Blog / Protecting Pipelines – and the Productivity of the People Who Keep Them Running

Protecting Pipelines – and the Productivity of the People Who Keep Them Running

The world runs on infrastructure, much of it out of sight and out of mind until failure brings it dramatically to our attention.  Buried underground are millions of miles of metallic pipelines that carry petroleum products, natural gas, water and wastewater.  But metal and soil do not mix well.  This vital infrastructure is constantly threatened by corrosion.  Pipeline companies fight it with specialized coatings – but even those are not perfect, requiring more active measures be taken. 
For decades, oil and gas companies have used cathodic protection (CP) systems to keep corrosion under control. One method involves burying a specialized metal anode next to the pipe and connecting them by wire.  Through the magic of electrochemistry, this causes the anode instead of the pipeline to experience corrosion. A second form of CP involves injecting current into the pipeline through a longer-life anode. In either case, over time, the anode deteriorates and must be replaced, but the piping it protects gains decades of operational life. 
The traditional way to manage CP systems is with site inspections by pipeline personnel, which environmental laws may require multiple times per year depending on jurisdiction and application. Companies with hundreds of thousands of miles of pipeline devote significant staffing time and travel costs to inspection, especially for pipelines running through remote territory. Field technicians visit each CP test station to inspect systems, validate correct operation and test performance.  They also manually install control devices that provide synchronized interruption of CP systems so that technicians can test pipe-to-soil electrical potential along the pipeline to validate appropriate protection levels of the CP system. With many months passing between inspections, serious corrosion problems can go unaddressed for far too long.
MOBILTEX is a Canadian IIoT manufacturer that provides wireless monitoring technology on CP systems for pipeline operators, utilities, and energy producers around the world.  Its wide range of CorTalk plug-and-play products are designed to install quickly and easily in the above-ground cabinets of CP systems.  Each provides continuous performance monitoring with automated alerts to unusual conditions or failure, and the ability to remotely control synchronized interruption for testing.  Once active, technicians can use any web-enabled device to access the CorView cloud platform to see where CP systems are operating normally and to download performance data, generate reports and conduct interruptions.  The web interface also lets technicians remotely modify device configurations.
The CorTalk products communicate their data wirelessly.  Where cellular coverage is available, the products can use mobile service.  But pipelines pass through many rural areas and must traverse rugged terrain on their way to market.  CorTalk products also include an option for an integrated Globalstar STX3 satellite transmitter that automatically connects to a satellite in the Globalstar network and transmits a burst of data to Globalstar’s IoT center, where it is processed and delivered to MOBILTEX to populate its CorView platform.  The Globalstar network provides a single, affordable communications platform that covers most of the world and a range of transmitters-on-a-chip designed for integration into industry-specific solutions.
Cutting Costs, Improving Data Quality
One of the largest Midstream companies in the United States operates natural gas pipeline assets in the rugged terrain of the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest.  “There have been times when we’ve had to take snowcats, snowmobiles and helicopters out for a day to check cathodic readings,” said the Senior Corrosion Engineer for the line.  “You figure $800 an hour for helicopter rentals and at least an 8-hour day, and those costs add up quickly.”  In addition to high cost, manual inspections produced poor-quality data, because field crews would use different testing methods and equipment at different times of the year. 
With MOBILTEX products installed across the pipeline network, the company now easily gathers consistent data weekly from its CP systems and conducts testing remotely, all without dispatching field crews from the comfort of a workstation.  Testing in the field once took weeks to set up portable testing units along the pipeline and was a major factor in OpEx planning and budgets.  With MOBILTEX, the same process takes about fifteen minutes at a fraction of the cost. 
Assessing Corrosion Threats Accurately
Another example is a major natural gas and electric utility serving over 1.2 million customers in British Columbia, Canada. It maintains a 10,400-kilometer (6,462 mile) steel pipeline network across coastlines, mountains, deserts, rainforest, and tundra.  To monitor its CP systems, the company installed CorTalk products that provide reliable communication and GPS time synchronization across more than 800 test points.  Using the data collected in the CorView platform, the company can see performance across the network and predict where anodes will need replacement.  It also receives alerts about potential threats and can assess them based on accurate information.  This data allows service teams to prioritize travel for maintenance and repairs instead of inspection, optimizing the company’s staff and resources, and extending the life of its pipelines. 
Globalstar is proud to integrate its satellite technology into Industrial IoT systems from MOBILTEX and many other innovative companies serving a wide range of industries.  .
Since 1985, MOBILTEX has provided remote monitoring technology and services to over 200 major organizations that protect more than 160,000 miles of pipeline.  Its innovative field and remote CP monitoring solutions are used by oil & gas, power generation, mining, critical infrastructure and water and utility industries.  Pipeline integrity and corrosion engineers across a wide range of industries trust MOBILTEX solutions to protect their mission-critical assets. With innovative engineering, design and manufacturing capabilities, the company has created dependable IIoT technology that is built smart, built tough, and built to last.