The selection of routes is a vital component of the overall future performance of pipelines and, without accurate quality assurance services, operators may be misguided in their pursuit of safe and efficient transportation of oil and gas. The standard flow of resources travels from the wellheads at drilling sites through gathering pipelines, which are connected to processing or refining plants. Largerand longer pipelines then direct oil and gas into storage facilities or to market hubs.

Among these millions of miles of pipelines – some decades old – the possibility of a mechanical failure is present at all times if necessary safety and procedural precautions are not taken during each step of the process. All of this begins with the initial placement of the first pipeline in reference to the location of the drill rig and the surrounding environment in which the pipeline is scheduled to pass through.

The specific route selected determines how large in diameter the pipeline will be, the path of the pipeline, the manufacturing components and the need for additional security measures upon construction, stated Doug Evans, president of the International Pipe Line & Offshore Contractors Association, according to Oil & Gas Technology.

Quality assurance services optimize pipeline route selection-industry

 “Soil types and terrain greatly impact the mechanical strength and stability of infrastructure.”

During the planning phase, operators and engineers also must take into consideration the applicable regulatory requirements of the region and how residents of the area will be affected.

Optimal terrain

The resurgence of hydraulic fracturing in shale gas deposits has highlighted just how far engineering has come. Shale formations are often many miles below ground and require innovative geotechnical solutions, such as horizontal drilling and silicone proppants, for drillers to access the resources stored so far below the surface.

Likewise, the landscape can play a large role in the layout of pipelines because soil types and terrain can greatly impact the mechanical strength and stability of the infrastructure. During the preliminary design phase, having a quality assurance expert on site helps operators predict where pipelines would be best served. Statistical analysis and sizing models should be employed so that engineers have the most recent and accurate data pertaining to the site selection and the asset in question.

Just a few of the terrain issues to consider are:

  • Potential water, road, rail or pipeline crossing
  • Federally protected lands
  • Legal boundaries

Additional subterranean issues that should be addressed as well are:

  • Waste disposal sites
  • History of geological events
  • Tunnels

“Full project integrity is a key aspect to combining proper route selection with the latest technologies.”

Managing assets on proposed sites

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Route selection is a primary concern when formulating ideas of new infrastructure, though it’s equally as important to understand how the pipeline will function at a proposed site. Because the route itself dictates the size and material requirements of the pipeline, operators need to have plans in place to appropriately manage the infrastructure throughout the construction process and into full production.

Quality assurance and quality control are critical mechanisms technicians use to ensure new construction projects remain on track and within specified guidelines. From design to commissioning, full project integrity is a key aspect to combining proper route selection procedures with the latest technologies.

Using data collected from inspections, consultations and indepth site research, operators are able to improve how accurate their Probability of Detection models are and integrate jobspecific calculations about the potential for mechanical fractures.

This information assures the highest quality of construction, engineering and nondestructive testing (NDT) techniques are used both before and after the final commissioning of the pipeline. Service technicians can identify potential risks that may arise in the future and provide key insight to how to best maintain pipelines and keep the entire operation compliant with all regulations.