Dr. Chris Minto, Engineering Director for OptaSense, recently delivered a presentation at Rio Pipeline 2019 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Speaking to a group of pipeline executives and professionals from across the globe, Minto’s presentation, “Challenges in Validation and Verification of External Fiber Optic Leak Detection Systems,” focused on the need for vendors in the pipeline leak detection market to demonstrate the efficacy of their system in a controlled manner and the need for customers within the market to gain assurance that an installed system operates correctly and provide detection of a leak in the pipeline.
To adequately serve their customers, pipeline leak detection providers need to demonstrate their system can effectively detect leaks for different sizes, pressures, and flow conditions, while minimizing the nuisance alarm rate for false readings. Additionally, said Minto, reliability in performance under dynamic conditions must play a key role in choosing the right leak detection system.
After selecting a leak detection solution, pipeline operators should have confidence that their system of choice can effectively detect leaks under different flow conditions and in varying environmental conditions.
While there are a number of testing methodologies for determining the efficacy of a leak detection system, most fall short of validating how well a system really works, primarily due to the inability to replicate a “real-world” pipeline situation. One test that has been proven to effectively demonstrate the ability of a system to detect leaks is on a representative flow loop, such as the one located in Rio de Janeiro, at the Centro de Tecnologia em Dutos, or CTDUT. The unique pipeline testing facility features a closed-loop pipeline run that allows engineers to test leak detection systems in an actual pipeline flow situation. By creating a leak in a targeted section of the pipe, system providers can validate if their system is able to identify a leak and pinpoint the location along the pipeline. With this real-world testing approach, pipeline operators can have confidence that the system they select for leak detection will work and provide the level of protection they expect.
To demonstrate both the testing methodology, as well as the effectiveness of the fiber-optic-based leak detection system delivered by OptaSense, several customers and interested parties were invited to witness an actual leak detection demonstration at CTDUT. During the demonstration, the test pipeline, carrying water and inert gas, was pressurized to the point that a burst disc installed on a section of the pipe was triggered. The OptaSense system was able to accurately identify the leak within seconds of its occurrence and provide critical information about the leak back to the control room onsite, validating that the system works exactly as promised.