Savvy pipeline operators are well aware that they must enforce a dynamic and effective Pipeline Integrity Management System (PIMS) to be able to run operations smoothly. Amr Saleh, Corrosion Engineer at DNV.GL told Egypt Oil & Gas that a PIMS is initiated and implemented by oil and gas companies for managing the integrity of their onshore oil and gas pipelines. Through PIMS, the minimum acceptable practices for an ongoing configuration as well as future modifications and application of PIMS to all pipelines are defined.

Saleh further explained that the primary goal of pipeline inspection and maintenance is to enable an assessment and attainment of technical integrity in order to achieve maximum pipeline availability at the lowest possible cost.

This goal implies the control and management of the risk of pipeline failure to as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP) levels to achieve maximum production through maximum pipeline availability.

The Lifecycle of PIMS 

PIMS evaluates a pipeline’s integrity across its lifecycle, from identifying risks and hazards to managing testing and mitigations to streamlining safe operations. Through proper assessment methods, PIMS identify, validate, and utilize pipeline data in order to optimize the pipeline’s integrity.

In transporting natural gas, PIMS is concerned with the pipelines’ technical and organizational integrity, as well as that of data and information. In order to provide full-scope technical system support that determine the condition of a pipeline, PIMS further entails sub-processes and tools for integrity evaluation. According to a study published by Inspectioneering Journal, the Pipeline Integrity Management (PIM) lifecycle is composed of 13 separate yet intertwined areas of integrity, all of which are constantly monitored and reevaluated.

Encompassing the complete life cycle of a pipeline, PIMS utilizes key tools that can be identified as; responsibilities and resources, risk management, integrity verification, maintenance reference plan, emergency response procedure, management of change, performance standards, data management, and auditing and reviews. Through these practices, PIMS are able to manage safe pipeline operations.

Furthermore, PIMS support the complete plan, do, check, and act (PDCA) cycle. According to Saleh, to optimize the integrity of BAPETCO pipelines, the system is designed based on the Integrity Management Cycle “Plan – Do – Check – Act”. These plans drive the PIM activities at various frequencies, quarterly, semiannually, annually, biennially, sexennially, etc. “These integrity activities for pipelines may take the form of preventative or corrective maintenance that may deem necessary after analyzing data from monitoring, inspection and testing,” Saleh noted.

Fueling PIMS with Data

As data is the driving force behind PIMS, having accurate and credible information is imperative. Records such as the maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP) are necessary to validate pipeline data and whether or not an operation can be carried out. Thus, data should never be compromised.

The more information is collected from several source systems, the more robust PIMS is to construct a proper pipeline status assessment. The integrity evaluation is completed and the status of a pipeline is determined only after inspections are performed during operations. Involving a bigger team and a wider network of engineers and experts can help identify any peculiarities of a pipeline easier. Garnering information throughout the inspections build a dynamic segmentation for the integrity evaluation.

The full set of results that are reviewed and assessed on an annual basis for each pipeline ensure the pipeline’s health. Accordingly, a regular analysis takes place to address a reference plan with all the relevant items. After an evaluation proposal, required corrective actions for any significant anomalies are included in the pipeline integrity report. When integrity assessments and reviews are complete, a pipeline integrity lead convenes a peer review of the pipeline integrity assessment results and the pipeline integrity status reports, Saleh explained.

This is achieved when the risk of pipeline failure is controlled and managed to a level that is deemed as ALARP. Saleh regards this as an inherent trait that any company should have to satisfy its corporate and legal compliance and any other statutory and regulatory obligations.

“As a mechanism to maintain and improve safety levels in a pipeline and/or a pipeline system, the use of risk management methods and processes has become the widespread industry standard and practice,” Saleh further added. That is why, risk management system plays an integral part of PIMS, setting an effective and efficient plan to prioritize pipelines inspection and maintenance routines that are based on a risk analysis routine. It is a method that allows resources to be employed in an optimum manner, Saleh further said.

Challenges and Implementations in Egypt

Failures in pipelines around the world often make headlines. At the end of the day, there is not a single PIMS that could be successfully implemented on all assets. PIMS tend to sketch out the fundamental basics of an effective management system that have been successfully integrated in companies across the world. However, the codes, standards, and regulations that govern the pipeline industry continue to change in response to lessons learned from the industry’s failures.

As some data could be missing due to limited access, this directly affects PIMS implementation and thus, the whole integrity evaluation. There are technologies that are designed to reach estimates in case of any missing data, however, not all technologies are available to every market.

For instance, Saleh noted that there is another challenge to implement ILI (in line inspection) using intelligent pigging, which requires pressure reduction then decreased production during the pig travel inside the pipeline. Nonetheless, some pipelines are so critical and have strategic significance that end-user companies will not allow any reduction in production.

To overcome this challenge, we follow another approach to know the integrity status of the pipeline by applying Internal Corrosion Direct Assessment (ICDA). This is a good methodology to know the internal condition of a pipeline, Saleh elaborated.

Since 2006, the Egyptian Natural Gas Company (GASCO) and General Electric have initiated a Pipeline Integrity Management Centre of Excellence (PIMCOE), which is the first of its kind in the Middle East. PIMCOE provides best practices in inspection, pigging proficiency and rehabilitation services with cost-efficient solutions and the latest technologies. Over the years, the center has proven its proficiency with its work for the national gas grid inside and outside Egypt, in addition to pipelines of sister companies in the petroleum sector. From its inception in 2017, the center completed inspection for 4,400 kilometers (km) of the national grid pipelines and inspected of 2,790 km for sister companies.

Integral Role

Egypt is transforming into a regional natural gas hub, supported by developmental plans, and massive offshore discoveries. Egypt is set to double its liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to 2 billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d) by the end of 2019. The country is also reviving its liquefaction plants, with the Idku plant alone exporting around 800 bcf of LNG in February, which is more than twice of the total exports recorded in 2018. This further enhances the importance of pipelines to the Egyptian the oil and gas sector. The Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum has recently signed an infrastructure memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank (WB), to finance oil and gas infrastructure projects. It also aims at revamping and developing the pipeline systems to support the expansion of the refining and petrochemical industries.