It is no secret major leaks from oil and gas pipelines have led to home evacuations, explosions, millions in lawsuit payouts and valuable natural resources escaping into the air, ground and water.
That may soon change as there is a new software-based method that finds leaks even when they’re small, which could help prevent serious incidents — and save money for customers and industry.
Using pipelines to move oil, gas and even water from one place to another is highly effective, for the most part, said researchers Gary Valtinson and Miguel Bagajewicz from the Department of Chemical Biological and Materials Engineering at the University of Oklahoma. The catch is, however, serious, costly problems arise when pipes break.
Existing methods for detecting leaks have limits. Hardware-based approaches using special instrumentation are expensive and complicated, and software-based systems don’t model pressure drops in pipelines correctly. This leads to errors, particularly for gas pipelines.
Valitonson and Bagajewicz want to fix this problem.
The researchers developed a method that compares pressure and flow rate measurements from a pipeline with mathematical models that can accurately predict what the pressure and flow rate should be.
Their technique successfully detected small leaks and reduced errors from 21 percent to 3 percent when compared to existing software.
The researchers estimated their method would have saved millions of dollars more than other leak-detection methods.