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Title: Hydrotesting and ILI: now and in the future
Category: Technical papers from the Journal of Pipeline Engineering
Downloadable: Yes 
Project No.:
Research Agency:
Catalog No.: 2376s
Date of Publication: 2016-06-01
Price: $25.00 US
Authors: Jerry Rau and Dr Mike Kirkwood
Abstract: PRESSURE TESTING OF PIPELINES has been around in some form or another since the 1950s. In its earliest form, operators used inert gases such as nitrogen, or even air, to test for pipeline integrity. However, with the significant increases in pipeline pressures and inherent safety issues with a pressurized gas, the switch to using water happened in the late 1960s. Hydrostatic tests (referred to as hydrotests) have been used since then to set and reset the maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP) for pipelines but, as other technologies develop and gain acceptance, will hydrotesting still play a key role in pipeline integrity in the years ahead?

Currently, hydrotesting is a hot topic with the impending US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA’s) impending integrity-verification process (IVP) regulations. Under IVP, hydrotesting is required to verify MAOP on pre?1970s US ‘grandfathered’ pipelines, as well as on pipelines of any age with incomplete or missing testing records. But hydrotesting may not be the only method. Alternative methods and new technologies – used alone or used in combination with hydrotesting – may help provide a more-comprehensive way for operators to identify and address potential problems before they become a significant threat. Balancing the impeding rules in the US with other countries’ (for example, Czech Republic and Poland), hydrotesting is seen as a beneficial way to provide long-term integrity of pipelines. This paper explores both sides of the argument.

Before in?line inspection (ILI) technology was even available, hydrotesting was the absolute means of the proof of integrity. However, hydrotesting is under scrutiny for many reasons that this paper explores. ILI was introduced in the 1960s with the first commercially available magnetic-flux- leakage (MFL) tools that presented the industry with an alternative. Currently there is a huge array of available technologies on an ILI tool, and so is the role of the hydrotest over? The paper also looks at the benefits of the hydrotest and these are presented and balanced against the available ILI technology.

Furthermore, as pipelines are being developed in even harsher environments such as deepwater developments, the actual logistics of performing a hydrotest become more challenging. The paper will also look at both applications onshore and offshore where regulators have accepted waivers to a hydrotest using alternative methods of proving integrity. This, too, is discussed in the paper as well as the implications for the pipeline industry looking to the future.

The paper concludes with the current use and needs for hydrotesting, the regulatory viewpoint, the alternatives and also what the future developments need to focus on and how technology may be improved to provide at least a supplement if not a replacement to this age-old means of integrity assurance.

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