In large industrial complexes, especially those with long lengths of oil or gas pipes, pipeline leak detection is very important. In oil and gas pipelines, pipeline leak detection companies not only prevents costly spills, they also ensure people’s safety; leaks pose a whole lot of hazards.
The consequences of pipe leaks include:
Financial losses: Leak of any type of substance is an automatic loss; the amount of loss depends on the value of the leaking substance and the severity of the leak.
Threats to people’s safety: Depending upon the nature of the leaking substance, leaks can cause fires, explosions, and the release of poisonous fumes.
Property damage: All liquids will cause damage when they flow where they should not; generally, the more liquids leak out the greater the damage.
Environmental Damage: The best example of this is an oil spill which causes irreparable damage to the environment. In severe cases, companies have been known to fold due to the fines and cost of cleanup ordered after catastrophic pipeline leaks and spills.
Loss of goodwill: All accidents reflect poorly on the company. Thus leaks of a large magnitude can damage a company’s reputation so much that it takes a lot of time and expense to recover.
Loss of capability: Leaks on steam lines, compressed air systems, and high pressure water systems reduce their capability. Leaks on steam and compressed air lines, for example, may be so severe that they cannot be used to operate steam or air powered tools and machinery. If a severe leak lowers the supply pressure from a fire hydrant and a fire breaks out, the results can be catastrophic.
Thus, especially in an industrial environment, pipeline leak detection needs to be done in a quick and accurate manner. While leaks cannot always be anticipated, early detection allow the company to take immediate corrective measures; this limits the losses, the damage and the threats to safety. This is a subject which organizations like the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry deem very important.
There are a number of technologies used in systems designed to detect pipe leaks. Detection equipment using the statistical volume method is able to detect new and existing leaks. It uses an algorithm to detect leaks based on minute operational changes in the pipeline.
Another technology uses sensors which are sensitive to the rarefaction wave a leak causes in a pipeline. Because leaks cause rarefaction waves to move in either direction, sensors within the pipe are used to determine the time it takes the pressure signal to reach each sensor. This allows the accurate location of the leak.
In some systems statistical volume method and rarefaction wave sensing technologies are combined to further improve the speed and accuracy of leak detection.
Still another system continuously calculates the volume balance (flow into the system less flow out of the system). Algorithms are then used to analyze the probability of a leak. When a leak is deemed probable, an alarm is triggered. This is important when the pipeline contains hazardous substances.
The potential loss, safety threat or potential for damage should be considered when choosing an appropriate leak detection system.