DAS Pipeline Monitoring in Extreme Conditions

July 2022 has seen unprecedented heatwaves sweeping the globe, with unpredictable consequences. Aside from the obvious health effects of soaring temperatures, there are also significant socio-economic concerns. Worldwide, Bloomberg reports that extreme weather has caused $65 billion of global revenue losses in the first half of 2022, as floods, drought and fires have hit farming and production assets – many of which were uninsured. And, for oil, gas and water pipeline operators, the unpredictable impact of recent heatwaves on infrastructure is causing considerable incident response pressures across the globe.

In the UK, for example, a burst pipeline in Oxfordshire left thousands of residents without adequate supplies during 29-degree temperatures. Further afield, Odessa, Texas saw 165,000 residents left without running water after a pipeline burst. Although pipeline leaks and breaches are nothing new, the impact of extreme weather on the physical infrastructure of pipelines becomes even more of a concern as the global climate becomes more unpredictable. Whilst monitoring pipelines in remote and harsh environments has always been a challenge for operators, the issue is now becoming more business-critical for operators in typically stable climates, as recent UK, European and Northern American incidents demonstrate.

The Rise of DAS Photonics as a First-Line Pipeline Monitoring Defence

DAS (distributed acoustic sensing) is increasingly being recognised as an important defence against not just pipeline leaks and spills, but also criminal and malicious damage - illegal hot tapping being a prevalent example. Whilst criminal pipeline theft is widely recognised as an issue in the oil & gas industry, in fact it is a serious issue for water pipeline operators as well. Astonishingly, a survey by the University of Adelaide found that up to half of the world’s water supply is stolen annually. This may not seem so much of a surprise in developing or very remote countries, where infrastructure is less geared up to cope with the effects of drought. But water pipeline theft was found by the same study to be a prevalent issue in the developed world as well, particularly in agricultural settings.

Returning to DAS pipeline monitoring, in April 2022, the American Petroleum Industry presented a major milestone for DAS technology, by announcing it has revised two of its standards to include fibre optic acoustic sensing. Both the RP1130 Computational Pipeline Monitoring for Liquids and the RP1175 Pipeline Leak Detection-Program Management prioritise early and accurate leak detection as a vital strategy to protect pipeline resources. These new revisions to the standards explicitly recognise the benefits of DAS Photonics as a practical and effective way of delivering that strategy.

 

 

Why is a DAS Pipeline Monitoring System Better than Traditional Leak Detection?

Historically, operators have replied on Internal Leak Detection systems (such as mass balance and real time transient monitoring). But the fact is that when it comes to speed and (crucially) accuracy of leak or malicious damage detection, such systems are found wanting. Many pipeline leaks and breaches become infinitely more damaging, simply because it is a difficult and time-consuming process to detect and repair a breach using Internal Leak Detection alone. By the time the problem has been located and dealt with, huge amounts of water, oil or gas have already been lost, negatively affecting the environment, customer supply, and the operator’s bottom line.

DAS fibre optic pipeline monitoring, on the other hand, is an External Leak Detection System. It has a number of key advantages that are especially applicable when climate phenomena such as extreme heatwaves and floods threaten the physical integrity of water, oil and gas pipelines.

DAS is fast…very fast: DAS has a major advantage over traditional leak detection systems, in that it monitors and detects in real-time. By constantly monitoring the fibre optic vibrations generated by any movement along a pipeline, DAS is able to detect even the smallest disturbance and report it to the operator straight away.

Our Pipeline Integrity Case Study showcases an example of this and confirms that Fotech LivePIPE II with Helios DAS® has the capacity to raise the alarm in as little as 90 seconds. Given how serious any pipeline leak or theft can be, this is a serious advantage in the fight to protect pipeline resources.

DAS learns as it goes: In the case of Fotech LivePIPE II®, the core Helios DAS® technology is underpinned by advanced machine learning and edge computing. This means that, with every event that Helios DAS® detects, analyses and reports, it accumulates data and learning from that event and applies those correlations to future events. The result is that LivePIPE II® not only detects pipeline events, it also reports on the likely cause of those events (for example, machine interference, illegal activity, leaks and breaches) with remarkable accuracy. This is extremely important in equipping the operator to attend the site, locate the damage quickly, and repair the damage with minimal environmental disturbance.

DAS integrates with pipeline operator systems: A key feature of LivePIPE II® is the Panoptes server, which interprets and reports pipeline monitoring data with an early Red/Amber/Green warning system. Panoptes can also be integrated with other operating and monitoring systems. For example, a UAV drone or CCTV system can be integrated so that, as soon as a disturbance occurs, close quarter monitoring can be established, intelligence gathered and, in the case of man-made disturbances such as theft or machine digging, warnings can be communicated – fast.

Find out More:

If you would like to know more about DAS technology for pipeline monitoring, you can:

Consult our pipeline FAQs for answers to the most common pipeline monitoring questions.

Visit our resources page for pipeline monitoring case studies, technical papers and more.

Or, contact Fotech to discuss your pipeline network monitoring challenges, and how our DAS technology can help.

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