SmartPipe dream for Norway

A group of Norwegian companies and a research organisation have launched an initiative to monitor the status of seabed oil and gas pipes and act as an environmental watchdog.

SICOM, Force Technology, CorrOcean and Thermotite are working with SINTEF (The Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research at the Norwegian Institute of Technology) on the project. The study has won NOK 41 million (£3.5 million) backing from oil and gas companies and the Research Council of Norway.

The three-year interdisciplinary project is the first phase of a major programme that the project partners have called “SmartPipe”. This will be a complete monitoring system that gathers and processes data from pipelines on the seabed.

SmartPipe will transmit data about pipeline leak risk factors – mechanical loads, rate of corrosion and remaining wall thickness, among others – from the ocean bed. The system will also send up information about flow conditions in the pipelines, ensuring that the transport capacity of the pipelines is maintained at the highest possible level.

SINTEF project manager Ole Øystein Knudsen said, “SmartPipe will be an important aid when oil and gas are being produced in sensitive environments like the Arctic. The system will also tell us whether a pipeline’s lifecycle can be extended, and if so, what will be needed to do so. This is important when we remember that the useful lives of many oil and gas fields are being increased, so that they also need transportation systems with a longer lifetime.”

At present, the oil industry has limited access to data about the state of health of its pipelines or about the flow conditions inside them. Current data capture is restricted to information from sensors located close to the wells, information from remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and data from intelligent “pigs” that are sent through the pipelines from time to time.

The sensors in SmartPipe will cover the whole length of the pipeline, and the information will be gathered throughout its working life. Some of the data will be used directly, while other aspects will be used as input for simulations and mathematical models.

The complete system will consist of a sensor package and communication equipment which will be integrated into the pipeline as a distributed system, as well as analytical tools that will transfer the data that has been read in. There will also be a database to store the information and software for presenting the results to the operator.