Expect the unexpected during inline inspection runs

Over the past decade, several high profile oil and gas pipeline failures have shown that the consequences of a rupture can be extremely severe for both the environment and human life, and can result in billions of dollars in remediation costs. Because of all these negative consequences, governments have made it mandatory to conduct routine inspections on these assets to prevent catastrophic events.

Today, the most common form of pipeline assessment is inline inspection (ILI) with smart pigs. These pigs flow with the product, collecting data on the condition of the pipe wall. When these tools are operating in a live pipeline, it is important to track their precise location and speed, as a lost or stuck pig can obstruct product flow, cause unwanted service disruptions or damage the pipeline.

A common misconception about pig tracking is that a run always goes as planned.  In the majority of runs, nothing unexpected will occur, but there have been a few cases where a minor event can quickly derail the smoothest of jobs, resulting in cost escalations and unnecessary hassle for the pipeline owner. By taking proper precautions and using advanced tracking technology, pipeline owners can ensure that they are prepared for any unexpected event that may occur.

Traditionally, pigs have been tracked by a single technician equipped with a standard geophone to identify the pig passing. This method can be extremely challenging and unreliable, and can result in a lost pig. In order to mitigate the risks of conventional tracking, owners can use remote tracking technology which provides greater reliability and accuracy.

Remote Tracking Prepares Asset Owners for the Unexpected

Remote tracking combines above ground markers (AGMs) equipped with multiple sensors with remote communication technology. This ensures that the pig is being tracked using more than one sensor, which is significantly more reliable than a standard geophone. In addition to tracking with multiple sensors, pipeline owners and ILI vendors are provided with a record of each passage that is downloaded from the AGMs. This record shows the signal of the pig passage, along with other information such as time and speed. The AGMs provide snapshots into a software where they can be used for real-time tracking of the pig’s position, speed, and estimated time of arrival. Pipeline owners can be sure that the results are accurate because the AGMs constantly record data to confirm pig passages when they are turned on.

If a pig gets stuck, the AGMs will know if the pig has not passed a tracking location, making it much easier for field technicians to retrieve it in a timely manner, so no damage is caused to the pipeline. Remote tracking provides reliable information and when unexpected events occur, enables pipeline owners to be better prepared for any issues that may arise.

To learn more about remote tracking and its benefits, download the white paper below.

Sensor with remote communication technology