Atmos International, a UK-based company dedicated to pipeline technology, has provided advice on how to improve the Leak Detection Programme according to API RP 1175. The information was produced by Michael Twomey, one of the founders of Atmos.

API 1175 urges pipeline owners to set ambitious goals for the maintenance of their pipeline leak detection systems. This recommended practice was written to satisfy current pipeline regulations, and encourage pipeline operators to ‘go beyond’ and promote the advancement and stronger utilisation of leak detection programmes in hazardous liquid pipelines.

It is a useful document that should increase operator confidence in leak detection systems by improving leak detection performance, and raising awareness of leak detection as a companywide obligation.

The document gives some high-level suggestions for pipeline operators wondering where to begin a revamp of their leak detection programme in line with API 1175. Below is a summary of the advice provided.

1. Maintain the Supporting Components

Good leak detection requires robust and reliable supporting components and good operating practices. The instrumentation, equipment, and communication that support the leak detection system (LDS) should also be well maintained. Schedule, document and track maintenance activities.

2. Training

A good training programme will reduce the consequences of a pipeline leak or rupture. Define roles and responsibilities and establish the extent and the intervals for training. The same applies for refresher training and retraining (if an employee had a prolonged absence from a position).

3. Test your leak detection systems

API 1175 states that leak detection systems should be tested when implemented, and on a regular basis. This period should not exceed a period of 5 years. Testing should also be prompted when there has been a significant change in the pipeline operation, or a physical change in the pipeline configuration.

Atmos international fixing pipes

4. Find small changes that pay off in big gains

Identify opportunities where most improvement can be made with least effort. It may be training, adding a pressure sensor or a valve, or changing an operation on a pipeline. Set goals and document the improvements, continue to improve and monitor the progress.

The article states that, no matter how safely and efficiently a company operates their pipelines there is always the risk of a complete outsider causing an accident; third-party strikes are a typical example. Should a release occur, a strong leak detection programme, using effective leak detections systems and a fast response is the best way to minimise the consequence of the spill. When the regulator comes a calling, this same programme is again your best defense.

A full version of the article can be accessed via the Atmos International website.