Pipelines remain critical infrastructures to the economy of any nation. They are delicate in the sense that if they are not given adequate attention, it can lead to various issues. These can readily be avoided by regular and consistent maintenance and repair.
Pipelines are large underground pipes that are used for transporting and distributing various substances which are typically in gaseous or fluid form. These can include chemicals, water as well as oil. They are an extensive network of pipes that span thousands of kilometers in length and may transverse several state lines.
Their main purpose is to help transport substances from a point of production and distribute them to regions where they are needed. They have a distinct advantage of speed, safety and security from attacks most times. While there may be other ways to transport these substances, they often are more expensive. They are also not as safe and will require more time to reach their destination.
This is what makes them a crucial part of the economy as they provide development, advancement, and growth. In order to manage them easily and efficiently, pipelines are typically installed in sections. They are as well equipped with various devices that help to monitor and detect any issues early. These include valves, pumps and other control devices.
Due to their importance, these infrastructures need constant monitoring, maintenance and repair. These help to keep them in excellent condition and to operate at maximum efficiency. The advantage of doing this is avoidance of downtime that can lead to a heavy loss of revenue.
It also ensures consistent supply to end-users who rely on these structures for their businesses and daily needs. More importantly, the owners of the pipeline infrastructure can avoid litigations stemming from discontentment and environmental pollution. Additionally, they will avoid the loss of lives.
What Can Lead To Pipeline Issues?
Pipelines need to be protected and secured but this starts at the point of installation. They are typically designed and constructed in a way that ensures that they are strong and with a minimal amount of risk. However, despite these, there is still a possibility of defects and damages.
These could be as a result of corrosion, mechanical defects, or other operational or environmental factors. To this end, they must be constantly inspected for any faults before these faults become full-blown. There are several techniques used for achieving this and they include:
- Ultrasonic inspection,
- Visual inspection
- Magnetic particle testing
- Magnetic flux
- Dye penetration tests and
- Cathodic protection survey.
It is always best to prevent severe damage to pipelines than mitigating any resulting issues. While it may be unrealistic to eliminate all issues, structures can be put in place to minimize them. These start from a good design coupled with good management, maintenance and effective repair.
Line Stopping As a Technique for Pipeline Maintenance and Repair
To prevent damage or limit issues to a pipeline, there are pipeline repair companies that offer various repair services. They make use of different techniques to prevent the total shutdown of operations.
The technique used is often dependent on the kind of repair work to be done. These methods are often environmentally friendly and cost-effective. Some of the methods that line stopping services will use will include: hot tapping, leak repairs, freeze stops and a few others.
Line stopping remains one of the most common and efficient ways of pipeline repair. It is a way of temporarily shutting down a pipeline for modification and repairs. It allows the system to remain active and without disruption to the service. This technique can be performed on most types of pipes even with a pressure that is up to 900 psi at a temperature of 600C.
How Line Stopping Works
Line stopping also referred to as line plugging is used to block the flow of product through a pipe section. This process will usually involve a hot tap and is followed by inserting a mechanical stopping head in the line. This helps to create a temporary seal that allows modifications to be carried out easily.
The process consists of a temporary valve, a flanged fitting and an actuator. The flanged fitting is installed and then tested alongside the temporary valve making the hot tap completed. After this, the actuator is installed and the plugging head is inserted into the line.
When the repair work is done, the plugging head is removed and a completion plug is put in its place. This will allow the pipe to be easily unblocked. The hot tap can also be re-used. There are different types of plugging heads that can hold different pressures up to 1000 psi.
Additionally, two or more line stops may be used together on a pipeline to isolate or bypass several intersecting lines simultaneously. The flowing product is bypassed and therefore a workable section is created making room for alterations and repairs.
Line stopping is usually the last option before a decision is made to drain a pipe or shut down the system completely. You can read further on the process in this article.
As an owner of a pipeline infrastructure, you can reach out to experienced companies that offer various pipeline repair services. A good company can offer you different types of line stop procedures depending on various factors required. This includes temperature, pressure, the flowing product as well as flow rates.
Before recommending a procedure, they will carry out an exhaustive hazard analysis. This will inform them of the best method to use considering safety and reliability.
Keeping pipeline infrastructures in excellent conditions is as important as the product that it is used to transport. This is because if it experiences downtime, it will remain non-functional and will not be available to transport any product. More grievous are the repercussions of a poorly maintained one.
It can result in environmental pollution, destruction and even death. Nobody wants any of these therefore regular monitoring and maintenance is key. Line stopping is one out of several methods used in pipeline repair and it can be carried out while the line is active.