The University of Manchester, via its intellectual property commercialisation company UMIP, has licensed a new technology to Pipeline Engineering which uses acoustic technology to detect full and partial blockages as well as leaks in gas pipelines. Acoustek® is set to revolutionise the market as it can quickly and accurately locate features at distances of up to 10km.
The technology, which has been developed by an academic team at the University of Manchester over several years has been successful in recently securing more than £500k of funding from sources including BP, EPSRC, BP (via ITF), KTP and Pipeline Engineering which will enable the team and industrial partners to develop the technology into a commercial offering.
Pipeline Engineering has a long history of providing pipeline pigging and pipeline management solutions for the flow assurance industry and Acoustek® is a revolutionary new system which keeps it at the forefront of the market sectors in which it operates.
BP’s support of, and investment in, the development project has already enabled the development team to trial Acoustek® on a live gas installation with early results being excellent and giving further confidence to the technology.
Commenting on the success of the Acoustek® trials, UMIP Venture Manager Dr Frank Allison, said: “It is so difficult to trial new technologies such as this in a live environment. However, by virtue of BP’s investment in developing the technology we, along with the support of Pipeline Engineering’s field service team, have been able to undertake testing on a working live gas subsea pipeline in the North Sea over a number of months”.
He continued: “The second great benefit is the analysis of the findings and how the Acoustek technology processes the signal. It provides a much clearer picture of the problem in a short time which enables the appropriate remedies to be put in place quickly.”
Gordon Short, Director of Technical Development at Pipeline Engineering said “Radiographic detection and diver interventions can cost multiples of £100k’s. Add to this the loss of production and the cost, and environmental implications should the use of chemicals be involved, then the benefits of early detection using Acoustek® become obvious”.
David Mackay of BP added: “In a recent problem, Acoustek® was able to survey a section of offshore gas pipeline and correctly identify and locate a near complete blockage approximately 500 m from the host platform. The initial survey was performed in a matter of hours. The technique offered several advantages over radiographic techniques in this instance, including remote survey without the need for an ROV support vessel, and the ability to survey sections of the pipeline buried under rock.”
At present, Acoustek® can be applied using ATEX certified equipment which can be introduced either via the pig trap or permanently attached for continuous monitoring of a gas pipeline. Over the next two years, the package of funding aims to enable the team to further develop and improve the equipment which is anticipated will extend the range and improve the accuracy of the technique even further.
The team would welcome commercial interest from other O&G companies who require assessments of their gas networks.
Contact: Dr. Frank Allison, Venture Manager, UMIP
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