Maintenance and Inspections

Key Takeaways

  • Pipeline operators utilize the latest proven innovations and technology to inspect pipelines.
  • Operators routinely inspect their pipelines using in-line inspection tools, which scan the inside of a pipe’s walls.
  • Pipeline companies take proactive steps to identify potential repairs before they become an issue.

How Do Operators Keep Pipelines Safe?

Use of advanced technology is a main driver of continuous pipeline safety improvement. Ongoing safety improvement efforts include using new technologies to evaluate pipelines and other parts of pipeline systems, analyzing data, and sharing best practices as the industry drives towards the goal of zero incidents.

As part of regular inspection, operators use high-tech tools that can detect issues in pipelines and allow operators to schedule preventative maintenance long before a minor issue becomes a major problem.

Operators also keep historical data about each pipeline, including what kind of steel it was made from, who manufactured it, what coatings have been used and what products have flowed through it – information that is used to manage and maintain a pipeline’s integrity.

In-line inspection tools, or smart pigs, scan pipe walls like an MRI.

Pipeline technicians work in the field where pipelines operate, conducting inspections, maintenance, and cathodic protection readings. These technicians also serve as a point of contact for information for the community.

What are smart pigs?

The primary inspection method for pipelines is in-line inspection using high-tech devices called “smart pigs.” Like an MRI at a doctor’s office, smart pigs can use magnetic resonance or ultrasonic waves to identify issues long before they become a problem. Learn more about how operators use smart pigs to conduct preventative maintenance.

Smart pigs are placed inside a pipeline and travel through it, scanning and measuring a pipe’s walls looking for signs of dents, corrosion, or cracking. The resulting data is then analyzed to diagnose issues and schedule preventative maintenance or repairs.

Discover how industry employees regularly inspect pipelines using smart pigs.

How Do Operators Prevent Pipeline Corrosion?

When steel is exposed to oxygen or water, the exterior of the pipe can corrode. Pipeline operators use several techniques to protect steel pipe from external corrosion. Operators use advanced coating materials to protect the exterior of the pipe to guard against corrosion and install advanced corrosion prevention systems on buried pipe using a process known as cathodic protection. Coating and cathodic protection help to safeguard the integrity of the pipeline on a continual basis. The presence of water and other materials that can be present in energy products can corrode the interior of the pipe wall. Operators use corrosion inhibitors to prevent internal corrosion and also use in-line cleaning tools to remove debris from the pipeline to further prevent internal corrosion.