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PII Pipeline Solutions, part of GE Oil and Gas, is completing a large pipeline inspection project by helping Transcanada evaluate the condition of an 864km portion of a natural-gas pipeline in Canada.

This part of the pipeline, which covers a span equivalent to the distance between Paris and Berlin, needed to be inspected prior to being converted to carry crude oil as part of the Keystone Oil Pipeline.

Transcanada is converting its 34in (79cm) mainline gas pipeline between Burstall, Saskatchewan, and Carman, Manitoba, as part of the Transcanada and Conocophillips joint Keystone Oil Pipeline project.

The initiative will allow crude oil to be transported to US midwest markets at Wood River and Patoka, Illinois, and to Cushing, Oklahoma.

The converted pipeline will transport liquids at its approved operating pressure of 880psig (6,067kPa).

To ensure optimal availability of the converted pipeline, Transcanada first had to make sure it was free of stress corrosion cracking (SCC), which could potentially lead to leaks.

GE Oil and Gas’s PII Pipeline Solutions division operates advanced ultrasonic pipeline inspection tools used for crack detection.

Headquartered in Houston, PII Pipeline Solutions operates an integrated engineering services centre in Calgary to support Transcanada and other Canadian pipeline operators.

Between October 2008 and March 2009, the GE field team performed crack-detection inspection runs in three segments of the natural-gas pipeline of 294km, 315km and 255km in length respectively.

John Bucci, general manager for GE Oil and Gas’s PII Pipeline Solutions business, said: ‘GE was selected by Transcanada because we were the only company with both the experience in using ultrasonic tools for crack detection and the resources to manage this critical project scope and technical requirements, particularly the need to deploy multiple tools over such a vast distance.

‘The project scope and schedule requirements meant that GE needed to simultaneously deploy several types of inline inspection [ILI] tools, also known as “pigs”,’ he added.

Prior to deployment, Transcanada developed a pipeline manifold to accommodate all the tools and ensure that no air bubbles were left in the line.

A total of eight tools were dispatched in section 1 and seven tools in section 2; six of those were batching tools.

Transcanada also had to control a 3km batch of fluid (in the winter, diesel-like Frac Fluid is used) in a given pipeline segment to ensure that the GE ILI tools could move at the consistent speed needed for accurate data collection.

To help Transcanada, GE deployed its Ultrascan Duo: the first ultrasonic ‘smart pig’ to utilise phased-array sensors to search for multiple types of cracks and other microscopic flaws in just one run of the line.

The Duo phased-array sensor system was originally developed by GE Healthcare for use in hospital imaging systems, but was later adapted to evaluate the condition of pipelines.

The Ultrascan Duo features increased speed and has an ability to detect smaller flaws than conventional crack-detection tools.

The Canadian National Energy Board, which sets regulations for pipeline operators, is reviewing the conversion project and the results of the GE Ultrascan Duo application.

GE Oil and Gas

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