Differential Diagnostics Episode 1

Mechanical damage is dangerous and all too common. How can you know which type of dent or damage is most likely to threaten integrity?


Of the many threats that can affect hazardous liquid natural gas pipelines, mechanical damage is one of the most dangerous and most common. Mechanical damage can lead to cracking, leaks and worst of all, ruptures. In some cases, more than one type of damage will be present at the same location: an interactive threat. For instance, mechanical damage can result in a dent, possibly with metal loss or with gouging.

Efforts have been made, mainly through education and monitoring, to reduce instances of mechanical damage by third parties. But damage still occurs. In fact, according to Pipeline Research Council International and the European Gas Pipeline Incident Data Group, the leading cause of pipeline failures in North America and Europe is mechanical damage caused by third party excavation. And the group Conservation of Clean Air and Water in Europe reports that since 1971, third party interference is the main cause of failures in Europe cross-country liquid pipelines. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration tells a similar story. Excavation damage has caused more than eleven hundred significant pipeline incidents. One-fifth of all such incidents on hazardous liquid and natural gas transmission pipelines during the past two decades.

Clearly, mechanical damage to pipelines is a significant challenge for the oil and gas industry. Let's look at a common scenario. Say there's a pipeline operator who, having previously inspected a section of a 40 year old transmission line, knows the section has several hundred dents. The dents are there, without a doubt, but the data is not sufficient to know which dents are most problematic, and dealing with all of the dents at once is not possible. What the operator needs is a way to quantify the severity of each dent. Then the operator would know which dents are truly the most threatening to the pipeline's integrity and deal with those immediately, without spending precious time or resources on non-critical damage. So, the question becomes, how can the operator prioritize those dents? Differential Diagnostics, the power to know more.