Case study - Petrobras - Natal, Brazil

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Courtesy of Pure Technologies

  • Service: SmartBall - Oil Leak Detection
  • Client: Petrobras
  • Project Date: October 2010
  • Type of Pipeline: Multi-phase product
  • Diameter: 12-inch
  • Pipe Material: Steel
  • Length: 20,900 meters
  • Flow Rate: 0.3 – 0.6 m/s (1 ft/s)
  • Pressure: 90-150 psi
  • Temperature: 35◦ C
  • Results: 3 simulated leaks created and detected

Pure Technologies (Pure) has conducted two inspections of a 12-inch mutli-phase product pipeline in eastern Brazil, owned by Petrobras. Pure utilized its 10” Polyurethane coated SmartBall leak detection tool to detect a total of three simulated leaks during two separate runs on this pipeline. While the first inspection detected a simulated leak at 800 mL/min, Pure created two simulated leaks during the second run, at 240 mL/min and 400 mL/min, illustrating to the client that our leak detection capabilities with the SmartBall Oilball can detect leaks even at these levels.

This was Pure’s first inspection of a low pressure, low-flow pipeline that is fed directly from the wellheads drilled in the oilfield. The multi-phase product in the pipeline comes directly from the oilfield without any intermediate pump stations, so whatever the wells are producing is the resulting pressure and flow rate. Pressure during the two inspections ranged from 6-10 bars (90-150 psi). The pressure was at 10 bar at the insertion point and 5 bar at the retrieval point. The product also causes variance in the flow rates of the pipeline, varying from 0.3 – 0.6 m/s.

The product is made up of approximately 4% water, 20% natural gas, and 76% light/medium crude oil and low levels of wax. The multi-phase product creates challenges to the tracking as the gas pockets in the line will often cause you to completely lose signal with the SmartBall at tracking points for periods of time. Tracking the position of the SmartBall in the pipeline is critical for locating important acoustic anomalies such as leaks and gas pockets. To track the position of the SmartBall device as it traverses the pipeline SmartBall Receivers (SBR’s) are positioned periodically along the pipeline, which detect ultrasonic pulses that are emitted from the SmartBall, which are used to track the location of leaks.

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