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Accident Prevention at Oil and Gas Pipelines


New Method and Technologies for Accident Prevention at Oil and Gas Pipelines

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-MIN/Monitoring and Instrumentation/Environment

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Research Institute of Aviation Systems, Russia, Moscow

Supporting institutes

  • Institute of Physics of the Earth, Russia, Moscow


  • University of South Carolina, USA, SC, Columbia\nStockholm University, Sweden, Stockholm\nUnited States Geological Survey, USA, CA, Menlo Park

Project summary

Over two million kilometers of trunk- and local oil and gas pipelines, hundreds of gas storage facilities and oil and gas rigs are in operation in the world today. Many catastrophic accidents take place every year causing human casualties and environmental pollution. Due to the progressing deterioration of the gas pipelines the accident rate increases by 10-15 percent every year. Russia has entered an epoch of man-triggered catastrophes. The bulk of the pipelines currently in operation were built in 1965-1972, i.e. they have been in use for 30 years now. The problem of accident prevention at oil and gas pipelines has been tackled in the following official documents:

1. Federal law on protecting the population and lands from natural and man-triggered disasters issued on November 11, 1994.

2. Federal law on industrial safety No 116-F3 issued on July 21, 1997.
3. Resolution of the Russian government No 1113 issued on November 5, 1995.
4. Resolution of the Russian government No 654 issued on June 7, 1996.
5. Resolution of the Russian government on a unified state system of disaster prevention and alleviation No 462 issued on April 22, 1997.

Methods and equipment currently available in Russia and in the world are capable of accident identification, but not of their prevention. Thus, oil or gas leaks are identified only when their magnitude is fraught with an explosion.

The objective of this project is accident prevention at oil and gas pipelines using a fundamentally new technology and equipment thereof. The technology proposed herein provides for a complex of preventive measures aimed at maximum possible disaster risk reduction.

The methods and relevant equipment proposed herein are based on the unique experimental data on the distribution of hydrocarbons in the atmosphere, soil, rocks and water, and on their migration. These data were accumulated by project’s participants in the course of their field work of oil and gas exploration over a period of 30 years. It was discovered that situations are possible where concentration of gaseous hydrocarbons in the upper soil layer is as high as several dozen percent and, simultaneously is close to the background level in the atmospheric air. This is explained by the high volatility of hydrocarbons due to which gas exchange at the ground/air boundary is very intensive and reaches several hundred cycles a day. It is precisely due to this effect that the modern methods of hydrocarbons detection by measuring their content in the atmospheric air (pedestrian gas survey; automotive and aerial survey using a laser sensor) have very low efficiency.

A dangerous situation at oil and gas pipelines develops not in one moment, but over a rather long period of time. Gas from a damaged pipeline migrates through weakness zones and forms localized anomalies in the overlaying layers. These anomalies can be easily identified in soil air at the depth of 10-40 cm. At the same time, gas concentration in atmospheric air over a damaged pipeline may not be different from the background level. Therefore, in order to effectively prevent dangerous situations at pipelines, not just to identify them as it is done today, it is necessary to conduct continuous monitoring of gas concentration in soil air at the depth of 10-40 cm. According to the accumulated survey data, such anomalies occur in spots, therefore, they should be searched for by means of a continuous soil air survey.

For pipelines laid on the bottoms of rivers, lakes, swamps or in shelf zones, damage monitoring should be organized as a continuous water sampling at the depth of not more than 100 cm with subsequent continuous analysis to determine concentration of hydrocarbons.

The project will result in building a functional prototype of a field gas chemical lab (station) mounted on a vehicle for continuous determination of hydrocarbon concentration in soul air. Continuous gas survey will be carried out on the basis of our own technology and related equipment which will be developed, manufactured and tested in the course of project’s fulfillment. In addition to that, the station will be provided with a set of equipment for occasional gas survey at sites difficult of access for vehicles, small water reservoirs, swamps, intersections of pipelines with highways and railroads.

With the help of just one such gas-chemical station it will be possible to examine a kilometer-long segment of an oil or gas pipeline within 7-15 minutes. Given that its cost is around $1,000 its application will be by hundreds of times cheaper (and also quicker) compared, say, to, intra-pipe diagnostic methods.

Such gas-chemical station can also be used in the following applications:

– Search for hydrocarbon leaks from gas storage facilities;

– Search for gas spurts during accidents at drilling sites;
– Direct gas-chemical exploration for oil and gas deposits on land and shelf zones;
– Monitoring of faults and fractures, assessment of crustal movement intensity and earthquake prediction.


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