UPSF offers solutions to operators

UPSF helps operators develop solutions for their unique difficult-to-inspect pipe situations.

by Keith Leewis, President at Leewis and Associates, Canada

The UPSF Program Committee’s idea has always been to present real solutions that other operators have used to solve their difficult-to-inspect pipe situation. These ideas have been offered (on the odd years) to help operators develop solutions for their unique situations, which can represent from 5 per cent to almost half of some companies’ pipeline mileage.

From the beginning, liquid lines were designed to run free-swimming pigs, but there are a few dead legs and other design situations that require alternate cleaning and inspection techniques. Since the vast majority of gas pipelines were installed before 1995, these were never designed to be piggable. Alternate inspection solutions will always be an important aspect of integrity.

For 2019, at our fifth gathering, we welcomed many attendees from all around the world as well as from the Houston area. Almost two dozen participated in the Clarion ‘Inspection of Challenging Pipelines’ course for onshore and offshore systems presented by Michael Beller and Konrad Reber, and all stayed for the technical sessions and show.

With no new pigging regulations, few brand new robotics or other emerging technologies and impending Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration requirements, attendance to the show was lower than prior years.

Technology conference

There were 20 very good papers, as well as a featured panel on transmission pipeline materials verification, which is increasingly important for confirming the maximum allowable operating pressure if the supporting original mill tests and pressure test records are found wanting. The panel was supported by three papers: one on determining metallurgical properties from frictional sliding, which extends the indenter estimates to toughness, as well as two applying statistical approaches to make the local materials property sampling even more effective.

The conference was again well supported by pipeliners and our solution vendors, both willing to show off their joint successes and support alternate ideas. Day one was curiously bookended by the Westwood brothers Stephen (Onstream Pipeline Inspection) and Paul (ROSEN), who provided different solutions from different operator/company approaches to deal with some of the common historical design modifications that offer unforeseen challenges today.

Small diameter lines have always lacked a variety of tools but with miniaturisation and lower friction, several papers offered solutions that inspected pipe that had never been inspected before.

GRAID, a new robotic tool developed in Great Britain, was introduced to North America. Most expect these robots to go short distances in air; however, the Pipetel robotic tool, at full line pressure, has now continuously inspected 3.7 km by allowing the batteries to be recharged overnight using a simple 2 inch (51 mm) weldolet technique.

Several other robotic tools have shown success and confirmed that different configurations are needed for inspecting a variety of pipeline access, bidirectional travel, and multidiameter, challenges. Piper – a new inserted ball using a sonic technique – showed great promise in leak detection and resolving observations to detect design changes in pressurised lines, while we saw that pull-through techniques offer several advantages when lines are open to the atmosphere.

Offshore inspections from the exterior offer considerable advantages when considering unconventional approaches. Slugs of viscoelastic gels were also shown to offer unique cleaning and geometry change surveillance when traversing through pipelines to improve poor records.

Altogether, the technical conference and show provided an excellent opportunity to grow professionally, to discuss piggability challenges with other experienced operators and to explore solution possibilities with the major technology providers.

For example, on display was a full-size, special ball valve, configured to launch and retrieve cleaning tools and smart pigs; solving accessibility using flanges and a spool pup if the valve was not to be permanent installation. I hope all can recommend sending representatives to our future professional gatherings.

UPSF was generously supported by its exhibitors: Diakont, Fiberbuilt Manufacturing, Halfwave, Ingu Solutions, Intero Integrity Services, KMAX Inspection, KTN, Massachusetts Materials Technologies, Onstream Pipeline Inspection, Pipetel Technologies, Quest Integrity and ROSEN Group.

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