The SmartPipe development project

The system will be capable of reporting the technical condition of the pipeline (at any position, at any time), and provide warnings in case of emerging critical situations. It will be able to measure the critical parameters for unwanted depositions and characterize the flow mode. It will also offer the possibility to perform simulations regarding further operation of the pipeline, with possible changes in the operation conditions (e.g. pressure, temperature, or flow composition). These are all key factors to provide an efficient decision making tool for pipeline operation. Also, in order to meet the emerging e-field and integrated process management approaches, information on these issues will be provided (close) to real time, to allow coupling with other parts of the total production system like wells and process units.
The SmartPipe concept is based on information from different stages in the pipeline lifecycle. All information from design through to operation is input to an integrated database that contains the exact configuration and condition of the pipeline for multidisciplinary analysis. During fabrication and installation, welding procedures, local geometry of welds, detected defects (uncritical), deformation history, and position of the as-laid pipe are recorded. This documentation will be stored in the database. The database will be continuously updated based on registered changes, and will contain the full history data for each part of the pipeline. During operation a distributed sensor network will provide measurements used as input to assessments of the technical condition of the pipeline and the flow performance of the system.

The sensor network will be integrated on the pipeline; intrusive sensors will be avoided. Solutions for local power generation will be sought to avoid the need for long power cables. Power efficient sensor nodes and communication solutions are thus a must. The concept aims at a high degree of wireless communication, or combination of wireless and wired communication, integrated with the pipeline or the umbilical since wireless solutions have limited range and data capacity. Sparsely distributed communication nodes can accumulate data from local wireless systems providing significant band width and communication range when needed.

The distributed sensor network will provide both measurements that can be used directly to monitor degradation (e.g. wall thickness reduction) and measurements that will be used as input to flow degradation models.  In order to provide a solid foundation for decision support, data received from the sensors will be processed, structured and stored in a database. To save power in the sensor nodes, some pre-processing of the local observations can be done in the nodes. Received data at a control centre will either be used directly or as input to simulation modules. A framework will be established for efficient extraction of input data to analysis modules and for fusion of monitored and simulated data. In combination, monitored data and simulated results provide a superior understanding of the condition of the pipeline and an unsurpassed basis for determining corrective measures.

Combinations of 2D and 3D visualization techniques and the use of digitized seabed topography will enable evaluation of critical phenomena such as snaking effects and upheaval. The effect of changes in terrain and pipeline supports can be determined. This will also provide a unique mechanism for interactive positioning along the pipeline and for visualization of monitored and simulated results.

Published September 25, 2006

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