We performed a mock audit this week with a client. One of the inspection questions, related to workload analysis, is “Does the process have a means of determining that the controller has sufficient time to analyze and react to incoming alarms?” One of the related considerations stated, “Operators [companies] should place particular importance on proper and timely response to leak detection alarms.” In our workload analysis projects, we measure the percentage of time controllers use responding to leak detection alarms. Do you place importance on response to leak detection alarms?
I have been paying attention to leak detection recently. Ali Gibson and I recently completed an evaluation of a leak detection program manual. Scarlet Knight and I were in a control room during a night shift and observed a Controller’s excellent response to leak detection alarms. We have received several requests for proposals to evaluate leak detection programs. I just started reading Introduction to Pipeline Leak Detection (Dr. Jun Zhang and Michael Twomey, 2017). In a team training session, a Controller asked if I had ever seen a leak detection system that worked well for detecting leaks on large diameter liquids pipelines. Unfortunately, most leaks are still detected by a person spotting the actual leak/spill/rupture.
Others are paying attention to leak detection. The public wonders why pipeline companies cannot detect small leaks. The American and Canadian regulators are proposing/requiring leak detection systems and other measures to minimize the effects of leaks. Industry organizations are developing recommended practices. Vendors are developing potential solutions.
Leak detection is a challenge, as evidenced by these excerpts from a publicly available accident report and other accident reports:
Detecting small leaks in large hazardous liquid pipelines in a reliable, timely, and cost-effective manner has been a challenge for hazardous liquid pipeline operators and regulators.
The PHMSA party representative on the Centreville accident investigation said: PHMSA is not aware of widely used industry technologies to detect small leaks similar to the one that occurred on Colonial’s line 4. However, PHMSA is taking a number of approaches through rulemaking, R&D [research and development], and taking part in standard development related to enhancing leak detection on hazardous liquid and natural gas pipelines.
He further stated that he was not aware of any automated systems that are capable of detecting small leaks in large diameter, long-distance pipelines.
Many companies have installed one or more computer-based leak detection systems, in addition to more direct methods of leak detection. What can companies do to place particular attention to controller response to proper and timely response to leak detection alarms?
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