Pipelines have transported water, oil and gas for hundreds of years, serving residential communities, industrial sites and commercial centers reliably and silently. Leak detection systems (LDS) are needed because pipeline spills occur more frequently as infrastructure ages and more hazardous products are transported. Leak detection systems cannot prevent leaks, but they can certainly help minimize the consequence of leak. Regrettably, too many leak detection systems fail to detect leaks, and other leak detection systems are ignored by the operators because they are unreliable. Thus, leaks that should have been small spills become disasters that cost pipeline owners millions of dollars.
The key to the successful operation of pipeline leak detection systems is management commitment that assures the allocation of sufficient resources to the ongoing maintenance of leak detection systems and their supporting components. Every pipeline operator should consider a role for a leak detection champion who understands how their system works, continually monitors its performance, and supports the Pipeline Controllers. The leak detection system is not “fit-and-forget” and it requires ongoing management which is best achieved in-house with vendor support. When selecting a leak detection technology, it is critical to remember that every pipeline is different and the technology that is best for one pipeline may not serve well on another pipeline.