Challenging Forced Main Pipeline Inspections

Pipeline Inspection & Condition Analysis Corporation (PICA) is a leader in offering best-in-class pipeline inspection and condition analysis services. Their purpose to drive innovation in proactive inspections and condition analysis services aims to increase safety, reliability, and extend the service life of critical pipeline assets. This commitment not only ensures the safety and efficiency of pipeline infrastructure but also contributes to a more sustainable future by reducing the need for complete pipeline replacements.

PICA’s advanced technologies and service solutions are particularly significant in addressing the challenges of aging critical pipeline infrastructure, which is a common concern in the developed world. Due to financial constraints, replacing this aging infrastructure is often not viable, making proactive inspections and targeted repairs essential for maintaining safety, reliability, and extending the lifespan of these crucial assets.

One of PICA’s notable technologies is the Advanced NDT service, which utilizes Electromagnetic Remote Field Eddy Current Testing (RFT) Technology Inspection Tools. This technology is highlighted in a case study from the 2018 No-Dig Show by the North American Society for Trenchless Technology, where it was used for a challenging inspection of a force main beneath a drinking water reservoir in San Diego, California.

The force main in question, operated by the City of San Diego, spans over 5 miles and includes a section that runs beneath Lake Hodges, a drinking water reservoir. This section, consisting of twin 16-inch diameter parallel pipelines installed in 1976, had never been inspected. Concerns about the condition of the pipelines, especially given their critical location and potential risk of contaminating the water supply, prompted the City to seek an inspection solution.

Brown and Caldwell, tasked with this challenge, selected PICA’s Advanced NDT technology—specifically, an in-line inspection (ILI) tool named the See Snake. This tool uses RFT technology to measure pipe wall thickness around the entire circumference of the pipelines. The See Snake’s deployment marked a world-first for a free-swimming, non-tethered ILI tool used in a force main beneath a body of water.

The inspection process required meticulous planning and execution. It included constructing pig launching and receiving facilities, pipeline cleaning via progressive pigging, and deploying the See Snake. The ILI tool provided high-resolution data, identifying areas of wall loss and potential critical failure locations. The results showed that over 17% of the pipe segments had measured areas of wall loss, with some locations having less than half of the original pipe wall remaining. These findings were crucial for the city to make informed decisions about maintaining and repairing the pipeline, thereby reducing the risk of failure and contamination.

PICA’s service offerings, including the Advanced NDT, are crucial for asset managers, pipeline operators, and owners. Here’s why:

  1. Innovative Technology: PICA’s use of cutting-edge technologies, like the See Snake, enables comprehensive assessments of pipeline integrity. These tools can detect a range of issues, including wall loss, corrosion, and cracks, providing a detailed understanding of pipeline conditions.
  2. Proactive Approach: PICA’s focus on proactive inspections aligns with the need for sustainable infrastructure management. By identifying issues before they become critical, operators can extend the life of their assets, ensure safety, and avoid costly emergency repairs or replacements.
  3. Customized Solutions: PICA offers a range of inspection services tailored to different pipeline materials and conditions. This versatility allows for a more targeted approach, ensuring that inspections are relevant and effective for each unique pipeline system.
  4. Cost-Effectiveness: By identifying potential issues early, PICA’s services help in avoiding major breakdowns that can result in significant financial losses. This pre-emptive approach is more cost-effective in the long run, as it minimizes the need for extensive repairs or replacements.
  5. Environmental Responsibility: PICA’s services contribute to environmental protection by preventing incidents that could lead to contamination, like the case of the San Diego force main. Ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial in safeguarding natural resources and public health.
  6. Regulatory Compliance: With increasing regulations around pipeline safety and environmental protection, PICA’s services help operators stay compliant, avoiding potential legal issues and fines.
  7. Data-Driven Decisions: The detailed data analysis provided by PICA’s service offerings empower operators to make informed decisions regarding maintenance, repairs, and replacements, optimizing operational efficiency and asset management.

In conclusion, PICA’s Advanced NDT and other service offerings are not just about maintaining pipeline integrity; they represent a holistic approach to sustainable asset management. The case of the San Diego force main illustrates the efficacy and necessity of such advanced inspection technologies in managing aging infrastructure. By prioritizing proactive inspections and condition analysis, PICA plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety, reliability, and longevity of critical pipeline assets, which is integral to the sustainable growth and well-being of societies worldwide.