Pigs and the pipeline: Alyeska uses the Geopig to inspect the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.The classic children's story of The Three Little Pigs takes on an entirely different meaning when discussing pipeline inspections in Alaska.
It turns out that the one little piggy that was going to market may actually have been on the way to the oil market, helping the oil industry to inspect oil and water lines in the state. The "Geopig," the most notable and vital source used in pipeline inspection, is an ultrasonic inspection tool, which varies in size, but can weigh up to 3.2 tons. The pig has been in use since the late 1980s and has an excellent reputation among pipeline operators for its reliable corrosion detection and analysis techniques.
There are two different styles of pigs that venture down the pipeline. The first pig down the line cleans it out, while the second, "the smart pig," goes through to collect the necessary data. Sending a pig down a pipeline may sound like a strange thing, but it makes the pipeline safer and more efficient.
"These 'pigs' help us prevent and detect problems in the pipe," said Lee Monthie, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. vice president of engineering. "Mechanical pigs clean the pipe, scraping wax buildup off the pipe walls. This makes the oil easier to pump. That wax is then put back in the system (and recycled)."
Other "smart" pigs use ultrasonic, high-resolution imaging to detect corrosion. Still others use geometry to check for stress bending in the pipe wall.
In 1988, BJ Pipeline Services introduced the patented Geopig tool. Since then the use of the state-of-the-art inertial navigation systems Noun 1. inertial navigation system - a system to control a plane or spacecraft; uses inertial forces
inertial guidance system
robot pilot, automatic pilot, autopilot - a navigational device that automatically keeps ships or planes or spacecraft on a steady , integrated with Global Positioning System Global Positioning System: see navigation satellite.
Global Positioning System (GPS)
Precise satellite-based navigation and location system originally developed for U.S. military use. technology, has revolutionized pipeline mapping and Geographic Information Systems geographic information system (GIS)
Computerized system that relates and displays data collected from a geographic entity in the form of a map. The ability of GIS to overlay existing data with new information and display it in colour on a computer screen is used primarily to . In 1996, BJ Services introduced VECTRA, a new generation of high-resolution MFL MFL Minimum Flows and Levels (ground water)
MFL Modern Foreign Language
MFL Magnetic Flux Leakage
MFL Medium Flood (stage lighting)
MFL Manitoba Federation of Labour (Magnetic Flux Leakage Magnetic flux leakage (MFL) is a magnetic method of nondestructive testing that is used to detect corrosion and pitting in steel structures, most commonly pipelines and storage tanks. The basic principle is that a powerful magnet is used to magnetize the steel. ) pipeline inspection tools.
The United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. depends on the trans-Alaska oil pipeline to deliver 17 percent of its domestic oil production. Without this vital link to North Slope North Slope, Alaska: see Alaska North Slope. oilfields, the entire nation would be affected. "We have a tremendous responsibility of keeping this oil flowing in a safe, efficient and environmentally sound manner," said Monthie, an 11-year employee with Alyeska.
Occasionally, the pigs are hard to track.
"It's sometimes like going on an Easter egg An undocumented function hidden in software that may or may not be sanctioned by management. Easter Eggs are secret "goodies" found by word of mouth or accident. They are also used in video games, movies, TV commercials, DVDs, CDs, CD-ROMs and every so often in hardware. hunt when we have to go looking for Looking for
In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with. a pig," said Mark Hylen, describing how a Geopig tool occasionally becomes "lost" running hundreds of miles down the trans-Alaska oil pipeline system. "Finding that pig also takes high-tech instrumentation."
Hylen, chief executive officer for Kakivik Asset Management LLC (Logical Link Control) See "LANs" under data link protocol.
LLC - Logical Link Control , heads one of several companies that perform both water and oil pipeline inspections.
"We are the only Alaska-based company that serves both Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. (the operators of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline) and Conoco-Phillips.
"It's not as easy as it sounds," says Hylen, whose company was established in 1999. "We talk about sophisticated technology, but sometimes we have to cover nearly 5,000 feet of pipeline at a time, looking for the lost pig in attempting to recover it."
All pigs that run in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline carry a radio transmitter that is tuned to a frequency that lets the signal escape from the steel pipe. This allows Alyeska to locate the pig using hand-held receivers. Alyeska also uses sensitive microphones to listen to the pig as it moves through the pipe. Additionally, for certain kinds of pigs, Alyeska has pig passage boxes that are triggered by the pig's passage.
PIGS AND TECHNOLOGY
Technology continues to play an important role for the pigs Alyeska uses to inspect the pipeline. One of the most significant steps in technology was the shift from magnetic identification of corrosion to the current ultrasonic measurements of corrosion. Alyeska now runs two different types of instrumented or "smart" pigs. One measures pipe wall thickness using ultrasonics ultrasonics, study and application of the energy of sound waves vibrating at frequencies greater than 20,000 cycles per second, i.e., beyond the range of human hearing. ; and one detects pipe movement and changes in shape using inertial guidance inertial guidance
Guidance of an aircraft or spacecraft in which gyroscopic and accelerometer data are used by a computer to maintain a predetermined course. Also called inertial navigation.
Noun 1. technology.
The information gleaned from these pigs is a critical piece of Alyeska's inspection and repair program.
"We've gone from an era where we looked at reams of data on paper charts to the ability to call up relevant information on our computer screens. The leap forward in technology is a tremendous help to our engineers and our goals of maintaining system integrity," said Alyeska Pipeline COO Dan Hisey.
"We're using technology today in ways I could only have dreamed of coming out of college as a mechanical engineer. Our engineers can now view and manipulate large volumes of data practically at a click of the mouse. It's really pretty amazing a·maze
v. a·mazed, a·maz·ing, a·maz·es
1. To affect with great wonder; astonish. See Synonyms at surprise.
2. Obsolete To bewilder; perplex.
v.intr. . This ability to identify problems before they happen is the key to the longevity and environmentally safe operation of this pipeline."
OTHER INSPECTION METHODS
The pig, which is equipped with sophisticated sensors, a computer, ultrasonic measuring equipment, a data recorder A data recorder is a piece of equipment which records data, and may also be called a data logger.
Examples of data recorders are:
"We have individuals who walk the entire pipeline," said Hisey. "Generally speaking, it takes the entire summer for around 10 people to cover the pipeline from Prudhoe Bay Prudhoe Bay, inlet of the Beaufort Sea and Arctic Ocean, N Alaska, in the Alaska North Slope region, east of the Colville River delta. In 1968 one of the largest oil reserves in North America was discovered in Prudhoe Bay. to Valdez. They start at the beginning of the season and are done near fall. They inspect for structural damage, shifting, as well as suspicious activity."
Helicopters, four-wheelers, snowmobiles and monitoring systems within Alyeska are several other ways in which inspections are conducted down the pipeline route.
"These are very valuable means to the entire operation," says Hisey. "For security and safety reasons, we don't announce when we send out crews in four-wheelers to inspect. It's a secure, safe and timely way to go from pump station to pump station.
"We are proud to say that we exceed any Federal Department of Transportation regulation standards they set for visual inspection."
Legislation designed to significantly improve the safety and security of the nation's natural gas and fuel pipelines cleared Congress late last year. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), chief sponsor of the legislation in the House, said it would "improve pipelines' operational efficiency, provide better protection and training for pipeline workers and increase safety for residents who live near our pipelines."
The bill would require pipeline inspections at least once in the next 10 years and every seven years after that. Some pipelines near large cities would be inspected more frequently. It would also expand the public's right to know about pipeline hazards, set up environmental reviews intended to enable more pipeline repairs and increase state oversight of safety activities. It is also intended to provoke the pipeline industry to be more responsible. The measure increases the maximum penalty for a series of violations from $100,000 to $1 million.
The Joint Pipeline Office in Anchorage is the agency that oversees the pipeline inspections. Thirteen state and federal agencies have regulatory oversight on pipelines.
In November 2002, one of the strongest earthquakes to hit North America North America, third largest continent (1990 est. pop. 365,000,000), c.9,400,000 sq mi (24,346,000 sq km), the northern of the two continents of the Western Hemisphere. in the last 100 years (a magnitude of 7.9 on the Richter scale Richter scale (rĭk`tər), measure of the magnitude of seismic waves from an earthquake, devised in 1935 by the American seismologist Charles F. Richter (1900–1985). ), validated the foresight of the design engineers of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
"We conducted a thorough inspection of the (the trans-Alaska oil pipeline) with our Geopig tool for Alyeska," said J.Jay Gamer of BJ Services Co., "with the result being used in the re-certification of the integrity."
Garner, who has been with the company for 22 years, is the sales manager sales manager n → gerente m/f de ventas
sales manager n → directeur commercial
sales manager sale n → in Alaska for the globally operated BJ Services. He says the primary sensors that run on the pipeline inspection included an Inertial Navigation System to determine bending strain and survey location; caliper caliper
Instrument that consists of two adjustable legs or jaws for measuring the dimensions of material parts. Spring calipers have an adjusting screw and nut; firm-joint calipers use friction at the joint to hold the legs unmoving. arms to identify dents, ovalities, wrinkles wrinkles
See bells and whistles. and welds; and odometers that read change.
"It's interesting to note that the quake appeared to have 'straightened' the line in certain areas," Garner said. BJ Services has 15,000 employees worldwide and has operations in Dead-horse and Kenai.
Some support structures in a geographically limited area were damaged, but there was no structural damage to the pipeline, and no spills. Oil movements were resumed in just under three days. Components of the pipeline support system damaged in the quake have been repositioned and reset. Engineering assessments of the region continue. Data is currently being retrieved from the pig to determine what, if any, additional repairs to the underground sections of the pipe may be required.
The lack of significant damage is all the more remarkable considering the earthquake was centered only about 50 miles west of the pipeline and ground movement along the fault was estimated at seven feet horizontally and nearly two-and-a-half feet vertically.
In Alaska, thousands of miles of pipeline carry everything from water to crude oil. The pipe is vulnerable to attack by internal and external corrosion, cracking, third-party damage and manufacturing flaws. If a pipeline carrying water springs a leak, it can be a problem but it usually doesn't harm the environment. However, if a petroleum or chemical pipeline leaks, it can be an environmental disaster.
PSI Environmental and Instrumentation is a service-driven company, providing local environmental and safety instrumentation support services support services Psychology Non-health care-related ancillary services–eg, transportation, financial aid, support groups, homemaker services, respite services, and other services . Crystal Nygard, owner of PSI, has a work force of 12 and provides work on smaller lines in the state.
"We don't provide services for (the trans-Alaska oil pipeline), per say, but rather supply the larger companies and big engineering firms. We specialize in detecting leaks with a system that utilizes gas "sniffers" (detectors). Much of our work is done on oil rigs."
PSI service centers provide instrument sales, service and maintenance for a variety of air and water instrumentation. Additionally, PSI provides, environmental consulting Environmental consulting is often a form of compliance consulting, in which the consultant ensures that the client maintains an appropriate measure of compliance with environmental regulations. services, specifically in hazardous waste Hazardous waste
Any solid, liquid, or gaseous waste materials that, if improperly managed or disposed of, may pose substantial hazards to human health and the environment. Every industrial country in the world has had problems with managing hazardous wastes. management, disposal and recycling with offices in Kenai and Anchorage.
R&K Industrial, another pipeline inspection company in Alaska, also services smaller oil and water lines.
"We generally don't get into a project that's longer than five miles," said R&K President Robert Peterkin II. "Most of our work runs in the 1,000 to 2,000-foot line area. We operate both above and below the ground. Environmental concerns are a big focus of our business."
Peterkin, whose company is based in Kenai, has been with R&K since 1988. "When inspecting water lines, we look for calcium and iron (deposits) build-up. In oil lines, it's (parathion parathion: see insecticide. ) residue.
"We use trucks with tremendous vacuum systems, much like a septic tank septic tank, underground sedimentation tank in which sewage is retained for a short period while it is decomposed and purified by bacterial action. The organic matter in the sewage settles to the bottom of the tank, a film forms excluding atmospheric oxygen, and used in sewer systems."
The trans-Alaska oil pipeline has transported nearly 14 billion barrels of oil from the North Slope to the port of Valdez since start up. Current pipeline output is at just more than 1 million barrels per day Barrels per day (abbreviated BPD, bbl/d, bpd, bd or b/d) is a measurement used to describe the amount of crude oil (measured in barrels) produced or consumed by an entity in one day. .
Earlier this year, the state of Alaska renewed the state's right-of-way lease, extending the current terms and conditions for another 30 years of pipeline operations. That may turn out to be a lot of slop for those pigs.