Blog: How Data Analytics is Changing Pipeline Infrastructure Management

While it’s best not to make too many predictions in business, having foresight of potential issues is certainly a plus. This holds especially true for pipeline operators, where minor pipeline integrity issues have the potential to impact the operational effectiveness of hundreds of kilometers of pipeline over time. 

For decades, pipeline operators have relied on regular inline inspections to detect dents, corrosion, or other anomalies that can materially impact the safe and efficient operation of their pipeline network. 

Aging Infrastructure

But with the average U.S. oil pipeline estimated to be over 40 years old, there is a growing premium on ensuring more frequent inspections and identifying issues as early as possible. In principle, operators need more inline inspection runs to ensure the integrity and safety of their pipeline infrastructure and less disruption to the business.

Inline Inspection Technology Has Evolved

Unless, that is, the technology can be evolved even more rapidly to deliver more and better data-driven insights — and thereby mitigate the need for ever-more-frequent and/or extensive inspections. At NDT Global, we have been pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation for many years now, developing our inspection platforms to diagnose even smaller sub-millimeter flaws, threats, or anomalies using ultrasonic or acoustic techniques. This serves to minimize downtime and maximize first-run success, as well as identify issues earlier in mature pipeline infrastructures.  

Data is the New Oil

The ability to capture more granular levels of detail in pipeline anomalies means that the data captured over a single pipeline run — potentially over several hundred kilometers — can quickly turn into multiple petabytes. This data offers unrivaled insight for engineers, managers, and others who need accurate and timely visibility of pipeline issues. 

Data Analytics: The Game Changer for Pipeline Operators

Our expert data scientists, data analysts, and solutions architects utilize data management tools and technology to review and enhance vast data sets at scale. These dynamic teams work in concert to identify anomalies such as corrosion, abrasion, dents, and cracks together with the type, nature, size, location, and severity of the issue. 

As well as maximizing the value and insights from the single ‘first run,’ there is significant value in combining multiple data sets from different technologies for the same sector, using various techniques at different times.

New Applications for Data

With access to this valuable data, pipeline integrity engineers can model the wear and tear of their pipeline infrastructure and model pipeline performance and availability based on different courses of action. This helps them more closely align the management of their pipeline integrity program to the needs of the business without compromising performance or human safety.  

Automated analytics capabilities also provide a screening system for the most significant or ambiguous results. Our expert team can interpret and act on data insights, use the information for quality checks, or use the data as is, adding a vital layer of human expertise to the automated processes. 

These experts can generate further insights based on combined real-world experience, benchmarking, or improvement to data models to yield higher-quality results. This combination offers the best of both worlds: scalable analysis, as well as quality control and management escalation as needed. 

This data diagnostic approach to pipeline management allows energy companies to understand and manage their pipeline network at a scale and level of detail not feasible in the past. Extensive automation means greater cost-effectiveness than ever, while extensive team experience allows agile responses to new realities.

NDT Global has developed a range of solutions that, in the capable hands of our exceptional people, help energy companies better manage and maximize the value of their assets. We provide the Power of Clarity — enabling analysts, engineers, and senior managers to make the right business decisions at the right time. 

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