A brief follow-up to my recent request for comment on the pipeline integrity issues that trouble Australian pipeline engineers. My reason for asking was that I had been invited to co-chair a workshop at the JTM on pipeline integrity and wanted to make sure that I could raise any issues that were important in Australia.
Thanks to those who responded. The comments largely confirmed my impression that in this country we have few serious concerns about the integrity of transmission pipelines transporting clean fluids. There may be a different situation in production fields where a diverse range of issues may create problems (as pointed out by a couple of comments), but my main interest (unstated) was in transmission pipelines.
Nevertheless I think one emerging issue, both here and overseas, is the question of how to assess the integrity of pipelines that are not suitable for in-line inspection – the unpiggable lines. We don’t have many of those, but they tend to be older lines (so the likelihood of failure may be higher) and in populated areas (so the consequences are higher too). San Bruno comes to mind.
It appears that there are currently no effective methods for inspection beyond the first few metres of an unpiggable pipeline (other than digging it up for direct inspection, which is of course not possible if the line is installed under, say, a railway). It will be interesting to watch the technical developments as both pipeline owners and inspection specialists increase their focus on this area.
(I haven’t forgotten that I’m supposed to be writing a series of posts on location classification – hope to resume soon.)