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Acoustic Leak Detection at a Distance: A Key Enabler for Real-Time Pipeline Monitoring With the Internet of Things

[+] Author Affiliations
Murat Ocalan

Rheidiant, LLC, Houston, TX

John P. Edlebeck, Shane P. Siebenaler

Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, TX

Paper No. IPC2016-64405, pp. V003T04A010; 8 pages
  • 2016 11th International Pipeline Conference
  • Volume 3: Operations, Monitoring and Maintenance; Materials and Joining
  • Calgary, Alberta, Canada, September 26–30, 2016
  • Conference Sponsors: Pipeline Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5027-5
  • Copyright © 2016 by ASME


Real-time leak monitoring of pipelines is a need that is growing with the aging of the assets and the rise of the population living in their close proximity. While traditional deployment of external monitoring solutions on legacy assets may require extensive construction and trenching on the pipeline right-of-way, a new class of self-powered and wirelessly communicating devices provides an intriguing alternative. These devices are installed on the right-of-way with no need for mechanical excavation and allow continuous monitoring of a pipeline over long distances. Their low-power requirement makes it possible to operate the monitoring system continuously on battery power and their wireless communication is established through a self-forming network. These attributes make real-time monitoring possible without requiring any wiring to be deployed on the right-of way. The devices take advantage of the pipe’s characteristics that guide the acoustic waves generated by the leak along the pipeline to detect leaks. These characteristics make the detection possible even from a device that is not in close proximity of the leak.

Since device spacing is a key parameter in the cost of monitoring with the leak detection system, it is important to understand the parameters that govern the propagation of leak sound on pipelines. Testing was performed for this purpose to validate the ability of these novel acoustic sensors in an outdoor test facility under a variety of leak conditions. This testing evaluated the propagation of acoustic waves emanating from small leaks on a buried pipe. This was achieved by pressurizing the pipeline to different levels of pressure and inducing leaks through various orifice sizes. The acoustic disturbances induced by these leaks were measured by sensors deployed at various stations on the pipe. The results of this testing demonstrated the ability of such an approach to be used for detecting very small disturbances in soil from an offset position caused by leaking liquids.

Copyright © 2016 by ASME



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