Pacific Gas and Electric Company owns and operates an extensive network of over 10,700 km (6,700 miles) of gas transmission pipelines, much of which is under 16″ diameter and operates at less than 27.5 bar (400 psig), making them difficult to inspect with free swimming in-line inspection (ILI) tools. Additionally, many piggable pipeline sections are multi-diameter and have numerous 1.5D fittings, some of these in back to back configuration, requiring tools that are not currently available. Following several failed attempts to inspect PG&E’s 12″ × 16″ pipelines in 2015 using existing ILI tools, and after working to modify a 12″ × 18″ tool for lower pressure service in 2016, PG&E and ROSEN decided to collaboratively develop new, specially designed, 12″ × 16″ geometry and axial MFL tools.

The goal of this project was to develop tools that could meet both the PG&E pipeline passage requirements and allow for an acceptable speed profile. The need to inspect a total of 16 pipeline sections in the long-term ILI Upgrade Plan, in this size range, justified the investment in these new tools. The service provider embarked on a new ILI tool design process including design, manufacturing, fabrication and testing at their facilities in Germany. Through this process, a number of unique ILI tool design features to lower tool drag and improve ease of collapsibility were implemented, resulting in a tool that far exceeds existing industry capabilities. To confirm the tools’ capabilities before their first use in a live gas transmission pipeline, pump testing in water, as well as in compressed air, was performed. In late 2017, using these tools, PG&E inspected two previously unpiggable 12″ × 16″ low-pressure pipelines successfully. In this paper, the process of developing these tools will be discussed. The test program will be reviewed comparing findings under controlled conditions in water and compressed air with pig run behavior in the live pipelines. The analysis also provides an assessment of the operating conditions that are deemed necessary for the inspection tool to gather a good quality data set.

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