The Northstar project is the first crude oil production facility constructed offshore in the Beaufort Sea. Produced crude oil is transferred via a buried subsea pipeline to shore and overland to the Trans Alaska Pipeline Pump Station PS1 facility. During the permitting process, concern was expressed that a very small chronic leak in the subsea oil line would remain undetected during the winter months of continuous ice cover. Therefore, the US Army Corps of Engineers stipulated that a prototype leak detection system be installed that would capable of detecting a threshold leak less than 32 BOPD. This paper addresses the efforts to develop and install the LEOS leak detection system for arctic operations. The system is based on the well-established LEOS leak detection technology (manufactured by Framatome ANP, formerly by Siemens AG). The system comprises a perforated plastic tube with a thin water impermeable acetate outer sheath that allows hydrocarbon molecules to diffuse into the air filled tube. The air inside the tube is replaced periodically (every 24 hours) and is passed through a hydrocarbon-sensing module. The module contains resistors sensitive to the presence of very small concentrations of hydrocarbon molecules. The presence and location of a leak is determined by measuring the time taken for the localized concentration of hydrocarbon molecules associated with a leak to reach the end of the tube. LEOS components and materials were engineered to survive installation during arctic winter conditions. It was also necessary to protect the plastic LEOS sensor tube as it was lowered through the ice, attached to the pipeline, into a pre-excavated trench and then backfilled. The 10km long LEOS tube was delivered to site in 31-coiled 300m (1000-ft) bundles that were transported from Germany to Alaska. The LEOS sensing tube was preinstalled in a protective outer polyethylene tube which was unreeled through a reverse bending jig. Crude oil production started at the Northstar production facility in October 2001 and the LEOS system has been operational since then and is providing the highest degree of assurance that no oil is escaping from the pipeline.
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The Design and Installation of the LEOS Leak Detection and Location System for the Northstar Project
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Bryce, PW, Jax, P, & Fang, J. "The Design and Installation of the LEOS Leak Detection and Location System for the Northstar Project." Proceedings of the 2002 4th International Pipeline Conference. 4th International Pipeline Conference, Parts A and B. Calgary, Alberta, Canada. September 29–October 3, 2002. pp. 97-106. ASME. https://doi.org/10.1115/IPC2002-27042
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