Determining the leak detection sensitivity for a particular system, or suggesting strategies to improve it are common challenges for leak detection professionals.

As an alternative to statistical analysis, an empirical approach can be employed: use an offline hydraulic simulator to model the pipeline system, including all the inaccuracies due to the instruments and communication systems. Using such an approach the sensitivity can be inferred by running some scenarios representative of leak and non-leak conditions. Furthermore, not only can normal operating conditions be considered but also emergency and/or upset operating conditions can also be taken into account.

Ecopetrol (the national Oil Company of Colombia) utilized this practical approach during the commissioning phase of a new pipeline allowing Ecopetrol to calculate the sensitivity prior to the commencement of operations. Analysis was also undertaken the results of which were recommendations on how to improve the system sensitivity.

This paper describes the methodology; the construction of the hydraulic model; the assumptions made, and presents the final results. A discussion about the validity of the procedure and its generic application is also presented.

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