How Does It Work: Pipeline Safety

20 October 2015

By Jennifer Hopkins, Marketing Specialist - Cameron Valves & Measurement

No matter the environment or application, valve integrity is key to pipeline safety. A wide range of valves, actuators, and valve accessories have been designed to keep pipeline processes and transfer points as safe as possible, and reduce the likelihood of environmental exposure or leakage.

Valve failure in a pipeline can be costly. Not only is there cost involved in repairing the valve or pipeline, but there also is lost profit in downtime, and sometimes even legal repercussions for environmental contamination or damages.

Valves

Choosing the right valve for your application is the first step in achieving a safer pipeline operation. Every decision, from valve type to advanced testing and certification requirements can impact performance. If a valve is not accurately matched for the process environment, productivity will suffer. Sometimes choosing the right valve requires working with an expert that can advise on application-specific requirements, and potential design ideas for unique situations.

Certain applications are straightforward and require reliable, daily-service valves like a trunnion mounted ball valve (for small bore pipelines). Ball valves are commonly installed at specified intervals as shutdown points in miles of pipeline. These valves help ensure that in the case of scheduled maintenance or an emergency situation, the pipeline can be securely isolated. “Ball valves can be used for isolation and shutdown applications.” Jeffery Joseph, Cameron Gas Transmission & Storage segment manager said.

In areas where critical isolation is needed, more specialized, engineered valves should be utilized to ensure that leakage does not occur. Depending on the application and type of service, a wide range of valve types and options are available to fit specific needs. For example, in liquid service near waterways or municipalities, an expanding gate valve for critical isolation can be used. In other situations, like cryogenic service, a ball valve specially designed for service at very low temperatures is necessary. Ultimately, selecting the right valve for the application is critical.

Actuators

Part of having a reliable valve system in a pipeline is having a reliable operator. Whether it’s a manually operated valve with a gearbox or an automated valve with an actuator, the application and pipeline design need to be taken into consideration. Actuators offer a solution for emergency shutdown situations, and provide remote control in environments that manual operation can be difficult or dangerous. “Actuators have the advantage of operating a valve quickly when responding to an electric signal sent from a remote location or automatically when detecting an abnormal pipeline condition. Whereas manual gearboxes will operate a valve slower, requiring direct human interaction at the valve, which can be impossible to access during an emergency situation.” said Cameron’s LEDEEN® actuator product manager, Russ Robertson.

Accessories

As the global energy industry has grown, it has encountered unique and diverse challenges requiring specialized equipment. Devices that have the ability to lock an automated valve system from operation through mechanical means as well as devices that help compensate for environment changes (such as temperature compensators) can be critical to safe pipeline operation.

Valve accessories like a partial-stroke test device, which allows for a valve to be partially stroked for testing purposes while in service, and a valve locking device that offers mechanical lock-out capabilities so that a valve cannot cycle, are some of these solutions. A wide variety of easily mounted add-on products are available to the valve user, including temperature compensators, ground position indicators, damper drives, declutch and manual overrides, and a plethora of other options. Many times these accessories can be retrofitted for existing installations.

Measurement Systems

Beyond controlling flow, detecting pipeline and process fluid conditions can help prevent major accidents or exposures to the environment from occurring. Metering technology, like ultrasonic meters, can help detect leakage in a pipeline before major failure occurs, saving time and money. The ultrasonic meter works to detect leaks by using ultrasonic sound waves that penetrate a process fluid and measure the amount of time it takes for the wave to return to a sensor. By monitoring variations in these measurements, fl ow computers are able to analyze potential leaks upstream in the pipeline, alerting maintenance crews to investigate further.