Ensuring a consistent flow of liquid or gas is one of the midstream industry’s most important responsibilities. Pipes that don’t function as well as they should could mean the loss of precious resources, as well as public safety and environmental concerns. It’s no wonder that pipeline maintenance and pipeline repair are two of the most crucial tasks for those who serve this sector.
There are numerous methods and techniques available to inspectors, but there are some common practices that anyone in the industry should be familiar with, at least on a basic level. What follows are some of the essentials of pipeline inspection and maintenance and what they mean for contractors and service providers.
Inspecting the Lines
Before any work can be done on pipes, you must know where the complication exists. A thorough evaluation of the entire pipeline system should be completed at regularly scheduled intervals to detect and prevent problems before they arise.
If an obstacle is identified, a more detailed and localized examination can take place to diagnose the issue. Typically, an inspection of this kind is accomplished by inserting a cylindrical device known as a “pig” directly into a line. The pig is ferried through the pipes by the flow of liquid or gas, sweeping out any blockages or debris as it passes. Some pigs can also detect cracks or signs of breakage through the use of onboard sensors.
For situations in which pigging is not feasible, advanced magnetic flux leakage or ultrasonic testing can be performed. The signals created by these technologies can pinpoint any irregularities or weaknesses.
Once the problem is found, the work begins on repairing it. One of the most common methods includes a composite wrap that goes around the existing pipe and reseals it. Another frequently used practice is hot tapping. This technique allows crews to create a new branch connection without interrupting the current service, which prevents leakages, reduces costs and increases worker safety.
However, the best way to avoid invasive and time-consuming repairs is with routine pipeline right-of-way maintenance. Clearing trees, brush and other obstacles is necessary for the upkeep of any pipeline and allows for quick and easy access if a problem does occur. While there may be environmental considerations that make pipeline ROW maintenance challenging, it is essential to keep these areas clear at all times to evaluate surface conditions and preserve public safety.
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