How Are Oil Pipes Cleaned?

Early in 2018 you will no doubt have heard about the major oil leak from the Keystone Pipeline, and the cleaning process took several weeks to be completed. With this in mind, we’re taking a look at how leakages can be prevented in future and the processes that are being put in place to keep the pipes as clean as possible.

Today, advanced technologies are being employed by companies that are operating crude oil pipelines like the Keystone Pipeline to minimize any potential losses which occur because of leaks from the pipelines. There are now strict environmental regulations regarding pipelines which demand that companies monitor them much more closely. Corrosion is deemed to be the primary cause of up to 60% of oil leaks and therefore cleaning is the best method to ensure that companies do not fall foul of the new legislation.

The Role Of Cleaning In Preventing Corrosion

Most oil pipelines have been in place for years, and now they are aging dramatically. Cleaning those oil pipes can assist operators to prolong the pipeline infrastructure’s lifespan effectively. Let’s take a look at why.

Over time, a number of substances become deposited within the oil pipeline. These form because of substances like paraffin, wax, minerals and organic substances accumulate and begin to block the pipes. The result is that the crude oil can no longer flow properly through the pipeline and therefore internal pressure increases. Water accumulates in parts of the pipeline and begins to cause corrosion. In turn, this weakens the pipeline’s walls and when the increased internal pressure pairs with the weakened walls, a rupture will inevitably occur, causing oil to spill and cause environmental pollution.

What Are The Options For Cleaning An Oil Pipeline?

There are two primary options for cleaning pipelines: Mechanical cleaning and advanced chemical cleaning methods.

Mechanical cleaning methods involve using a technique called pipeline pigging. This method involves using “pigs” – a special form of equipment which is placed inside the pipeline to handle deposits. Pigs swab deposits from the pipeline’s inner wall to leave the pipe clean. This method is reasonably effective, however it may need to be completed in conjunction with another cleaning option such as power washing. Some of the greatest pressure washer reviews will show how effective power washers can be in removing deposits.

When mechanical methods fail to work, advanced chemical cleaning is the next go-to. In fact, the pipeline industry is now increasingly switching to this option. Chemical cleaning is usually combined with pigging to remove more debris and deposits over the shortest period of time. Utilizing liquid chemical cleaners which are diluted with water, iso-propyl alcohol, diesel or methanol, chemical cleaning involves pushing the solution through the pipes using pigs. The result is that vast amounts of debris and deposits are removed.

How Are Pipeline Cleaners Chosen?

Pipeline cleaning chemicals are selected because they have a neutral pH level. They are also capable of permeating through deposits and penetrating through debris effectively. It is for this reason that advanced chemical cleaning is widely regarded as the best possible way to remove pipeline deposits and to ensure that no corrosion or leaks occur over time.

The Use Of Advanced Technologies

Today, there are also some advanced technologies which are also being brought into play when cleaning oil pipelines like the Keystone Pipeline. These include optical inspection and magnetic flux leakage. Optical inspection is a procedure which enables technicians to inspect the pipe’s interior visually in 3D, making the cleaning process a lot more effective overall.

Researchers and scientists are also working on coming up with new and alternative fuels which could replace hydrocarbon based fuels over time. Biofuels have already been investigated and ethanol has proven to be successful as a form of fuel, however there is still a long way for biofuels to go before they can aid us to minimize dependence on fuels that are based on crude oil.

Mandatory Pipeline Inspections

In the USA, there has been a bill introduced called the Pipeline Integrity Bill, which makes inspections of all liquid carrying pipelines every 5 years mandatory. In the same bill, it also states that natural gas transporting pipelines must also be inspected every 7 years. Countries around the world are now following the trend and introducing legislation to ensure that oil pipelines are protected from corrosion to prevent any further dangerous oil spills from occurring.

Through the use of today’s advanced techniques, pipeline operators are now working harder to protect our natural environment, improving crude oil’s movement through the Keystone Pipeline through the removal of deposits. The result is better productivity, lower maintenance costs and higher profits for the company itself while we all benefit as a result of a safer environment which is free from the risks associated with oil leakage.

Comments are closed.