Pipeline operators are considering the use of external leak detection systems on pipelines to augment their ability to detect leaks along critical segments of pipelines. A variety of technologies are commercially available and others are currently under development; however, a standard testing method or qualification procedure to determine if these technologies are suitable for a specific application does not exist. Field trials of external leak detection technologies are particularly difficult for liquid hydrocarbon leaks, since controlled releases from operating pipelines are not usually feasible due to environmental concerns. In addition, since liquid leaks from pipelines are so rare, there is little information available to technology vendors to describe the characteristics of an underground liquid hydrocarbon leak to help them improve the technology and deployment methods.
How the JIP helps:
The External Leak Detection Evaluation Program is considering this challenge from two directions:
- Develop a large-scale testing apparatus and rigorous testing methods to evaluate the performance of a variety of external leak detection technologies; and
- Model the behavior of underground liquid leaks to understand the characteristics so that more reliable leak detection systems can be implemented.
This approach provides operators with independent evaluations of different technologies and how different vendors perform. These same Vendors receive unique data on the characteristics of leaks to help them modify their technology and deployment strategies to increase the likelihood that they will detect a broad range of leak events.