Posted: 22 Jan, 2013

Atmos Pipe successfully detected theft from a multi-product pipeline after thieves targeted a pipeline in India. The pipeline operator was able to quickly locate the physical theft point, remove the tap-off and stop the theft.

When the vigilant control room operators received alarms from the Atmos pipeline leak and theft detection system, they started investigating the alarms immediately. Although the product release reported was very small, the leak detection system detected it based on instrumentation readings. However, the alarm stopped after a couple of hours which would not happen in the case of a real leak. The control room operators are fully trained on leak detection analysis and determined that the event was possibly a theft. Thefts are difficult to detect because they tend to be small, carefully controlled and sporadic. Atmos Pipe has been operational on this pipeline for over 2 years and does not normally provide false alarms which gives the operators confidence in the system. Over the following few days, the Atmos Pipe system provided alarms at similar times of the day which increased the probability that this was a theft. Further analysis was carried out by a joint Atmos and pipeline operator team to confirm the theft size, volume loss and location of the tapping point.

Based on the above analysis, a physical verification was carried out and a clandestine tap off point was found. The pipeline operator was able to take immediate actions to repair the pipeline and prevent any further thefts.

Thefts are risky for pipeline companies because they pose fire and explosion risks as well as environmental damage. The commercial loss due to undetected thefts can mount to millions of dollars. Therefore it is vital to detect thefts quickly and take firm actions to stop them and guarantee the safe operation of the pipelines.

This incident has demonstrated the importance of a highly sensitive and reliable pipeline leak and theft detection system and having a trained team to take the correct actions. By preventing thefts, the pipeline operator protects its reputation as a safe and conscientious pipeline operator maximising value for its shareholders and the communities.