dents, corrosion and cracks. When those dings and cracks aren’t discovered before a leak, problems mount quickly.
Here are the top four impacts of an oil and gas pipeline spill.
No. 1: The Environment
There is an environmental impact to any spill, whether that impact is on humans, wildlife or the natural environment in which the pipeline is built. And even a small spill can cause a significant problem.
No. 2: Safety
Just inspecting the pipelines can be dangerous for a worker – especially for pipelines built in dangerous areas or underground. Once a leak is detected, fixing that leak can be a huge safety risk for the employees sent in to handle it.
No. 3: Service Interruptions
A spill requires a shutdown of at least the affected pipe, but likely has a much greater impact on the system. Depending on where the damaged pipe is located, it’s feasible that a significant part of the pipeline network will be offline until repairs are completed. Most of our country runs on oil and gas, so any interruption in service can have a major impact on consumers and their daily lives.
No. 4: Cost
There is significant cost to pipeline operators when a spill occurs. That cost comes in many forms – lost production time while repairs are underway, the actual cost of repairs, costs incurred to remediate any environmental concerns, potential environmental fines and costs associated with hits to your company’s reputation.
What Can Be Done?
There are a few options out there for pipeline operators, but one new solution offers some unique capabilities. Battelle PipeAssess PI™ Axial Crack Software uses advanced analytics to estimate remaining pipeline life and predict crack growth under various operating scenarios.
The software was created – and proven as a viable tool – during a 2015 study for the U.S. Department of Transportation. It also was vetted with oil and gas companies to confirm its usefulness. PipeAssess incorporates everything from the type of metal the pipeline is made from to the environmental conditions it resides in. The software tells operators the probability of a spill and specific locations where leaks area likely to occur – a much more economical (and environmentally friendly) approach than sending a crew of people to inspect things in person.