While leak detection and inline inspection (ILI) are different areas of pipeline integrity, the use of inline leak detection tools can support ILI results. For example, the results of a MFL inspection point to areas of corrosion along the pipeline, including size and depth of the defect identified. The depth of the defect is very important, as it indicates how close the pipeline is to failing.
Unfortunately, MFL cannot determine if a defect has gone 100% through the pipe wall. To complement MFL, an inline leak detection tool, such as the SmartBall, can be used to confirm that none of the significant defects have gone completely through the pipe wall. By correlating the two data sets, operators can be more confident with MFL results that report high defect depth and confirm that the product is fully contained within the pipeline.
Beyond complementing MFL inspection, inline leak detection tools can be used to support other ILI efforts by addressing a significant risk that no traditional ILI tool can detect – pinhole leaks. The graphic below, published by Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA), shows the different ILI tools and which pipeline integrity threats they can address. Notably, pinhole leaks are not addressed by any conventional ILI tool.
By integrating regular inline leak detection into an integrity program, operators can not only improve existing ROW and CPM leak detection but improve ILI efforts by addressing pinhole defects.