Data from the National Energy Board in Canada shows that over the past three years ‘incorrect operation’ has caused an average of 20 pipeline leaks per year. An increase of four leaks annually from the previous six years. ‘Incorrect operation’ can be defined as anything from failing to follow up procedures, to using equipment improperly.

Pipelines installed in the US over the past five years have the highest rate of failure since those built in the 1920s. Carl Weimer, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust believes human error is partly to blame.

There is no doubt that inadequate training of control personnel compounded the damage caused by several of the reported pipeline accidents. Regulators around the world, such as PHMSA in the US, require pipeline companies to document that pipeline operators are adequately trained to recognize and react to abnormal operating conditions. API 1168 and API 1175 expect a record of pipeline operator training, and continuous improvement. It is difficult to expose operators to abnormal operating conditions if they are only trained on real pipelines. A pipeline operator is asked to control different pipelines on average every 3 years, making ‘hands-on’ training alone inadequate.

In the not too distant past pipeline operators had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to acquire a pipeline trainer. Too often the trainer delivered was clunky, difficult to set up, harder to run, and almost impossible to maintain, in contrast, Atmos SIM is a user-friendly tool with a single simulation model for both offline and online. Features such as PID control, Tuning Assistant, and Multi-format import allow for rapid model building and tuning to assure quick delivery of a high-fidelity trainer that is a detailed and realistic replication of any specific pipeline, and its associated equipment and control systems. In a short time your pipeline controllers can be training and testing on a life-like simulation of normal and abnormal operating conditions from their own pipelines.

Features such as full visual logic control block configuration for PID and Ideal Controls, shutdown keys, interlocks, and permission to operate assure delivery of a realistic virtual experience for your pipeline controllers. External systems such as fire, or seismic activity monitors can be added using simple-to-configure advanced logic block controls.

A comprehensive Operator Scoring and Qualification Module can capture and document the controller performance by tracking their interaction with the system and evaluate their qualifications based on predetermined and configured parameters. This easy-to-use system maintains records of each operator’s training history and performance improvements in accordance with regulatory requirements and API recommended practices.

Pipeline controllers in their ‘look-alike environment’ can experience offline self-training sessions to improve their skills and better prepare them for unwanted, and unforeseen abnormal operating conditions that may occur on their watch. A pipeline operator cannot predict with certainty what will occur during a future operation. But regular practice will improve intuitive reactions to emergency situations, and hone implementation of the company emergency response procedure, assuring that controllers will be at their best when abnormal events occur.

Training your controllers so that they respond calmly and correctly to abnormal operating conditions could make the difference between an emergency, and a catastrophe.

By: Atmos International
Date: 11 October 2019