Product losses from pipelines, whether attributed to acts of man or nature, amount to operator losses of approximately USD 133 billion annually [1], not even considering costs associated with remediation, environmental damage, and reputational harm. When an incident occurs, pipeline operators need to minimize the event by quickly and accurately locating and quantifying the pipeline loss and its cause. Having this detailed knowledge enables determination of the best method for dealing with possible issues while helping minimize remediation costs, pipeline downtime, and the impact of the work on surrounding infrastructure.

Currently, most systems for pipeline leak detection are limited to either listening methods, which require being online and monitoring both pipeline ends at the moment the leak occurs, or intrusive methods that require the insertion of a pig into the pipeline. Both of these techniques are restricted in usage because access should be available to both ends of the pipeline. Additionally, for the intrusive method, the pipeline should be piggable and, for the listening method, the instrumentation should be able to communicate with a central data processing point placed at both pipeline ends as they rely on travel time difference between signals received at either end of the pipeline.

The method this paper describes is a proven, nonintrusive technology that can be used by pipeline operators to identify losses quickly and safely with a repeatable and verified high level of accuracy. It monitors the signature response of a generated fluid hammer and resulting pressure wave transiting within the pipeline and analyzes the reflected signature wave and pressure data to extrapolate both the location and magnitude of the loss with all pipeline parameters taken into account. The method enables operators to detect, locate, and quantify the loss of pipeline inventory in a safe and cost-effective manner without having to stop production, beyond the temporary closing of a mainline valve, or risk tools or personnel, due to exposure to pressurized fluids, before performing any intervention at the leak site.

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