Fiber Optic Sensing Association Calls for U.S. Pipeline Safety Test Facility

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Fiber Optic Sensing Association (FOSA)

FOSA’s concept diagram for a Pipeline Safety Test Facility.

The Fiber Optic Sensing Association (FOSA) is calling for the federal government and the pipeline industry to work together to establish a pipeline safety test facility in the United States.

“Other U.S. transportation sectors systematically improve safety through government-supported research facilities,” said FOSA chairman Mike Hines, of OFS.  “The Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Highway Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and others have facilities for validation of new technologies and techniques, but no such facility exists for pipelines. A comprehensive pipeline test facility operating under real-world conditions would benefit the industry, government regulators, and the public.”

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“Pipeline operators are constantly working to deploy new safety technologies,” Mark Uncapher, FOSA director said. “But when it comes to testing the technologies on active pipelines, there are limitations.  Bringing advanced pipeline monitoring technologies more quickly into service can help address the public’s safety concerns.”

To determine industry interest, FOSA interviewed safety officials with numerous pipeline operators.

“Based on the operators’ input, we believe what’s needed is a buried ‘flow-loop’ pipeline with engineered, controllable orifices to emulate leaking pipes under real-world environmental conditions,” said Dr. Chris Minto, of OptaSense, the FOSA Technology Committee chair.  “Furthermore, water and compressed air could serve as proxies to oil and natural gas to manage safety and environmental concerns when creating temporary leak on this test platform to validate leak detection technologies.”

The facility also would be used to address the question of retrofitting new safety technologies to previously installed pipelines.

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“Retrofitting is a big focus of the pipeline sector right now. Trenching near a buried pipeline is challenging because you risk puncturing the pipe,” said Gareth Lees, of AP Sensing, who led the FOSA process for interviewing pipeline operators on the test facility concept. “FOSA companies are working on ways to trench safely, but like leak detection technology, trenching technologies need to be validated to the satisfaction of the operator and a scaled pipeline test facility would help in proving out new and safer methods of sensor installation.”

According to Uncapher, a pipeline test facility would also help regulators do their jobs.  “Increasingly, pipeline regulators are expected to explore technology solutions. With a facility of this nature, they would have a place to do that, and sooner, helping the public benefit from such technologies more quickly.”

FOSA’s concept diagram (shown at the top of this post) anticipates the testing of both internal and external safety technology, the incorporation of “noisy” environments such as highways, and the use of different soil types at different locations along the test pipeline.

“FOSA’s concept diagram is framed around operator’s number-one must-have: Real life validation of advanced leak detection technologies incorporating differing soil conditions and background activity such as highways or railroads,” added Minto.

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As a next step, FOSA suggests that government and industry work together on an engineering study of the proposed facility.

“Bottom line, we think a facility of this nature will help reduce pipeline incidents,” Hines said. “That’s the goal of both pipeline operators and technology companies. We look forward to working with interested parties to make this a reality.”

Formed in 2017, FOSA’s mission is to educate industry, government and the public on the benefits of fiber optic sensing. Through webinars, videos, white papers, public presentations and public policy advocacy, the organization provides information on the use of fiber optic sensing to secure critical facilities, enhance public safety and protect the environment.

FOSA Members include Adelos, AFL, AP Sensing, Asymmetric Technologies, Corning, Ditch Witch, Dura-Line, Emerson, Fotech Solutions, Frauscher Sensor Technology USA, Hifi Engineering, Network Integrity Systems, NKT Photonics, OFS, Omnisens, OptaSense, OZ Optics, Prysmian Group and Smartpipe Technologies.

SOURCE – Fiber Optic Sensing Association

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