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Harnessing new technology for safety and sustainability

Published by , Editorial Assistant
World Pipelines,

Josh Pendleton, Skipper NDT, France, discusses employing new technology in pipeline integrity management to ensure the continued safe and environmentally friendly delivery of energy, whilst mitigating the increasing risks of incidents to nearby environments and communities.

Harnessing new technology for safety and sustainability

In North America, there are more than 800 000 miles of gas and liquid gathering, midstream and transmission pipelines and 2.3 million miles of gas distribution pipelines that deliver energy to local and international end users. Many of these pipelines have been operating for over 50 years and will be needed for several decades with the continued demand of the energy they deliver. Pipelines are more efficient than other methods of energy transportation and have significantly lower environmental and safety impacts than trucking and shipping.

While pipelines play a significant role in North America’s energy infrastructure, their potential for environmental impact needs to be carefully managed and mitigated through effective regulation, monitoring, and responsible operational practices. And although pipelines have clearly demonstrated that they are the safest and most reliable method of transporting energy, they can and do fail. Pipeline operators continue to look for ways to improve the safety and reliability of their assets to keep failures to a minimum. When operating safely they effectively deliver large amounts of low cost, reliable energy with low environmental and safety impacts.

The continuance of safe and reliable pipeline operations poses several challenges that pipeline operators must address and continually improve upon through the development, validation and application of new technology and engineering solutions. In concert with these challenges, operators are also charged with adapting to new regulations, public expectations and shareholder demands add complexity and pressure to maintain and improve both safety and reliability and to minimise both the likelihood and consequence of incidents.

With our ongoing reliance on pipelines for energy coupled with the complex challenges involved and potential for environmental impact operators must be constantly working to stay ahead of potential threats so that their associated consequences can be avoided or minimised. Innovation plays a large role in the improvement of pipeline integrity management and can have a significant impact both on the ongoing safe and low impact delivery of energy and minimise potential environmental impacts resulting from incidents.


Pipeline integrity management (PIM) programmes are charged with managing and mitigating a myriad of threats and consequences. Many of these have direct ties to the environment they directly traverse and that which they can indirectly effect. As regulations and societal expectations continue to focus on improving the management of our natural environment, pipeline operators must focus on continually improving their integrity management programmes to keep pace.

While not exhaustive some of the key challenges which operators face are discussed in the following section.

  • High consequence areas: Pipelines in high consequence areas (HCA) are defined for gas transmission pipelines by the proximity of population near the pipeline and for liquids transmission pipelines by the proximity of population, drinking water sources, commercially navigable waterways, and sensitive environmental areas. HCA pipelines require higher levels of inspection, monitoring and mitigation which can pose challenges for resource prioritisation, deployment and decision making.
  • Geohazards: Managing pipelines operating in areas susceptible to geohazard threats is a formidable task which is compounded by several factors:
  • Changes in the frequency and intensity of significant weather events are affecting buried pipeline environments in new ways and rapidly.
  • There are limited options to pipeline operators for direct measurement of below ground pipeline locations.
  • They can be co-located within an HCA.

The inherent complexities of subterranean environments demand…

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