How do companies maintain the integrity of their pipelines?

Throughout a pipeline’s lifecycle, CEPA members remain focused on pipeline integrity, which means ensuring a pipeline and all related components are safe throughout the pipeline’s life span. Pipeline operators use many methods, technologies and practices to ensure pipelines are safe, reliable and sustainable.

Preventing corrosion

Corrosion is a major threat to pipelines and preventing it from happening is key to protecting the integrity of a pipeline. Corrosion happens when metal is exposed to air and the environment it’s in, such as water or soil. The process takes time, and if left untreated can impact the strength of the steel pipelines are built from.

Pipeline operators prevent corrosion in several ways, including:

Applying protective coatings to the outside of the pipe, preventing the steel from having direct contact with water or soil. The coatings are formulated to adhere to the steel, creating a powerful shield against corrosion. Different types of coatings are used for different locations and environments.

Using cathodic protection, a process where an electrostatic current is applied to the pipes to prevent corrosion. Corrosion is an electrochemical process, and cathodic protection drains the electrons out of the metal to inhibit its potential to corrode.

Cleaning the inside of a pipe by attaching large rotating wire brushes to smart pigs, which are in-line inspection tools that move through the pipeline. As extra protection, corrosion inhibitors may be applied during this process.

Third-party damage

Pipeline companies also work closely with homeowners, farmers and ranchers, construction companies and anyone else who may be excavating to prevent third-party damage to pipelines. Anyone who is breaking ground on their property must Click Before You Dig to ensure they don’t hit a pipeline or other underground infrastructure.

Watching the pipe – inside and out

Operators use advanced technology to monitor and inspect their pipelines 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Regular inspections of the inside and outside of pipes are done to identify potential weak spots or other issues.

Maple Station Smart Pig - TransCanada

Inline inspection tools, called smart pigs, move through a pipeline travel through a pipeline to monitor its health, diagnose issues such as metal defects, forecast potential challenges and report any issues to the pipeline operator. Photo courtesy of TransCanada.

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