The pipeline industry has special characteristics related to the difficulty in testing and in research activities in pipeline, motivated by the risks represented by the tests, difficulty in simulating extreme conditions in a pipeline in operation and also for the permanent commitment with the transport and distribution operations of vital products, which makes stops and changes in line operating conditions a difficult task.
Moreover, any facility dedicated to testing in the pipeline industry has high costs of construction, operation and maintenance and few companies can afford this structure without imposing excessive costs. It is also important to consider that the availability of well trained researchers inside the company, in all areas of expertise where they are needed, leads to the formation of a research and development structure of high cost. Moreover, the growing technological challenges created by the need to exploit new fields lead the companies to undertake research and development activities as a means of remaining competitive and with an outstanding performance in the market.
Created with the objective of attending such needs, working as a shared research center and available for use by all companies in the sector, members or not, the CTDUT - Center for Technology in Pipeline has increased its offer of services to the pipeline community, seeking to fill gaps and to act as an independent institution and as discussion forum for the industry.
Created as a nonprofit association and open to any company active in the pipeline industry, its model came from an initial audacious and original concept that is performing perfectly adjusted to the reality and producing excellent results. Inaugurated on May 10th, 2006 as an initiative of its three founding partners, Petrobras, Transpetro and PUC - Rio, CTDUT now has 44 members, including several prominent institutions in their fields of actuation.
Within this innovative concept, CTDUT has facilities dedicated to testing and training, available for use by the whole pipeline community. It also has operating personnel, specialized and trained to meet all the tests demanded in such facilities. The structure of CTDUT counts on managerial capacity to coordinate the research and development projects in which the institution participates. However, this model wisely does not rely on a permanent team of researchers located at CTDUT. The maintenance of these researchers would burden excessively the payroll of the institution, which counts on associates, but not with supporters committed to its financial sustainability.
The sustainability of CTDUT has to be attained with the results of the technological services offered, and here is important to understand that the word “service” at CTDUT has not its usual meaning, but it must be understood as a technological task which is part of a big research and development project being executed in another institution or company. The services of CTDUT are, in fact, portions of other institution research projects which are ordered to CTDUT because it has the facilities and the capacity of bringing together the necessary people and partners for attaining such objectives.
The audacity of the model is in the conception of an institution of Science and Technology which does not house its researchers on its staff, but in a vast network that consists of researchers from other institutions, public and private, which are invited to join a working group whenever a research project that requires expertise in their respective areas of specialization exists. This model of a Brazilian Network of Competence in Pipelines overtakes the borders of institutions and strongly encourages the collective and participatory work by aggregating researchers from different research groups in a common goal. Gather what's best, laboratories or persons, without competition, but in a complementary manner in order to optimize results with economy of resources.
This model, different from traditional standards of Science and Technology institutions, is being gradually accepted, the extent to which demonstrates its feasibility as a solution and its qualities whenever adopted as a complement to the traditional models, which have their excellence centers inside the universities and other specialized institutions. It had never been the proposal of CTDUT to replace or prove better than other already adopted solutions, but before that, complement what already works, acting like a catalyst of capacities, with evident advantages both for the ones who have and the ones who need the specialized knowledge in pipelines. In such model, other laboratories and specialists are never perceived as “competitors”, but as important partners in the technological initiatives CTDUT may be involved with.
Through this network activity, which includes the main actors in the pipeline sector, CTDUT provides the participation of the community in its projects in several segments of the industry, creating opportunities for interaction between them. As an example, CTDUT participation in drafting the proposed Safety Rules of Operation for Pipelines, being prepared by ANP - National Agency of Oil, Natural Gas and Biofuels, is a reliable indicator of such participation, which brought experts with large experience for its preparation, and also of CTDUT wider mission of action, that can provide valuable services far beyond the tests and experiments required for the development of new equipment. Once established and accepted this model of partnership, the possibilities for action are increasingly more diverse and challenging.
According to its original purpose, CTDUT now offers facilities that permit a series of tests to support research and training, such as Loop14, Pigódromo(for testing PIGs) and Laboratory of Structural Integrity, among others.
The 14” diameter and 100 meter length testing pipeline of CTDUT is equipped with aerial flanged spools and inserted with mapped defects. It allows the assessment of performance of any kind of PIGs, including ultrasonic and MFL (Magnetic Flux Leakage).
It offers the possibility of operators training in all procedures involving the launching and receiving of PIGs, such as operation of control and lock valves, opening and closing launcher traps and receivers of PIGs. It also allows training for intervention operations of pipelines in charge, for maintenance.
The Pull Test Rig for PIG´s, a testing assembly consisting of pipelines with diameters ranging from 6” to 16”, contains well known and mapped defects. It is equipped with a traction engine with controlled speed. It is suitable for tests that evaluate the detection and calibration efficiency for instrumented PIGs, or other equipment for the detection of defects such as acoustic inspection of long reach guided waves. It can receive the addition of pipes with different diameters, according to the test.
The Structural Integrity Laboratory offers an adequate area for integrity tests (destructive or not) in carbon steel or composite material pipes, of any diameter, or equipment like valves and similar. It is equipped with a crane capable to support 10 tons load, hydrostatic pressurizing pump of up to 1000 bar, “Bunker” with high impact protection, monitoring cameras for tests and masonry windows without glasses, appropriate to the test environment. The area reserved for the tests has 74,21 m² (4,10 wide x 2,55 high x 18,10 m length) with steels plates for superior protection.
Among the activities being developed these days, there are seven projects of research and development with financial support from CTPETRO – Oil Sector Fund - through an agreement with FINEP – Financer of Studies and Projects - and financial counterpart from Petrobras. These projects are related to researches for the detection of leaks, studies of transients in pipelines, reduction of drag, georeference and the development of techniques for internal lining of pipelines and are being conducted trough partnerships with universities and research institutes (UFRJ, UFF, IME, PUC-Rio, UERJ and INT).
CTDUT is also offering technological consultancy, by forming specialized teams, for attending specific sector needs, promoting high level training for the community, personnel education and consultancy in the implementation of pipelines for ethanol, geotechnical studies for pipeline risk analysis, handling plan as a function of the geotechnical risks previously identified, among others.
Such facilities are also fully adequate for training activities, qualification and certification of equipment and personnel, being able of playing important role in the activities for pipeline quality and reliability improvement, reducing the risks associated with its use, which even smaller than risks related to other transportation systems, are still present.
As an example, we can mention the recent Practical PIG Training Course, organized by Clarion Technical Conferences and by Scientific Surveys Ltd. In partnership with Rosen and CTDUT, which took place at the 14” Test Pipeline – Loop 14.
A person who works in Science & Technology must keep, for sure, one eye looking at the future and CTDUT has this feature. Several projects for equipping the Center with new laboratories and installations in order to attend other sectors which can not be attended by present facilities are under construction. Such new facilities will bring a new dimension to CTDUT capacities for attending the needs of the pipeline industry, whilst in the meantime will bring new challenges to the sustainability of the institution, faced to its fast growth.
In this line, we have the project of the flow calibration laboratory for liquid hydrocarbons on an industrial scale, which is under development and will have as main purpose to provide the country's basic infrastructure for the implementation of technology and knowledge in metrology for measuring the production of oil. Therefore, it will function as a support for Research, Development and Innovation activities (R, D & I) in this area and should become the national reference laboratory for measurement of oil of INMETRO, thus meeting the needs of the local industry and sector regulation agencies in ensuring the traceability and metrological quality practiced in different measurement systems used in the oil industry. With the implementation of the project in CTDUT, Brazil will join a select group of countries that have flow laboratories using real working fluid in the tests and calibrations, which certainly will provide autonomy and meaningful development of this area in the country
Another important infrastructure being constructed is the 12” Test Pipeline. This test circuit was designed to support the research and development of new equipment, tools and systems for inspection and protection of pipelines, flow tests under various operating conditions to validate the developed simulation software, testing and certification of equipment and control systems , protection, monitoring, inspection and maintenance of pipelines, beyond the certification of processes and operating procedures, inspection and maintenance of pipelines and the training and qualification of operators and technicians of pipelines.
With 2,5 Km length and 12” nominal diameter, the pipeline leaves CTDUT area, joins a group of pipelines already existent on a right of way and returns to the Center, forming a loop. The tanks park designed for the pipeline allows its operation with oil, derivatives or water.
With the same objective, but dedicated to the transportation of Natural Gas we will also have a Test Gas Pipeline with 16” diameter. Such circuit will have properties similar to the ones of the Test Oil Pipeline, contributing with the formation of gas pipeline operators and technology tests applicable to this important system of transportation. It will be 2,5 Km long and will be placed in the same area of the oil pipeline, with compression segment and guns located in an area near CTDUT.