Pipeline Leak Detection Best Practice

Although moving gas, liquid and hazardous materials in pipelines is the safest means of transport, a number of incidents have been associated with this method. Statistics from the Office of Pipeline Safety within the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration show that over the twenty year period from 1991 to 2010 there were 5,636 significant incidents involving 378 fatalities, US$ 440,652,471 property damage and 2,566,699 gross barrels spilled in the USA alone.


Pipeline incidents incur liabilities to pipeline operators, pipeline shareholders and owner of the volume lost. Such liabilities can range from cleaning up cost and damage compensation to criminal offences. Major liabilities are usually associated with major leak events without a reliable pipeline leak detection system. Therefore investing in a proven and reliable leak detection system can help pipeline companies minimize the consequences of a pipeline incident.


In order to have the correct response, within the shortest time possible, the leak detection system should:

  • Alarm a leak quickly after it occurs
  • Provide accurate leak location and size estimates
  • Not generate false alarms under normal operating conditions including transients due to valve open/close, pipeline start up and shut down.

To maintain the above performance standard, it is necessary for the pipeline operating companies and leak detection system vendors to work closely in order to make sure that:

  • The field instruments are working correctly.
  • The SCADA and telecommunication system are available.
  • The leak detection system is optimized to current operating and instrument conditions.
  • Alarms and anomalies are addressed timely.
  • Operators have confidence in the leak detection system at all times.