In the Gulf of Mexico there are over 20,000 miles of pipeline infrastructure, servicing and transporting about 30% of US domestically produced oil and gas. The challenge is that some lines remain in operation after 40 years of service – and many beyond their originally anticipated service life. Recent hurricane events in the Gulf of Mexico demonstrated the vulnerability of this supply network and the consequences of disruptions.
While some potential leaks or failures might be attributed to events such as subsea mudslides or hurricanes, most will relate to the condition of the pipeline itself. Hence, it is imperative to manage and maintain the integrity of the subsea pipelines.
Recommended Practise to solve integrity challenges
Based in this Det Norske Veritas (DNV) is now together with the industry preparing a new Recommended Practice (RP) for offshore pipeline integrity management. It will be developed in response to the pipeline industry’s recognition of the need for such a document as a result of:
The RP will address in-service issues of concern from the early design phase through to the operational phase. It aims to be a state-of-the-art document, developed in close cooperation with the industry and reflecting industry practices and sound engineering practices for establishing and maintaining the integrity of subsea pipeline systems.
Further, it will identify the components of a subsea pipeline integrity management program and will provide a highly detailed framework that producers or pipeline operators can utilize when preparing the integrity management programs for their own pipeline systems. It will also include a detailed framework for a direct assessment methodology, which would be applicable to the subsea pipelines and would be submitted to the NACE International for review and approval.
Ultimately, it aims to ensure that each subsea pipeline is managed in a cost-effective manner, with a focus on maintaining safety and protecting the environment throughout the operational lifetime. It is intended to be applicable to pipelines, both piggable and un-piggable, which transport natural gas and other hydrocarbon liquids through subsea pipelines, and will address integrity management relating to both internal and external corrosion.
Note that this project is a follow up to a 2006 project for the US Department of the Interior (DOI) Minerals Management Service (MMS), in which DNV assessed the integrity practices used by operators in the Gulf of Mexico. Whereas 50% of the pipelines can accommodate cleaning pigs, only 5% can accommodate in-line inspection vehicles (“smart pigs”). Hence, producers and pipeline operators have had to rely upon informal risk-based approaches to integrity management, coupled with monitoring and preventative measures. The DNV study recommended the development of a direct assessment methodology applicable to subsea pipelines, including a methodology for identifying and categorizing high consequence areas, a methodology for categorizing threats to the integrity of subsea pipelines, and the development of a pipeline integrity management guideline for subsea pipelines within the Gulf of Mexico.
Invites the pipeline industry
Upstream producers and pipeline operators are encouraged to participate in the development of this Joint Industry Project, which is intended to be practical and cost-effective while maintaining a commitment to system integrity, safety and the protection of the environment.
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