Pipelines are essential to most people’s daily lives even if they don’t realize it. Gas moves through pipelines to make the distribution process safer, faster, and easier over long distances. Pipelines require continuous upkeep and preventative maintenance to keep them safe and functional. Planning ahead for common issues most pipelines face helps ensure their safety and longevity. Check out these ways to prevent pipeline issues proactively so that yours is protected and as functional as possible.
The most apparent and potentially devastating issue pipelines can face is leaks. There are different severities of leaks, and the consequences and clean up significantly differ based on what the structure carries. Still, avoiding leaks regardless of outside factors is the best route of action.
Leaks can be caused by many things, although the most common tend to come from corrosion eating away at the metal structure over time. Cases aside, the best course of action to mend leaks is to identify the leak as soon as possible—ideally before its formation. If it’s already formed, then directly after its formation is ideal.
When leaks go unaddressed, the results can be detrimental to the surrounding environment and communities. Leaks can ruin water supplies, damage native flora and fauna, and lead to pipeline shutdowns. Shutdowns are costly to the company and leaks can end up ranking up quite the bill.
Solution: Regular Pipeline Survey
When leaks are a concern or an active issue, the best way to handle them is to invest in regular pipeline surveys. Once a leak forms, the costly process of clean up and repair must begin. Catching a leak before it forms is the ideal way to protect your pipeline proactively.
Certified structural engineers should perform proper pipeline integrity consulting and surveys. These surveys help to identify the areas that are especially vulnerable on a structure. It also helps by developing a plan to address high-risk and high-consequence regions to avoid a complete pipeline failure—some instances of which results can be devastating. Pipeline surveys can identify:
- Which portions of the structure are most at risk for corroding
- The soil’s resistivity
- The best course of action moving forward
- Areas that are already decaying and need attention
Issue: Old Pipelines
While pipelines cover millions of miles across the United States alone and many more across the world, there are not that many new structures built. Most of the pipelines in the United States are decades old. With age comes differing problems, and necessary updates and preventative maintenance are essential to the well-being and safety of the structures and their surrounding communities.
Identifying how old a pipeline is can help with preventative care. When structures age, they tend to decay or lose some of the integrity they once held. Replacing and repairing pipelines as they age, and before they deteriorate or lose their structural integrity is vital to the pipeline’s longevity as a whole.
Solution: Structural Integrity Analysis
Prioritizing your pipeline’s structural integrity is a crucial investment in the long-term well-being and functionality it has. A structural integrity analysis includes certified engineers calculating the remaining strength and design life of your assets. It’s essential to know these levels to determine the best course of action for reducing the maximum operating pressure in higher-risk areas.
Pipeline owners should complete structural integrity analysis on a regular schedule. They should also help develop a plan to prevent any parts of the pipeline from failing. The upfront cost may seem unnecessary if it is believed to be safe and structurally sound. These surveys can still identify and preemptively catch looming issues that lie below the surface, such as corrosion.
Corrosion is the most prevalent issue that pipelines tend to face. Corrosion affects any metal structures but poses a unique threat to pipelines. Many different corrosion forms can affect them and cause leaks, breaks, and impair their structural integrity.
Corrosion is the largest threat to the pipeline’s structural integrity and functionality. It can lurk under the surface or remain unseen until it’s too late and the entire structure needs attention. When it comes to corrosion, it’s best to catch it early and invest in preventative methods.
Solution: Cathodic Protection
Cathodic protection is the most effective method of preventing corrosion. While there are other methods such as sacrificial coatings, cathodic provides the highest level of protection.
It works by minimizing the difference in potential between anodes and cathodes through the application of an electrical current to the structure or pipeline. Certified professionals should complete this process for the best results. Cathodic protection protects metals from all of the following types of corrosion:
- Pitting-type corrosion
- Messa attack corrosion
- Uniform corrosion
- Putting corrosion
- Stepwise cracking corrosion
- Microbiologically induced corrosion
All these forms potentially could affect a pipeline. There are also other factors to be aware of when looking to protect your structure from corrosion, such as soil corrosivity. Pipelines in the soil are more likely to develop corrosion when the soil corrosivity is high. Testing soil and investing in corrosion mitigation, prevention, and regular monitoring of the structure itself and the soil is vital to invest in.
Pipelines are vital to the proper distribution of necessary liquids and gasses such as oil, petroleum, and gas. Safety is a top priority of communities, and pipelines can be very safe when cared for properly. If you operate, own, or manage a pipeline, tank, or other related structure, investing in the care and preventative maintenance the structure needs is a must. Investing in the protection of your pipeline helps you comply with governmental regulations and keep your business flourishing safely.
Contact Dreiym Engineering today for more information about our services, such as a pipeline cathodic protection survey or other vital assessments such as corrosion testing services, cathodic protection system design, and pipeline integrity testing. Our expert engineers are trained to provide the best advice and services for you and your pipeline. Our goal is to identify any looming issues with your existing structure, develop a plan to fix those issues, and prevent problems from happening in the future. We know the best ways to proactively prevent pipeline issues so your structure can operate safely.