Things to Consider When Choosing a Pipeline Maintenance Company
The proper maintenance of oil and gas pipelines can extend the life of this critical infrastructure, save on costly repairs, minimize safety risks, and ensure compliance and regulatory standards.
The approximate 3,000 companies, large and small, that operate the 2.5 million miles of U.S. pipelines by law must do maintenance and inspections on their pipelines.
“Federal pipeline safety regulations require pipeline operators to develop and implement integrity management programs and continually inspect and assess the integrity of pipelines that could affect areas of high consequence, such as populated areas or environmentally sensitive areas,” says the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
Periodic Pipeline Inspections and Assessments Required
PHMSA says that “operators are required to periodically inspect and assess their pipelines for corrosion and other integrity issues, and repair or replace affected pipe.”
Inspections are typically performed using one or more types of specialty inline inspection (ILI) tools, hydrostatic pressure testing, or a process called “direct assessment”.
ILI tools are sometimes called “intelligent” or “smart” pigs. Different types of intelligent pigs include:
- Caliper pig which uses mechanical, induction techniques
- Inertia (mapping) pig which uses gyroscope
- Leak detection pig which uses pressure difference, ultrasound
- Burial and coating pig which radiation (neutron irradiation)
- Crack detection pig which uses eddy current, pulsed eddy current, ultrasound
- Metal loss pig which uses magnetic flux leakage (MFL), ultrasound.
The Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) is the federal authority responsible for ensuring the safe, reliable, and environmentally sound operation of our nation's pipeline transportation system.
“Pipeline safety is a responsibility shared by all stakeholders,” says the OPS.
Keys to Hiring the Right Pipeline Maintenance Company
It is crucial for pipeline operators to have a great working relationship with a reliable and experienced pipeline maintenance and inspection company that can help ensure the integrity of their infrastructure.
Oilman Magazine says that “the industry employs some safe practices which work in a manner of industrial-strength prevention, detection and mitigation innovations.”
Design and construction, maintenance and operations, training and education, and internal and external detection, and mitigation response all play a role in pipeline integrity.
“Pipeline integrity is an umbrella phrase that encompasses most of these technological innovations that are deployed in order to counter commodity releases. It also signifies a comprehensive program that is put to use to ensure hazardous commodities aren’t mistakenly released from their respective pipelines. Not only does this practice mitigate the probability of releases but it also has the ability to minimize the dangerous impact of a potential release,” says Oilman Magazine.
Some of the things to consider when selecting a pipeline maintenance company include:
- Expertise: Property and lives can be at risk when it comes to pipeline safety, so you need to choose a pipeline maintenance company that has expertise and a proven track record in the field. This is not the time to take a chance on an inexperienced start-up.
- Check References and Referrals: Hiring a pipeline maintenance company is an important step so take your time and weigh the decision carefully. Be sure to ask for and check references and referrals. Contact current and former customers and clients.
- Innovation and Technology: Not all experienced companies utilize emerging innovations and keep up with the latest technologies in pipeline maintenance. Ask the company you are looking to hire how they have evolved when it comes to techniques and training. A company rooted in older technology, not embracing new trends, may be a red flag.
- Price + Value: Yes, pricing is extremely important, and you need to hire a pipeline maintenance company that fits within your budget, but sometimes the least expensive options will provide you with the best value. Remember that the price of inspections will vary depending on pipeline design, product type, type of smart pig used and other factors.
- Flexibility: Is the company willing to work within your framework and time constraints or will have to work within the pipeline maintenance company’s framework. Time is extremely valuable when it comes to pipeline inspections and safety.
- Professional: You need to forge a relationship with a professional company that has an ethical business approach that matches your company’s mission statement. The pipeline maintenance company that you hire will essentially be representing your company when in the field and working in the ROWs on your pipelines.
GeoCorr was formed 15 years ago by a group of experienced pipeline inspection and technology service professionals. Our operations team has now managed more than 2,000 inline inspections completed offshore, onshore, mainline integrity, and new construction in the U.S. and throughout the world.
Contact us today to find out how we can provide your company with individual solutions for your pipeline maintenance and inspection needs.