Monitoring the integrity of transportation pipelines, such as those transferring natural gas across the seabed, is a challenging problem. Researchers in Control Systems have recently developed and patented an acoustic technique that can be used to detect and locate obstructions and leaks in both small and large diameter pipelines.
The technique, known as Acoustek®, has now been commercialised in the oil and gas industry by Pipeline Engineering. The technique injects an acoustic pulse in to the pipeline and by measuring the reflections made as this pulse propagates down the pipeline, the location of any pipeline features can be identified. Acoustek has now been deployed on several occasions in the North Sea and the US and in each application it has been successful in detecting obstructions in pipelines that other techniques were unable to detect.
The Acoustek® technology is being continuously improved and expanded within the Control Systems group. Current research efforts are looking to extend the technology so that it can be used to detect water ingress and other issues in gas distribution networks.
The development of Acoustek® has only been possible through the financial support of BP Exploration, Pipeline Engineering, Oil-ITF and the EPSRC.