Oil and gas pipelines carry expensive, hazardous fuels at high pressure for many miles. Even small cracks or corrosion have huge cost and environmental implications. Oil and gas companies have workers patrol the right of use (ROU)—the area which the pipes occupy—as part of the program to manage the integrity of the pipelines. This helps both to discover any issues quickly and to keep third parties from damaging the pipeline. The line patrol man (LPM) surveys a swath of land that extends roughly a mile around the pipeline. He or she looks for leaks, unauthorized activity, disturbances to plant life, or other abnormalities.
The limitations of the current patrol system are numerous, primarily due to the lack of adoption of technology. An LPM is no longer the best solution to monitor the integrity of pipelines given today’s advances in artificial intelligence and prediction models.
The implementation of technology will make pipeline protection more efficient. The following components should be installed on the pipeline:
- Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM)-based remote monitoring system
- Consists of a high accuracy, compact, battery powered unit with built‐in GSM modem
- Interface for continuous remote monitoring of reference potentials, AC interference voltage, and pipe current at cathodic protection (CP) test stations
- High input impedance channel for reference cell monitoring
- Device tampering alert message to user
- Sleep mode for long battery life
- Data logging via. local interface (i.e., RS-485/USB)
- Remote communication to web server
Technological improvements can reduce human error in monitoring the pipelines. For example, images from drones can be analyzed using artificial intelligence to detect issues. AI can also analyze images for any trees or vegetation that may be encroaching on the pipeline. Additionally, GPS can be used to plot the locations of potential issues. Lastly, a TLP unit can be used to monitor pipes for corrosion and damage. Additionally, the system features can be conveniently monitored from your cell phone.