There are a lot of misconceptions about transmission pipelines out there. Some based on a lack of information, some based on myths and misinformation. We believe that conversations only begin when everyone has the full facts and that’s why we like to publish a ‘myth-busting’ post from time to time.
So, in the spirit of back to school week, we decided to test your pipeline knowledge. Let’s see whether your pipeline beliefs are based on myths or science:
Hydrostatic testing involves filling a pipeline with water and then pressurizing it to a level that exceeds normal operational levels. The testing is done in small 20-30 km sections to make it easier to find tiny defects or leaks. Check out this video to watch how it works:
But it’s far from the only technology that works. Some others include:
These are just a few of the technologies that make it possible to detect even the tiniest leaks.
Myth 2: All pipelines corrode
If you’ve ever wondered how a metal ship stays afloat in water without rusting, think protective coatings. They’re similar to the coatings used on pipelines to keep them from corroding in wet soil. But that’s not the only way the industry protects against corrosion.
Cathodic protection is the process of using an electrical current to draw corrosion away from a pipeline to another piece of metal, called an anode. This piece of metal rusts instead of the pipeline. On top of that the industry uses scrapers, which are large wire brushes that rotate through the pipeline cleaning away deposits, and preventing product from building up and corroding the pipeline.
Myth 3: Diluted bitumen is more corrosive than other oil products
Pipeline companies have been transporting dilbit for 25 years with no increase in corrosion-related incidents. But that hasn’t stopped critics from doubting. Well, the research is out, and independent studies have busted the myth. Diluted bitumen is no more corrosive than conventional crude oil. The studies include:
The latest of these studies, the one by the NAS, concludes that “diluted bitumen has physical and chemical properties within the range of other crude oils and that no aspect of its transportation by pipeline would make it more likely than other crude oils to cause an accidental release”.
You can learn more about diluted bitumen in our dilbit information sheet (PDF)
Watching for leaks is a full-time job. But, how can a pipeline be monitored when it’s underground, or travelling through the remotest part of the mountains? Thanks to Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) equipment, pipelines can be monitored from hundreds of kilometres away, 24/7. Here is some of the technology available to the trained technicians manning the control centres:
The allowable pressure depends on a pipeline’s design and construction, and what product it will be carrying. It’s illegal for the pipeline operator to exceed that maximum pressure, and many pipeline companies actually operate pipelines at below the regulated maximum.
Pipeline pressure is one of the factors that the control room technicians monitor and record, and they would consider a rise in pressure to be a possible cause for alarm.