New research to help pipeline industry reach zero incidents and reduce emissions

From Australia to Europe to Canada – the companies that make up the global pipeline industry have many collective goals. One goal is to reach zero incidents. Another is to find new ways to reduce pipelines’ carbon footprint by lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. To attain these goals, the energy industry is working together.

In Canada, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) brings together transmission pipeline companies to share information and continuously improve through its Integrity First program to reach zero incidents.

Internationally, Pipeline Research Council International (PRCI) is a not-for-profit research organization whose members are the leading pipeline operators and technical solution providers from around the world. The members pool their funding and direct key research to benefit the entire industry.

PRCI’s research is driven by its members and covers a wide range of topics, including three Strategic Research Priorities (SRPs) that address some of the biggest challenges facing the industry today:

  • GHG emissions
  • Mechanical damage
  • Crack management

“These are significant issues in our industry that are weighing on us heavily,” said Cliff Johnson, President of PRCI. “In the next couple of years, we are going to see some significant solutions being developed. It’s a great time to be part of PRCI and the industry because we have the desire to reach the goal of zero incidents, and the research will help.”


Reducing GHG emissions


Globally, Canada generates less than two per cent of the world’s total GHG emissions. And in Canada, pipelines are responsible for less than one per cent of the country’s total emissions.  While those numbers may be small, significant improvements are being made to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint through improving efficiency and reducing methane emissions.

PRCI is developing ways to improve the efficiency of pipeline systems – from engines and compressors to transformers, boilers and heaters. Johnson says one specific area researchers are looking at is blowdown. This is when companies release gases from a pipeline into the atmosphere to relieve pressure in the pipe for maintenance, testing and other activities.

“We need to reduce emissions and find a way to capture the gases being released. This is the reason behind this research effort,” said Johnson.


Mechanical damage and crack management


Mechanical damage and crack management are key to reaching zero incidents. Johnson says both the mechanical damage and crack management programs are beginning with a similar approach. Researchers are looking at inline inspection tools – devices that travel inside the pipeline to detect and report issues. PRCI is also reviewing other non-destructive evaluation technologies that are used outside of the pipe to enhance pipeline integrity. The final result will be first-of-their-kind reports that consolidate how the different tools perform against specific defects.

“This will be a huge step forward for our industry,” said Johnson”. “It really is a game changer because it will help companies to understand which tools to use when and what to expect from those tools.”


Meaningful change for the global industry


The information PRCI collects and shares with companies around the world will lead to meaningful changes for the global industry by moving pipelines closer to zero incidents and playing a critical role as we move towards a lower carbon energy future.

For examples of significant endeavours and research projects that CEPA is part of through PRCI, please visit our 2020 transmission pipeline industry performance report.

Special thanks to Cliff Johnson, President of Pipeline Research Council International for his contribution to this article.