Spotlight on technology: New system leaves no pipe unexamined

In the transmission pipeline business, technology never stands still. Operators have teams of researchers and engineers who work tirelessly to make the industry safer for both people and the environment.

The goal of all that research and development is zero incidents – but it’s also rewarding when the technological achievements are recognized. Every year, the Pipeline Systems Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers selects the most outstanding technological innovations or field advancements, and nominates them for a Global Pipeline Award.

In 2016, STATS Group was nominated for their double block and bleed pipeline isolation system called BISEP™ (Branch Installed Self Energized Plug).

STATS Group, a CEPA Foundation member, provides pressurized pipeline isolation, hot tapping and plugging services to the global oil, gas and petrochemical industries. They developed this technology to make pipeline maintenance easier and to make ‘unpiggable’ lines ‘piggable.’

What is pigging?

A smart ‘pig’ is a pipeline inspection gauge that travels through a pipeline to monitor its health, diagnose issues like metal defects and report any issues to the pipeline operator. Smart pigs help operators identify and forecast potential issues to within a few inches, enabling them to prevent leaks before they happen.

Watch this video to see a pipeline smart pig in action:

We spoke with Stephen Rawlinson STATS Group’s vice president of the Americas, and he explained that, until now, some pipelines have been unpiggable.

“Sometimes the original pipeline design might include components that make it unpiggable – such as bore changes and tight bends,” he said.

Piggable lines are generally easier to maintain because they can be inspected or cleaned from within, while product continues to flow through the pipeline.

How BISEP works

STATS Group developed BISEP technology to solve a client’s problem associated with safely accessing a series of unpiggable pipelines on an off-shore drilling and production platform.

BISEP provides access to a pipeline without shutting down the flow of product. Here’s how it works:

    • If the pipeline is buried, it is first exposed, to allow access.
    • Two large seals are inserted into the line, on either side of the area requiring maintenance or upgrading. These seals are tested and monitored to ensure that product isn’t escaping.
    • A temporary bypass line is installed adjacent to the main line for the product to flow through.
    • The product is diverted from the main line into the bypass.
    • This leaves the main line empty and clear for maintenance or upgrading.
    • An integrated hydraulic system controls the seals, and the pressure from the pipeline itself is used to keep the seals strong.

Once the pipeline has been bypassed, it is possible to do essential maintenance, and to retrofit the pipeline so that it becomes piggable.

To learn more, check out this hot tapping and plugging video:

Research and development in action

Inline inspection tools, including pigs, allow pipeline operators to maintain and inspect their lines, potentially detecting tiny anomalies and identifying potential problems long before they cause a leak. The ability to retrofit previously unpiggable lines is a great step forward for pipeline safety.

BISEP is one of the many new technologies that are introduced and evolved each year to help transmission pipeline companies as they strive for zero incidents in their operations.

For more information on smart pigs, check out these recent posts: