Intelligent oil pipeline receives green light

Sensors along the pipeline monitor the condition in real time

The "SmartPipe" enables the early identification and combating of problems along the pipeline, assures developer Ole Øystein Knudsen. © Thor Nielsen / SINTEF
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The management thinks along: An intelligent pipeline system should make oil transport safer in the near future. Developed by scientists from Norway, the "SmartPipe" provides real-time data on their condition and the threat of material fatigue. Errors and damage can be detected early on and fight in time.

Oil often comes from oilfields that are further and further away from the coast in the ocean. The oil from there passes through miles of pipelines ashore. The ecosystem through which these pipelines pass can be seriously damaged by damage or even accidents. Escaping oil is also an economic loss, so reliable and stable pipes are extremely important for several reasons.

Sensor Belts provide data

In order to monitor the material of the pipelines, regular on-site checks are still required. But that could change very soon: Scientists from the Norwegian research company SINTEF have developed an intelligent pipeline that provides wireless and real-time data about their condition.

The "SmartPipe" is equipped with wide belts full of sensors. Every 24 meters, such a sensor belt follows the pipeline route. Among other things, the sensors monitor the thickness of the pipe wall and the concentration of corrosion inhibitors in the pipe. They also measure temperature, vibration and stress in the material. A thick insulating layer of polypropylene protects the delicate electronics.

Errors are recognizable early

If, for example, the underground of the pipeline changes or if the pipes vibrate due to waves, this can be directly measured in the future. Errors can be detected so early. Then countermeasures can be taken in good time or the pipeline can even be taken out of service prematurely. "The new lines enable us to detect material fatigue that occurs and accurately estimate the life of the pipeline, " says Knudsen. display

The key is that the intelligent line not only works, but that it does so reliably over a long period of time on the seabed. That's why the developers around project manager Ole ystein Knudsen from SINTEF have extensively tested the new pipeline system since last fall. In the port of the Norwegian city of Orkanger near Trondheim they laid 200 meters SmartPipe.

From successful tests to the pilot mission

The tests showed that especially the transport and the laying are critical points: When rolling up and unrolling on the transport drums, the sensors were damaged. "Pipelines are stretched and deformed in such tests, " explains Knudsen, "and because the electronics are sensitive to bending, some of the sensors were destroyed." But the tests served their purpose: the researchers could adjust the design based on this, so that the sensors are now better protected.

Knudsen is therefore confident about the beginning of the pilot phase of the SmartPipe project. According to the researchers, nothing stands in the way of industrial deployment. An American oil company has already registered interest in the intelligent management system.

(SINTEF, 02.03.2015 - AKR)