Maximilian Ihring, Manager Pipeline Management Solutions, Krohne
the continuing effectiveness of leak detection systems (LDS) is of paramount
importance for pipeline operators to meet tightening safety and environmental
regulations and to minimize the potential risks of catastrophic events.
updates of 49 CFR 195 require pipeline operators to evaluate the capability of
their LDS to protect the public, property and the environment, and to modify
them as necessary to do so.
systems often perform well when installed but degrade over time because of a
wide range of factors, including problems with instrumentation, software,
maintenance and operations.
do operators know whether their pipeline or pipeline network is sufficiently
monitored during all operating conditions, whether all parts of the system are
functioning properly and whether all the legal requirements and industry
standards are met?
the critical importance of effective leak detection, operators frequently rely
on industry experts, such as Krohne, to perform independent audits to test LDS
performance periodically or when a major change in operations occurs.
a relatively small cost, audits can ensure the LDS is performing as required,
and the LDS is optimized to prevent disastrous leaks. Audits also protect
against product loss and environmental damage of small leaks and the
detrimental impact of false alarms.
by outside experts can also have an enormous return on investment, guiding
operators to use relatively simple, cost-effective solutions to avoid huge,
ineffective capital expenditures on leak detection technology that is not
well-suited to the operator’s particular application.
should be part of a comprehensive program, because, as the American Petroleum
Institute (API) Pipeline Safety Management Systems Industry Team notes, “leak
detection programs and systems rely on people, processes and technology. A
deficiency in any one category can negatively impact the effectiveness of the
comprehensive system does not mean that one size fits all. A program should be
flexible enough to serve the needs of each operator in accordance with their
company’s strategy, goals and risk tolerances, and to address the operational
issues and business needs at various points in time.
recommends a fit-for-purpose approach: “In instances where your company program
is already sufficient, it may be just formally documenting what your company is
currently doing to manage and reduce the risks of leaks. In other cases, you
may need to strengthen your program by adding process, procedure, and/or
technology to close gaps that are identified in your API RP 1175 Gap Analysis.”
designing a leak detection audit program, operators may wish to consider the framework
Krohne has developed in their PipePatrol Health Check program, a
vendor-agnostic auditing and consultancy program based on over 35 years of
experience in leak detection on more than 420 pipeline projects.
findings can enhance quality and safety management and support the needs of
regulators or other third-party interests. Deliverables are not only audit test
results but can include a full report with explanations and recommendations.
stage provides a broad picture of the pipeline or pipeline network, the LDS,
including a snapshot of the pipeline application, a checklist of the current key
performance indicators (KPIs) and an evaluation of the company’s readiness to
The operator’s application is documented, including the fluid transported, the
operating conditions (constant pumping or sometimes shut down with valves
closed), the topology the pipeline traverses (flat, hilly), the type of
pipeline (aboveground, underground, subsea), the pipeline itself (material,
diameter, thickness) and the consequences of leaks in various locations. An
analysis is performed on whether these characteristics have been adequately
considered in the selection of leak detection techniques.
The design of the installed leak detection methods is analyzed against the
operator’s metrics for desired performance, the industry’s best practices and best
available technology (BAT), with recommendations on how to achieve the desired
Readiness. This step analyzes whether personnel have adequate training,
procedures and capabilities to operate the system and react appropriately in
case of a leak alarm representing a real leak.
second stage focuses on whether the LDS complies with, or even exceeds, the
applicable regulations and industry standards.
Pipeline Monitoring. The CPM methods and procedures are analyzed to ensure
compliance with API RP 1130.
operator’s Leak Detection Program is systematically analyzed, using the API RP
1175 Gap Analysis Tool, to ensure that all processes have been performed and
documented, including the selection of leak detection methods, performance
targets and metrics, testing, control center procedures for recognition and response,
training, and management of change.
next stage is to review the LDS currently in place, determining whether there
is newer hardware available that can perform better, asking questions such as
whether there have been operational changes that impact software requirements,
and whether newer security threats have emerged that must be addressed. These
questions are answered in two sets of data:
Check: The current health and operational status of the LDS in place is
documented through a survey of hardware operational status, software
operational status and cybersecurity status.
Analysis: A historical review of the previous 12 months calculates the
percentage of time the system has been running fully functional, degraded or
nonfunctional. This analysis leads to recommendations for further analysis of
the causes of failure or performance degradation.
testing of installed LDS and the organization’s response to leak events is
obviously critically important to evaluating performance and to implementing
and measuring improvements. Testing determines the quality and sensitivity of
the LDS: How large does the size and flow rate of the leak need to be to
trigger an alarm, and how well can the system pinpoint the leak’s location?
Tests fall into two categories: Simulated leak tests and physical leak tests.
Leak Test: In simulated leak testing, artificial leakages of different sizes
are generated, and the organization’s response is observed. Methods of
simulating leaks include playback of historical leak test data or overriding
SCADA or changing the values of the flow meters and pressure meters to alter
the signals that the LDS receives.
Leak Test: The installed LDS’s performance and the organization’s response can
also be measured by a physical leak test involving actual withdrawal of varying
amounts of fluid from the pipeline. This method is often recommended for the
initial leak tests as the complex response of a pipeline in case a leak cannot
be fully simulated.
complete pipeline leak detection audit gives visibility to the health and
effectiveness of the LDS and insight into the organization’s readiness to fully
respond to alarms. Being able to prevent everything from small leaks to
catastrophic events allows pipeline operators to avoid polluting the
environment, paying big fines, losing money in lost product, and tarnishing
their brand. P&GJ