The Importance of Quality Pipeline Design
What does quality pipeline design entail? Let’s take a look at the details to know below.
Pipelines are considered in many quarters as the safest, cost-efficient, environmentally friendly, and highly reliable mode of transporting fluids between distant and multiple locations. They usually run below and above the ground and are vastly used in the oil and gas industry to transport hydrocarbons such as crude oil, bitumen, natural gas, and refined fuels.
Designing pipelines is not a child’s play as several factors need to be considered for quality construction for productivity/efficiency. These include:
- Risk assessment (which deals with the safety aspects)
- Economic issues
- Environmental impacts
Pipe strengths calculations also cover the following factors:
- Design factors
- Pipe stresses
- Steel qualities
- Safety against external collapse (for offshore networks)
- Wall thickness
But let’s start with the general information for better context.
What is a Pipeline?
A pipeline is a system or network of pipes that transport fluids in gaseous or liquid states or a combination of both states. The transportation of fluids usually occurs between production plants, wellhead facilities, treatment or processing plants, pressure boosting stations, or storage facilities.
Pipelines are in a wide variety of sizes, depending significantly on their respective usage. The sizes range from less than one inch to more than 4 feet in diameter. According to estimates, more than 3.5 million kilometers of pipelines are currently running worldwide.
For instance, the NEB (National Emergency Board) Canada has an intricate network of about 840,000 kilometers of gathering, distribution, and transmission pipelines. About 100 federally-regulated organizations operate up to 73,000 kilometers of pipelines.
Given their utmost significance in transporting fuel in order to support numerous activities that keep world economies moving on a daily basis, great emphasis is placed on ensuring the integrity and safety of pipelines.
The Quality of Materials for Pipeline Construction
The reliability and safety of these essential pipelines are primarily dependent on how well each pipeline is carefully designed, the quality of the materials used in constructing the pipelines, as well as how they are maintained. It also depends on the type of valves used in the pipeline for industrial applications, such as process control and pressure control to manage the flow of oil and gas. For example, the petroleum industry frequently tends to use the General Valve Twin Seal, which can avoid abrasion by keeping both independent slips completely retracted from the body bore during cycling. This is why businesses and governments need to invest in high-quality valves to prevent oil and gas leakage and spillage.
Pipelines made from inferior or poor-quality materials have been blamed extensively for several disasters within the oil and gas industry. This has forced relevant authorities to tighten up regulations and laws that have to do with the integrity of pipelines, as well as give engineers a chance to carefully document and use all lessons learned as a platform for significant improvement and change.
The importance of quality pipeline design can never be overstated. But of what use is the design of a pipeline if the materials used in constructing it are inferior? Just like any product, the quality of materials used in making pipelines play a crucial role in dictating the strength, useful lifespan, pressure compliance, as well as their long-term performance. That is why it is essential to source materials and solutions from businesses that deliver on their promises with quality. Whether they look at a company like Heaton Manufacturing Ltd or check out local suppliers, they have to be assured that they are choosing the best for what they need.
Several factors that determine the selection of materials used in making pipelines are:
- Fluid pressure
- Fluid composition
- Environmental temperature (where the fluid is being transported)
- Fluid temperature
Internal Standards and Codes
The first engineering and design issues of pipelines involve the applicable basic standards and codes. Most countries have their own standards and codes that explain the designing and engineering of pipelines.
However, in every international oil and gas transportation project, all pipelines are designed, engineered, constructed, and functioned in accordance with the standards issued by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the ANSI (American National Standardization Institute).
According to the standards set by these authorized bodies, fluids transported via pipelines are categorized into 4 groups. This depends significantly on their hazard potentials, namely categories A, B, C, and D.
Crude oil is under Category B, i.e., it is a flammable, unstable, and toxic fluid. On the other hand, natural gas belongs to Category D, which is toxic, flammable, and unstable.
Pipelines that carry Category A and B fluids are expertly designed, engineered, constructed, and operated only under code ANSI/ASME B31.4. Pipelines transporting fluids (gases) in categories C and D are being designed, engineered, constructed, and operated in compliance with standard ANSI/ASME B31.8.
Automatic control valves, as well as pressure relief devices, are piping -system components and inherent parts of the pipeline systems within the oil and gas industry. Control valves regulate temperature, flow rate, and pressure. Pressure-relief valves – and other devices – help prevent the entire piping system from going beyond the maximum allowable pressure.
Pressure-relief valves and control valves come in a wide variety of materials and configurations. Each one is rated according to the flange ratings, ANSI and API pressure classes, and end connections. These valves must be rated for maximum allowable pressures of the interconnecting piping system.
Along pipelines that transport natural gas, compressor stations are positioned strategically. They are used to compress the gas to a pre-determined pressure and then allow the gas to continue on its way. It is a relatively straightforward process.
The natural gas enters the compressor station with low velocity and pressure via an inlet valve. The inlet valve can be a trunnion-mounted ball valve. As soon as the gas moves beyond the inlet valve, it is compressed through the compressor. This allows the fluid media to travel right down the pipeline at high flow rates.
Since the natural gas has already been compressed to a higher pressure level, a significant amount of vibration occurs. But this vibration must be mitigated in order to reduce valve wear and protect the station. The compressor valves within the stations must also be reliable enough to withstand the considerable vibrations. Moreover, they must also have a bubble-tight seal and be quick-turn.
The TOM WHEATLEY piston check valve is the perfect choice for use in pulsating applications – owing to its unique non-slam design – that reciprocating compressors cause as a result of its design to safely avoid damage to compressors and prevent backflow.
The ball check design of the valve and orifice controls the dampening piston movement and the close speed and eliminates chattering or slamming in the event of unpredictable flow conditions or sudden pressure surges.
The piston check valve top-entry design gives room for quick and easy access as well as replacement of every valve internal part with minimized downtime.
Pipelines may be an eco-friendly way of transporting fluids in liquid or gaseous states, but they still require maintenance. If not, issues such as corrosion and leaks will abound. If they are ignored or left unchecked, the pipeline becomes a severe risk factor for injury, environmental damage, and death.
Improper maintenance of pipelines may lead to:
- High risk of explosion
- Environmental damage
- Disruption of service
This is why the appropriate bodies need to ensure the integrity of pipelines as well as all its related components is not compromised. They can do this via regular inspections, carry out pipeline repairs using high-quality parts or components, and initiate damage prevention processes.
The importance of quality pipeline design cannot be overstated. Every factor that will minimize the risk of explosion, environmental damage, as well as disruption of service must be considered to a great extent before pipelines are designed. This is also to ensure quality construction for productivity/efficiency.
It is also essential to consider the type of materials used in constructing pipelines since they will be transporting various types of fluids from one end to the other.
Proper maintenance is required to keep the integrity and every related component intact in order to ensure smooth operations on a daily basis. This is done via regular inspections, repair of damaged sections using high-quality materials and advanced equipment, and damage prevention processes.
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