There is a growing need for use of more automation in preventive maintenance of pipelines. Can the ‘Pied Piper’ make them safer too?

1: Rocsole; 2: Intelligent Pipeline Solution; 3: Honeywell Safety Technology; 4: HIMA PMC hybrid sol
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Pipelines are primarily used for the safe and economical transportation of energy products such as natural resources like crude oil and natural gas, hydrocarbons, and water supplies. While there are many other forms of transport, pipelines remain the safest, most efficient and economical way to transport these resources. Operational safety, therefore, is one of the greatest concerns, especially for the Oil and Gas industry.


Most installations are mission critical. The efficiency of operations poses a constant challenge for pipeline operators. Above all, the world is heading towards a cleaner transport of energy. Therefore, a technology that is flexible, considers safety of equipment and personnel, meets the highest level of integrity and constantly growing needs of Operators is the need of the hour.


Automation technology today enables pipeline operators to monitor the rate and movement of products at points along the system. In an age where cyber security is a prime concern and faster go-to-market a business-critical need, advanced telecommunications are a must for improving the control and monitoring of pipelines. Highly advanced technologies are required for pipeline controllers for leak detection and location systems that also watch for pressure and flow rates, inconsistencies, and monitor instruments.


Developments in technology continue to make pipeline construction less intrusive to communities as well as improve the safety and efficiency of pipeline operations. Security of Pipelines is still a serious challenge for Pipeline Operators. A single incident (intrusion, pilferage, etc.,) can lead to huge losses in the product being transported, and also cause major damages to the Pipeline infrastructure, that further leads to significant downtime during operations.


Today’s pipelines therefore need to provide complete application safety and thus use automation control systems such as the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA).


Smart Technologies Enable Compliance, Enhance Safety & Reduce Costs

Organisations are under tremendous pressure to enhance public safety, protect workers, increase efficiency, and deliver higher returns for shareholders. Smart technologies such as cloud computing, Industrial IoT (IIoT) devices, and intelligent software, thus have a very important role to play in meeting these demands. There are many smart devices available for leveraging IoT technologies.


The following areas of focus provide a major boost in achieving success with smart technologies:

  • Advanced process control can be run closer to specifications
  • Condition-based maintenance
  • Energy optimisation
  • Familiarised operators with new instrument panel and improved training by developing skills in real-world environment
  • Integrated safety and control systems have enhanced plant safety
  • On-time delivery – hot cutover accomplished on time
  • Predictive monitoring
  • Quality data
  • Root-cause analysis, and
  • Standardisation of operator interfaces helped improve efficiency.


Advanced technologies are also being used to improve the reliability and the effective use of control systems.


Players in the Pipeline

As per multiple reports, key global market players in the field of pipeline automation are ABB, Alstom, BAE Systems, Esri, Future Fibre Technologies, GE, Honeywell, Huawei, Schneider Electric, Siemens, Sightlogix, Skywave, Senstar, and Thales Group.


Honeywell’s Experion® Process Knowledge System (PKS) includes a world class SCADA system that drives critical information to the pipelines operations team while automating data logging and processing. Honeywell Profit Loop Controllers (PLCs) and Distributed Control System (DCS) are also an integral part of the SCADA solution that offers a robust platform providing safety, seamless operations, and reliability. Honeywell’s site-wide DCS technology facilitates the centralisation of refinery operations in a new control room. Honeywell’s UniSim® simulation technology improves operator effectiveness and helps refineries comply with regulatory requirements and curb the loss of experience invested in its operators.


Global Trends: Pipeline Automation & Security

As per the ‘Pipeline Transportation Market by Solution (Security Solutions, Automation and Control, Integrity and Tracking Solutions, Network Communication Solutions, and Other), by Services (Consulting Service, Managed Service, Maintenance and Support), by Type (Oil and Gas, Coal, Chemical, Water, and Other) – Global Forecast to 2019’ report by, “… companies are investing huge amounts on pipeline infrastructure due to government regulations and compliance issues. Systems such as SCADA help the operator to monitor and control industrial processing functions such as refining, tracking, and pressure control. The companies have also developed comprehensive pipeline solutions for more real time view of pipeline integrity across the wide network of pipelines. Advanced technologies such as sensors, batch trackers, and intrusion detection assist in pipeline management as the operators can make right decisions at the right time as wrong decisions may lead to huge losses.”


The report goes on to state that “Some of the potential and emerging technologies and solutions for pipeline transportation include intrusion detection, leak detection, SCADA, tracking and video surveillance. The global pipeline transportation market is estimated to grow from $8.69 billion in 2014 to $13.97 billion in 2019, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 10.0% during the forecast period of (2014-2019).”


Per another report 'Global Pipeline Security Market – By Geography, Trends, Forecast - (2017 - 2022)' by Mordor Intelligence, "The global pipeline security market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 12.3% in the forecast period 2016-2021. To deal with rising security threats in the form of terrorist attacks, sabotage, illegal tapping, and cyber-attacks, governments across the world are working towards formulating and implementing strategies to keep the pipelines safe from these threats. Consequently, it is essential for organisations to deploy comprehensive solutions maintaining the requirements of the government compliance, policies and regulations. Manual inspection or presence of armed guards is not a solution for pipelines running in thousands of kilometres as most of the pipeline network is buried underground. Advanced technologies and solutions like SCADA, aqua-based systems, DAS (Distributed Acoustic Sensing), unmanned aerial vehicles, and video surveillance have become a necessity to secure the pipelines.


The global pipeline security market can be segmented based on multiple factors such as:

  • Products: natural gas, crude oil, hazardous liquid pipelines/chemicals, water and others
  • Technology & solutions: unmanned aerial systems, perimeter security/intruder detection, electro-optic systems, ground sensors, PIG location monitoring, sub-aqua systems, video surveillance, control systems and others
  • Geography [North America (the US, Canada and others), Europe (the UK, Russia, Norway and others), Asia-Pacific (China, India, Malaysia and others), Latin America (Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela and others), the Middle East and Africa (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iran and others)]


Diakont’s fleet of in-line inspection robots called RODIS crawlers support the asset integrity of gas and liquid pipelines by analysing, detecting, and measuring internal and external corrosion, metal loss, and various other anomalies. The data collected is very precise, and can also be observed in real-time while the inspection is taking place. This provides immediate access to critical information that pipeline operators require to facilitate integrity management programs and to meet federal pipeline safety standards (49 CFR Part 192 and 195). From a single access point, these crawlers can be launched and retrieved to inspect up to 1,800 feet of pipe. Diakont’s fleet of robotic ILI tools can accommodate pipelines ranging from 8” to 55” in diameter.



At this years’ Pipeline Technology Conference in Berlin (May 2-4, 2017), HIMA Paul Hildebrandt unveiled the world's first SIL 3 capable leak monitoring system. Paul presented the innovative Pipeline Management Control (FlexSILon® PMC) hybrid solution based on a SIL 3 safety controller, with integrated safe leak detection and leak localization capability. Peter Sieber (Vice President Global Sales at HIMA) described how safety-oriented monitoring systems can significantly reduce leak-induced downtime and risks to people, facilities, and the environment.

-Amit Kapoor




Pic1: Rocsole – USA, backed by Shell and Repsol, focuses on comprehensive preventive pipeline maintenance

Pic2: GE has launched Intelligent Pipeline Solution in partnership with Accenture.

Pic3: Honeywell Safety Technology offers safety solutions for pipelines.

Pic4: The new HIMA PMC hybrid solution.