October 2022, Vol. 249, No. 10


API Summarizes Enhanced Pipeline Leak Detection Standards

By Chase Winter, Technical Writer, American Petroleum Institute (API)  

(P&GJ) — Leak prevention, mitigation and detection are critical to ensure pipelines operate safely and reliably to protect the public, workers, the environment and pipeline assets.

To foster this industry priority, the American Petroleum Institute (API) encourages operators to follow consensus standards and industry best practices as part of a commitment to continuous improvement and pipeline operational excellence.  

Thirty-three of API’s more than 800 standards and recommended practices directly address pipelines, including two recently updated standards on leak detection.   

API Recommend Practice (RP) 1130, “Computational Pipeline Monitoring for Liquids,” and API RP 1175, “Pipeline Leak Detection – Program Management,” were published in April in their second editions following a two-and-a-half-year process that leveraged industry learnings and expertise.   

“RP 1130 and RP 1175 are complementary standards that, combined with other API pipeline-related standards, ensure safety and operations,” said Anchal Liddar, API’s senior vice president of Global Industry Services. “Mitigating the risk of even the smallest unintended leak is an industry-wide priority enhanced by following API’s world-class standards.”    

RP 1130 focuses on the design, implementation, testing, maintenance and operation of computational pipeline monitoring (CPM) systems that use an algorithmic approach to detect hydraulic anomalies in liquid onshore or offshore pipelines. The primary purpose of these systems is to determine the size, scale and location of potential leaks while providing tools to assist pipeline controllers in detecting commodity releases that are within the sensitivity of an algorithm.

CPM systems include an alarm that prompts immediate investigation and displays other related data to pipeline controllers to aid in decision-making and initiation of an operational response. RP 1130 recognizes that no single CPM methodology or technology is suitable for all pipelines because each pipeline is unique in design and operation. Under appropriate circumstances, commodity release detection can be improved by using multiple CPM techniques or applications to increase reliability in detecting actual leaks without generating false alarms, sensitivity to various leak sizes, accuracy and robustness under varying operating conditions.   

First published in 2007, RP 1130 is considered the governing document for CPM leak detection, and the first edition is incorporated by reference in federal regulations (49 CFR 195 Pipeline Safety: Safety of Hazardous Liquid Pipelines) prescribing safety standards and reporting requirements for pipeline facilities transporting hazardous liquids.   

RP 1175 is an industry consensus standard that provides a risk-based approach to managing a leak detection program, including developing a leak detection culture and strategy, selecting the appropriate leak detection system, and monitoring leak detection program performance. Although the principles outlined in RP 1175 are for liquids, they are also generally applicable to natural gas pipelines under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Transportation.   

Key Changes    

The first edition of RP 1130 included programmatic elements that are currently a better fit in RP 1175. Those elements were moved from RP 1130 to the second edition of RP 1175 because of its focus on program management.   

In doing so, RP 1175 is less focused on CPM and centers on the creation of a holistic and multifaceted leak detection program. The second edition of RP 1175 was developed to be flexible and adaptable based on an individual operators’ systems, equipment and programs in recognition that leak detection is a multi-layered series of technologies and strategies. Further, using fiber-optic sensing was included in the revision since the technology can play a role in leak detection.   

The goal of a leak detection program is to identify leaks quickly and with certainty, facilitating quicker shutdown and minimizing negative consequences. RP 1175 focuses on management of leak detection programs, not the design of leak detection systems, and therefore contains relatively little technical detail.   

Instead, it is designed to provide operators with a description of industry best practices in risk-based pipeline leak detection program management and the framework to develop sound program management practices. Each operator is expected to tailor their leak detection program to their own requirements, metrics and risk-based approach.   

As the industry embraces a philosophy of pipeline excellence, it was also necessary to revise leak detection standards to bring them into alignment with RP 1173, “Pipeline Safety Management Systems,” 1st edition. Pipeline Safety Management Systems (SMS) guidance provides a framework to manage risk, promote a learning environment and continuously improve pipeline safety and integrity.   

The updated edition of RP 1175 is similar in form and function to RP 1173 as a management system, but it is more specific to leak detection. In many ways, RP 1175 builds on RP 1173, focusing on how operators can apply safety management programs to leak detection, including culture, strategy and continuous improvement.   

“As the industry evolves, there is understanding that computerized leak detection is not the end-all-be-all of leak detection. There are a variety of robust programs, tools and actions to factor into the equation, including public awareness, line flying, cameras and sensors, as well as the role of people operating systems,” said Jason Dalton, leak detection and hydraulics manager at Marathon Pipe Line LLC, who chaired the RP 1130 and RP 1175 working groups. “RP 1175 was built to help operators understand how to incorporate all of those elements together to create a comprehensive leak detection strategy that is holistic in nature.”  

Both RP 1130 and RP 1175 build on and augment each other as well as existing requirements but are not intended to duplicate any other consensus standards or regulations. Other API documents remain indispensable in pipeline operations, including API Technical Report 1149, “Pipeline Variable Uncertainties and Their Effects on Leak Detection Sensitivity,” API RP 1160, “Managing System Integrity for Hazardous Liquid Pipelines,” API RP 1167, “Pipeline SCADA Alarm Management,” API RP 551, “Process Measurement Instrumentation” and API RP 1173, “Pipeline Safety Management Systems.”  

Leak detection has evolved in the industry over the decades to become a critical and widespread part of pipeline systems with a significant amount of continuous improvement initiatives and research and development invested to improve leak detection as a process of monitoring and diagnosing to mitigate risks.   

The second editions of RP 1130 and RP 1175 bolster these developments by giving pipeline operators additional and updated tools and guidance to conduct operations safely and reliably.   

Author: Chase Winter is a communications manager and technical writer at API. He previously worked as a news writer and editor for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Deutsche Welle, among other media outlets. Winter graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and a master’s degree in Middle East Studies. 

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