Pipeline monitoring

Leak detection of pipelines and valves

Christian Borrmann - 5 March 2015

Leak detection on valves is a key safety element for pipelines and there is a whole variety of systems available.

About the author

Mr Christian Borrmann
Christian Borrmann is the Editor-in-Chief of Valve World magazine and is the coordinator for the Valve World Conference in Europe.
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When in 1806, one of first modern pipelines was laid in London, it was a turning point for a whole industry. And basically since these beginnings of laying a pipeline and using valves to control the media, there was the challenge of making sure that nothing leaks out of the pipes and valves used to control the flow of media. Leaking valves can be dangerous to people, the environment and recent incidents have shown, what can happen if a valve leaks and then causes a disaster, such as a simple bursting valve, or if it goes really south, with an exploding plant.

In a recently published article, Mrs Jacqueline Onditi from Pentair, talks about the challenges of leaking pipelines. And whereas the early pipelines mainly had water running through them, today all types of media are running through the pipelines and valves. She talks about the fact that “pipelines can be vulnerable to various threats, whether intentional disruptions or accidental damage. The natural environment can often be responsible for damage to pipelines due to ground movements, seasonal soil texture changes, corrosion and permafrost subsidence. However, incident accounts show that human intervention is increasingly becoming the primary cause of pipeline failures.”

In order to make sure that the pipelines and installed valves are working as they are supposed to, a proper leak detection system is needed. A system to make sure that damage and thus leaks are prevented. This is where the tricky part begins; one has to make sure the right system is used for the right application. The point where the valve is attached to the pipeline is typically a danger for leakage. So, it is important that the detection system is installed close to the valve to make sure that possible leakage gets detected immediately.

In her article, Mrs Onditi, describes a method where there is a monitoring system applied to the actuator that sits on the valve. This system controls the actuator and valve and when a leak is detected, it automatically isolates the relevant valve, with actuators being powered by the flow of the fluid.

Now of course, Mrs Onditi explains only one possible system to detect valve leakage. There are also other options such as manual detection products or acoustic systems where you can hear if a valve is leaking. Each of the system has its advantages and disadvantages and each system is best suited for a certain application to prevent or at least detect leakage and this gives each company the choice to choose what works best for them.


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