Project Detail

A pipeline Integrity Management Plan (IMP) is a complex process that requires a broad framework of interoperable procedures and practices. A comprehensive IMP requires a Pipeline Operator to use extensive internal and external resources to accomplish their goal of operating a safe, reliable, and cost-effective system. In doing so, an operator must manage a small army of vendors, contractors, and consultants to perform the specialist integrity services not always available within their own workforce.

Vendor selection for completing integrity work is an essential process that requires an Operator to accurately define the project’s technical and business requirements, as well as have an awareness of the latest technologies and methodologies available for completing the specialized work. Once the project’s parameters are understood by internal stakeholders, the next step is identifying the most qualified service provider whose ideologies align themselves best with the predetermined requirements, and who will complete the work in the safest and most economical manner.

The Project

An Australian pipeline company recently went through the vendor selection process to complete the final stages of their most recent integrity program for their 22-inch pipeline. With the inline inspection surveys completed, it was now time to investigate the findings of the ILI reports. Their integrity engineers determined 29 pipeline locations needed direct examination. The dig locations spanned a distance of 320km over remote and inhospitable terrain.

Mears Integrity Solutions, presented the pipeline owner with a unique service package that included the bundling of a broad range of integrity and engineering services, as well as a proprietary web-based software solution that would expedite the decision making and remediation process extensively. The advantage of using one service provider is in the transparency of the relationship. With one point of contact and one point of responsibility, without the need for additional sub-contractors, Operators free up a significant amount their own resources – resulting in substantial internal cost savings.

Direct Assessment with Integrated Crews

The Mears integrated pipeline crews consisted of two teams of Mears’ employees, including; supervisors, abrasive blasting operators, NDT technicians, coating applicators, and laborers. Each team was supported by Senior Project and Construction Managers, as well as 24-hour access to and support from engineers specializing in metallurgy, corrosion, and pipeline integrity. For 26 continuous days crews completed approximately one dig location per day at excavation lengths ranging between 8m and 18m. The initial assessment of each location included the excavation, coating removal, abrasive blasting, and NDT of anomaly locations.

The advantage of embedding crews with specialized personnel, for example NDT technicians, is that it eliminates the need for the Operator to provide one of their own engineers on-site. The integrated crews also create efficiencies in scheduling and time/resource management.

Transmission Corrosion Assessment Tool (T.C.A.T.)

Mears has developed a proprietary data collection and analysis software package that utilizes hand-held tablets along with GPS enabled cameras to bring the most modern technologies to the excavation site. The result is real-time access to direct assessment data that enables immediate analysis and decision-making capabilities. The secure webbed software ensures data quality, increases efficiencies, and is fully customizable to accommodate specific operator requirements. NDT Technicians used the TCAT tablet computer to directly upload pipeline data from the trench, including photos with GPS coordinates, pipe-to-soil measurements, soil resistivity, anomaly mapping, corrosion cell pit depths, weld types, wall thickness, magnetic particle inspection results, and corrosion profiles for RSTRENG calculations. When connected to the internet, the tablet then provides remote real-time access to the field data, enabling off-site engineers to complete the analysis and risk calculations associated with the findings, which resulted in a quicker decision making process with regards to making necessary repairs and remediation. Recommendations for repairs (where required) were provided to the Operator within 24 hours, with most averaging 12 -18 hours, thus allowing the Operator a quick response to act and address any matters, and return the line to full operating pressure faster, post repair.

Remediation

Specially trained Mears installers completed the required composite repairs using an approved pipeline wrap repair system. Again, crews were embedded with trained personnel and equipment to make the necessary repairs without the need for scheduling additional personnel and resources – on what was a very remote job site. The excavation locations were then recoated by coating specialists with an approved coating system and the pipe was backfilled; completing the inspection and remediation process.

Conclusion

The project was completed two weeks ahead of schedule, with no lost time incidents or injuries. The estimated cost savings to the client were significant. The pipeline Operator was able to save on resources, time, and money by bundling services and utilizing new technologies that resulted in efficiencies that were previously unavailable to them. This was achieved because of the exceptional planning and communication between the Operator and the contractor, and the use of new technologies that allowed for expedited analysis and decision-making.