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Title: Challenges of an ageing pipeline system: a US perspective
Category: Technical papers from the Journal of Pipeline Engineering
Downloadable: No
Catalog No.: 2361s
Date of Publication: 2015-12-01
Price: $25.00 US
Authors: Dr Brian Leis
Abstract: THE EARLIEST HYDROCARBON pipelines in the US moved natural gas from a local source to and between nearby houses through hollow logs in Fredonia, NY, circa 1825. Oil was transported through a short 2-in diameter cast-iron system in the early 1860s near Oil City, PA. A similar scenario played-out north of the US, in Canada, but over a slightly delayed timeline. While the status of this very early construction is unknown, parts of pipeline systems constructed prior to 1910 remain in transmission service in the US. Although such construction remains the focus of rehabilitation and replacement, PHMSA statistics indicate that roughly 70% of the US transmission mileage was built prior to the 1970s – the era when this infrastructure was first subject to government regulation. As such, the US has an ageing pipeline infrastructure.

Over time it is apparent that many of the early construction practices led to in- service failures, which in turn led to improvements. While the early problematic construction practices were phased-out as issues were identified, pipelines constructed based on such practices remained in-service unless the operations and maintenance posed safety concerns or the related costs were excessive. Accordingly, many pipelines remain in service today that involve vintage practices, each of which must be managed to ensure continued safe serviceable cost-effective operation.

This paper reviews the circumstances and processes involved in managing the ageing US pipeline infrastructure in regard to the unique linepipe and construction methods that underlie this network. It closes with the finding that the current process that prioritizes on defect size could make a step improvement through consideration of local properties, but this is constrained by a technology gap for which a near-term stopgap is outlined.

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