An article from Norwegian SciTech News at SINTEF
Pipelines carry out their own health checks
Long pipelines crammed with electronics are being tested in the waters of Orkanger harbour in Norway. They are the first in the world able to report their technical condition to personnel onshore.
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As oil production moves into increasingly deeper waters and more environmentally-sensitive areas, the pipelines carrying the hot well stream to the production platform must be in good condition. The aim of the SmartPipe project is real-time monitoring.
Crammed with electronics
Sensor belts have been fitted to the new pipelines at 24-metre intervals. There is a thick insulating jacket containing polypropylene around the outside of the steel pipe sections carrying the well stream. It is here that the electronics are concealed, and along which data are transmitted wirelessly either onshore or to a platform.
SINTEF researchers have developed an entirely new concept for transmitting data via a belt containing a series of sensors designed to measure pipeline wall thickness, tension, temperature, vibration and acceleration. If this succeeds, Norway will become the first country in the world with a concept that has both domestic and global potential.
Many components have to work
At Orkanger, 250 metres of pipe will be deployed in the sea for testing. This is just a small fraction of the length of a real oil pipeline, many of which are more than 100 kilometres long.
However, it's long enough for the researchers to find out what they're looking for. If the electronics package can survive being underwater, will the pipeline behave as it should after being through a production process involving temperatures as high as 200 degrees? And will the sensors succeed in transmitting data to personnel onshore?
From rules-based to continuous monitoring
"Today, all pipeline status monitoring is based on regulations" says Project Manager Ole Øystein Knudsen at SINTEF. "Everything is based on safety guidelines and five-yearly inspections. The new self-monitoring pipelines provide us with a continuous data stream and will allow us to maintain the condition of a pipeline in an entirely different way, enabling us to respond to problems at an early stage", he says.
One example Knudsen cites is the monitoring of small concentrations of anti-corrosion additives. The new system makes it possible to detect errors in the additives at an early stage and make corrections.
"Another important issue is the monitoring of unsupported sections along a pipeline", says Knudsen. "These sections may start to swing and incur fatigue fractures due to the undulating sea floor, but the new pipes will enable us to prevent this situation", he says.