While there have been many advances in various types of energy sources, the United States still remains highly reliant on oil and gas. In fact, there are more than 1.6 million miles of natural gas pipeline alone. While much of it is underground, there are still many above ground systems carrying energy to millions of Americans. And as with any component of our infrastructure, pipeline maintenance and repair services are essential.
Pipeline Maintenance and Repair Services
In general, pipelines are safe. In fact, pipelines are 70 times safer than trucks. Since they can often be placed underground, they can maintain maximum safety for decades. However, poor pipeline maintenance can often lead to issues.
Pipelines do deteriorate over time. Additionally, construction projects and natural disasters can threaten pipeline integrity. As such, it’s essential that pipelines are given attention on a periodic basis. There are numerous laws and regulations already in place that dictate the overall safety and required compliance guidelines associated with pipelines. Even with these regulations, it is important to trust in proper pipeline maintenance and repair services even if compliance guidelines have already been met. Doing so ensures that costs are reduced, safety hazards are avoided, and service interruptions don’t occur. If maintenance is neglected, the negative results are things that can affect the lives of those depending on oil or gas as well as impacting the bottom line for those who are responsible for the pipelines.
Pipeline maintenance and repair can include a wide range of services including:
- Inspections and checks on all aspects of the pipeline and any associated valves or lines
- Routine valve repair and replacement
- Repairs around erosion-prone areas
- Installation of new sections
- Overhauls on pipelines
- Repairs to anomalies
- Failed line repairs
- Identifying potential issues and correcting them
Pipeline Anomaly Digs
Most of today’s pipelines are buried beneath the ground. Pipeline anomaly digs, also called pipeline integrity digs, are essential components of regular pipeline maintenance and pipeline repair services. In a pipeline anomaly dig, a section of pipeline is excavated to allow operators the chance to inspect the pipeline to determine if repairs or replacement are required. This is generally a process that begins if a problem – an anomaly – is detected.
Sensors and in-line inspection tools known as ‘smart pigs’ detect anomalies that may include leaks, metal loss, density changes, and corrosion. These detectors use magnetic fields, sensors, transmitters, GPS, and acoustics to identify potential problems with the pipeline. Once a potential anomaly is detected, the next step is to conduct a dig.
The area around the anomaly is removed carefully using excavation machines for faster diggings. Once the pipeline is close, shovels are used to finish the excavation by hand. Upon revealing the pipeline, the operators will inspect the structural integrity. Magnets, water containing iron particles, and ultrasound technology are also used to identify potential problems. If an anomaly of any kind is found, the pipeline is repaired and reinforced. Every anomaly, no matter the size, is taken very seriously. Repairs follow very stringent guidelines. After a repair occurs, the pipeline will be coated and wrapped to add protection to it during the backfill process.
Smart Pipeline Pigging Inspections
The primary tool used to test pipelines today are smart Pigs (Pipeline Inspection Gauges). These pigging devices deliver data on the condition of a pipeline and are used to detect corrosion, dents, problems with weld seams, cracks, gouges, and more. Pigging uses the same techniques of an MRI – pigs are outfitted with highly sensitive sensors that gauge the thickness of pipes they are moved through. As the pig moves through the pipe, it sends data to receiving analytic tools that quickly identify potential issues.
There are several types of smart pigging tools including:
- Magnetic flux tools that use magnetic flux measurements to detect metal loss and density changes
- Ultrasonic devices that inspect liquid pipelines using ultrasonic measurement
- Geometry that use mechanical arms to measure the bore of a pipe as it travels through the pipeline
No matter the type of tool used, the important thing is to identify problems as soon as possible so they can be corrected and repaired before they develop into major issues.
One of the most important aspects of installation, maintenance, and repair of a pipeline, is the lowering process. Pipeline lowering requires an attention to detail. The entire process must meet guidelines set up by the US Department of Transportation’s PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration). During the lowering and backfill process, the pipeline must be protected from sharp rocks and abrasion. Backfill material may need to be sifted to prevent damage, and the pipeline must be inspected after lowering to ensure it isn’t damaged in any way.
No matter the pipeline project, our team is able to provide results and handle any pipeline maintenance, repair, or construction that you may need. Please see our Oil and Gas Construction Services page for more details on our pipeline maintenance, pipeline repair services, and other related offerings.