Most transportation problems consist of moving carriers of stationary cargo. Pipelines are unique in the sense that they are stationary carriers of moving cargo. As a consequence, the planning problem of these systems has singularities that make it very challenging. In this paper we present the Pipesworld model, a transportation problem inspired by the transportation of petroleum derivatives in Petrobras’ pipelines. Pipesworld takes into account important features like product interface constraints, limited product storage capacities and due dates for product delivery. The relevance and unique characteristics of Pipesworld has been recognized by the Artificial Intelligence planning community. Pipesworld has been selected as one of the benchmark problems to be used in the Fourth International Planning Competition, a biannual event to benchmark the state-of-the-art general purpose artificial planning systems. We report the results obtained by general purpose artificial intelligence planning systems when applied to the Pipesworld instances. We also analyze how different modelling techniques may be used to significantly improve the planners’ performance. Although the basic algorithms of these planners do not incorporate any specific knowledge about the pipeline transportation problem, the results obtained so far are quite satisfactory. We also describe our current work in developing Plumber, a dedicated solver, aimed to tackle effective operational situations. Plumber uses general purpose planning techniques but also incorporates domain specific knowledge and may work together with a human expert during the planning process. By applying Plumber to the Pipesworld instances, we compare its performance against general purpose planning systems. Preliminary tests with a first version of Plumber shows that it already outperforms Fast-Forward (FF), one of the best available general purpose planning systems. This shows that improved versions of Plumber have the potential to effectively deal with pipeline transportation operational scenarios.

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