Regulation in the United States mandating the use of pressure testing as an assessment tool for the construction and commissioning of pipelines was initiated in 1970. Prior to regulation, however, pressure testing was being applied within the pipeline industry to provide confidence in the operational integrity of pipeline systems. Additional assessment technologies and processes including high resolution in-line inspection continue to be developed and further enhanced; however pressure testing remains a valuable and acceptable tool in the management of pipeline integrity. Current applications include quality verification of original construction practices, integrity assessment of existing pipelines, and verification of material yield strength when key records may be missing or incomplete.
It is recognized that extensive hydrostatic testing knowledge exists today in the form of API Recommended Practices, ASME code documents, the body of work of industry consultants, regulatory language and other resources. A key element to implementing the current industry standards is a pipeline operator perspective in practical application on selection of hydrostatic testing as an assessment tool and the subsequent technical design of a hydrostatic test program in order to achieve integrity management goals. This paper discusses hydrostatic testing in the context of selection as an integrity management tool, development of risk-balanced objectives for a hydrostatic test program, and understanding the limitations and potential detrimental effects of hydrostatic testing.
This paper summarizes key considerations in guidelines published in 2016 that were developed through a Pipeline Research Council International (PRCI) project. While written to be applicable to all hydrostatic testing, this work is a key element of the multi-year PRCI Electric Resistance Welded (ERW) and Longitudinal Seam Pipe Program which began in 2011 and was formed to comprehensively study and develop strategies for management of factors that contribute to seam failures.