This month’s Pipeline Technology Podcast episode sponsored by Pipeline & Gas Journal features Jason Dalton discussing leak detection and how it is involved in the new revisions to API RP 1130 and 1175.
In this month’s episode, you will learn about the current state of leak detection in our industry as well as where it is headed. Jason and Russel also go through the similarities and differences of API RP 1130 and API RP 1175, and where operators may need to make changes in the future.
API Revisions to 1130 and API 1175: Show Notes, Links, and Insider Terms
- Jason Dalton is the leak detection and hydraulics supervisor at Marathon. Find and connect with Jason on LinkedIn.
- Marathon Pipe Line (MPL) is a subsidiary of MPLX, which is a midstream master limited partnership sponsored by Marathon Petroleum Corp (MPC).
- Pipeline & Gas Journal is the essential resource for technology, industry information, and analytical trends in the midstream oil and gas industry. For more information on how to become a subscriber, visit pgjonline.com/subscribe.
- API (American Petroleum Institute) represents all segments of America’s natural gas and oil industry. API has developed more than 700 standards to enhance operational and environmental safety, efficiency, and sustainability.
- API RP 1130, Computational Pipeline Monitoring for Liquids, focuses on the design, implementation, testing, and operation of CPM systems that use an algorithmic approach to detect hydraulic anomalies in liquid pipelines. The primary purpose of these systems is to provide tools that assist Pipeline Controllers in detecting commodity releases that are within the sensitivity of an algorithm.
- API RP 1175, Recommended Practice for Pipeline Leak Detection – Program Management, is an industry consensus document that provides a risk-based approach to managing a leak detection program, including developing a leak detection culture and strategy, selecting the appropriate leak detection system, and monitoring leak detection program performance.
- PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) is the federal agency within USDOT responsible for providing pipeline safety oversight through regulatory rulemaking, NTSB recommendations, and other important functions to protect people and the environment through the safe transportation of energy and other hazardous materials.
- Pipeline SMS (Pipeline Safety Management Systems) or PSMS is an industry-wide focus to improve pipeline safety, driving toward zero incidents.
- API 1173 established the framework for operators to implement Pipeline Safety Management Systems. The PSMS standard includes 10 core elements. The API Energy Excellence Program followed this model to establish its 13 core elements.
- Leak Detection is the process of monitoring, diagnosing, and addressing a leak in a pipeline to mitigate risks.
- R&D is research and development
- The Real-Time Transient Model (RTTM) simulates the behavior of a pipeline using computational algorithms. The model, which is driven by the field instrumentation, monitors discrepancies between the measured and calculated values potential caused by a leak. RTTM uses flow, pressure, temperature, and density among many other variables.
- CPM (Computational Pipeline Monitoring) is a method for leak detection that uses complex instrumentation and computer analysis to determine the size, scale, and location of a leak.
- SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) is a system of software and technology that allows pipeliners to control processes locally or at remote locations.
- AI (Artificial Intelligence) is intelligence demonstrated by machines in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans.
API Revisions to 1130 and API 1175: Full Episode Transcript
Announcer: The Pipeline Technology Podcast, brought to you by Pipeline & Gas Journal, the decision-making resource for pipeline and midstream professionals. And now, your host, Russel Treat.
Russel Treat: Welcome to the Pipeline Technology Podcast, episode 24. On this episode, our guest is Jason Dalton with Marathon Pipeline. We’re going to talk to Jason about his recent experience chairing the API 1130 and 1175 working group and the content of these revised standards.
Jason, welcome to the Pipeline Technology Podcast.
Jason Dalton: Good afternoon, Russel. How are you today?
Russel: I’m doing great. It’s good to have you back. It’s good to see you again. I guess we saw each other out in Savannah at API. We have separated you from the other two of the three amigos, and we’ve got just Jason. You can rub your compadres’ noses in the fact that you’re the first of them to be on the Pipeline Technology Podcast and do a solo.
Jason: Correct. This is my first solo performance, and I will rub that in both of their faces.
Russel: For people that don’t know, just go listen to the Marathon podcast with Jason, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Anyways, I asked you to come on and talk about API revisions to 1130 and 1175, which have both recently been published with updates.
I know you were the working group chair, so how did you become the working group chair for the 1130/1175 working group?
Jason: It’s a long and involved story, but about 10 years ago, Congress directed PHMSA to look into leak detection and rupture valves. As a part of that, API decided that we needed a uniform – we, being the pipeline industry, needed a uniform – pipeline leak detection program management document.
That was rolled out in 2015, about the same time as pipeline SMS 1173 was rolled out. I was on the implementation team for 1175, which was a group of people that our job was to try to gain acceptance across the wider industry for it. I did that, and then when it was time to do the second edition of API 1175, I enjoyed my time working with industry partners.
I volunteered to step up and be the chair of the group. Little did I know that we would be rewriting the document through the midst of a pandemic. That was an interesting experience.
Russel: Yeah, I’m sure it was. I’ve actually had that conversation with several people about how that changed the standards API revision process, where historically, you get in a room, you have conversations, you look at people, you read the body language, and try to make sure you’re drawing out all the input. That dynamic’s very different in a screen share.
Jason: It is, but it also added a lot of flexibility. We were able to meet at times that worked across multiple time zones, which was a unique part of this, in that we had people in Eastern Europe that were participating, to people in Alaska.
I don’t know if we would have got the amount of participation we did if we did it the traditional way, which is you all travel to a central site, sit down, and cuss and discuss things, then go home and wait three months, and do it again. We were able to have multiple meetings in one week and keep a good train of thought going.
Russel: My experience is, when you do the screen share thing, particularly a working group thing like this, you get a lot more participation, because a lot more people can make that work.
Jason: Yes, sir.
Russel: I think the downside is, that some of the real sussing out the technical issues, it’s just better done in person.
Jason: I agree. The other downside is that, when you’re doing a screen share, there’s a lot more ability for everybody to say the first thing that comes to mind. What would normally be short conversations can extend for hours. At the end of the day, we still got it done, and I think everybody that was on the team is proud of what we put together.
Russel: I would concur with that, Jason. I think it was really well done. Before we get into API Revisions to 1130 and 1175, we’ll talk a little bit about, how do you see the history of leak detection, and what’s the current state in the industry?
Jason: We’ve evolved to an industry to the point that one of the main scope items on new builds is to ensure that everything is built in a way that it will be a positive environment for a leak detection system.
In general, leak detection, it’s not a nice-to-have or an option anymore. It’s one of the main things that goes into pipeline design from the very beginning. There are a lot of resources that are going into it. The thing that I like seeing is there’s a lot of resources going into improving leak detection.
A lot of the big operators have continuous improvement initiatives set up so that they can tune their leak detection systems over time. There’s a huge R&D effort underway to find new types of leak detection. It’s a continually evolving field, and the amount of new things that come out seem to increase every year.
Russel: Certainly that fits with my experience as well. If I think back to my career when I first started working with pipelines and control centers, which was probably 25 years ago, it was only the big boys that had leak detection in a meaningful way. Now, everywhere you go, everybody’s asking the question, what is the most appropriate approach to leak detection for my operation?
Russel: It’s a very different place. I don’t think there’s a lot of common industry-wide understanding yet about those things, but we’re certainly moving in that direction.
Jason: We are. The community of leak detection is also growing and improving. It’s one of those things in the pipeline industry, where most operators are coming to the understanding that there’s no competitive advantage in leak detection.
Those lessons learned or new technologies need to be shared because as leak detection gets better across the industry, we’re making our lines safer for ourselves and the general public. It goes hand in hand with pipeline integrity. Nobody makes pipeline integrity discoveries and then keeps them confidential. Leak detection improvements are spread wide and far.
That was one of the benefits of being able to be a part of this is every company that participated, including consultants and regulators, there wasn’t any judgment. Nobody held back. Nobody was afraid to share their best practices or where they would be looking for some help. It was a real collaborative environment, and it continues to be a collaborative environment.
Russel: Also, just like with pipeline integrity, people are starting to look at leak detection as a competency and capability that I’ve got to have in a pipeline company.
Russel: Where it used to be who’s available to do the leak detection. Now we’ve got to have this as a capability and a competency in our company.
Jason: It’s got to be consistent and training needs to be developed for it.
Russel: I need to be following standards and all that stuff, which leads me to my next question, Jason, and that is, what is 1130, and what is 1175? How are they the same, and how are they different?
Jason: That’s a good question. 1130 is basically what I would call the governing document for computational pipeline monitoring leak detection. That’s the internal forms of leak detection, so your statistical or meter balance or RTTM. It’s basically computerized leak detection. In the past, that was the leak detection document.
A lot of program management terminology was in that document because there really wasn’t another good place for it. That document also outlined how to select different systems and what things you needed to talk to your consultants about. Then 1175 was written to build an umbrella around leak detection.
As the industry evolves, there’s this understanding that CPM or computerized leak detection is not the end-all-be-all of leak detection. There’s various other programs. There’s public awareness, there’s line flying, there’s external cameras, there’s sensors, that kind of thing, and none of that was mentioned anywhere.
1175 was built to help operators understand how to fit all of those pieces into the overall puzzle of leak detection. It included setting up a continuous improvement culture, and how to do management of change or reliability. One of the things that I really liked about it was it’s the first document that was pushed out that said leak detection is not just technology.
Leak detection is technology, and the people that are using the technology, and what they do with that technology. 1175 was written to help with those things, and view it from a management perspective. Like, what metrics should you set up, what tracking should you do, should you have a training plan?
Russel: I view 1175 as leak detection safety management.
Jason: That is a very good way to view it.
Russel: It’s very similar in form and function and application as 1173, which is pipeline safety management, but it’s more specific to leak detection.
Jason: Absolutely. That’s one of the things that the team realized early on when we were doing this was there were a lot of things in 1175 that were done a little bit better in 1173.
1175 can in some ways be seen as an addendum to 1173. How do you apply safety management systems to your leak detection program? We spent a lot of effort trying to get the two documents to reflect positively on each other.
Russel: That’s interesting, and that makes sense, too. I think, too, when you look at 1130, which is more of a system’s standard versus 1175, which is more of a program standard, it’s interesting that those two things together in a single working group had to be interesting because that’s rare. You don’t see that very often.
How easy was it to get clear about those distinctions between what should be in one document versus the other?
Jason: You’re right. It was a very interesting thing. One of the things that I do have to say is this process had the best minds in leak detection. The team that formed around this. I got to be the one to do the podcast because I volunteered, but by all means, this was very much a team effort and it was a consensus effort.
I believe, at the end of the day, everybody that was participating was able to agree with what we did. There were times when we would go down a rabbit hole of getting too narrow on the technical side. Somebody would come back and we’d have to start back at our governing principles of, no, this isn’t a technology document. This is a management document.
For example, the metrics. Maybe we don’t need to be tracking the total number of alarms per system, but we need to be talking about how you track the alarms across all of your systems. How do you show that you’re improving your management instead of improving your technology?
Russel: That is a deep conversation right there. That is a very deep conversation right there.
Jason: It was, and that was you get a bunch of people for the most part who are engineers together, and we analyzed the heck out of some stuff. It was a really good experience.
At the end of the day, we all learned a lot about each other’s companies and we learned about trying to make something that was usable across everybody’s companies and to try to learn a little bit more than maybe just our technology focus.
It was a learning experience for me, at least. I hope everybody on the team learned a lot. You were in a couple of meetings. What were your thoughts on how we got together?
Russel: I thought it was excellent. I thought the conversation was really open. It was very technical in some cases where it needed to be technical. I really liked the fact that 1130 and 1175 were looked at at the same time, and a deliberate effort to get the program stuff out of 1130 and get the system stuff out of 1175, make that distinct.
I thought that was all really good and really informative. I’ve had a chance to go through 1130 in detail. I haven’t had a chance to go through 1175 in detail yet. I would say that this is a step change for our industry in how we think about leak detection.
Jason: It is.
Russel: Even when you start talking about computerized methods, the CPMs are very good at detecting large leaks quickly.
Russel: They’re not as good at detecting small leaks reliably. Now, there’s all kinds of conversations you can have about where that line is and how do you draw it? To my mind, 1175 is more comprehensive, and it’s how do I detect all leaks reliably?
Jason: Right. There’s a lot of operators that have conversations about leak detection rates. Detecting high-rate leaks is one thing. Detecting high-volume leaks in some cases is the more difficult challenge. You’re looking at one drip a day for 10 years. That’s extremely difficult.
Russel: Yes, it is. Even when you get to all the other ancillary direct leak detection methods, a very small leak over a very long period of time is very hard to detect.
What is new or different specifically in 1130 and 1175 with this API revision?
Jason: The biggest difference on 1130 is that a lot of the program management things have been removed. It’s more narrowly focused on CPM. Over time, some external technologies have made their way into 1130, which clouded the issue.
In a document about CPM, you probably don’t need to be talking about external leak detection sensors and those that got in there over time because API 1130 was the leak detection document.
1175, one of the things that we tried to do was to make it match 1173, the pipeline safety management system document. The other thing that we tried to do was make it more concise in spots.
1175, as we got it, was an excellent document, and it was chock full of information. One of the things that we all came to the meetings to discuss was there is a psychological impact to presenting all of the information on a topic really in one document. We needed to be very careful to tailor our message to exactly what needed to be conveyed.
If there were things that were in 1175 that were better handled on their documents, there were different places for those. A good example is addition one of 1175 had some things about leak detection displays and alarming. API has already published other governing documents on alarms and control rooms and SCADA displays. Those are entire documents on that.
It was better to refer people to that wealth of knowledge than to try to quickly outline what was needed for CPM or other types of leak detection systems.
Russel: That’s interesting. I might have a little bit of a different take on that. There’s certainly pieces of 1130 where that’s addressed, and it’s very appropriate, because you’re trying to get distinct about how I am doing leak alarm diagnostics, and what are the tools I have available as a controller or a leak detection analyst to do that?
Am I using the leak detection tools, the CPM tools, or am I using SCADA tools and all that stuff? To try and put something like that in 1175, to me, makes no sense at all.
Jason: No, and that’s where we got to. One of the things was, there was a wealth of new API documents that came out during the development of API 1175 until we got to do the rewrite. There were things that didn’t exist when the original document was written that now did. It was an opportunity to get those where they needed to be.
Russel: There’s been a lot of evolution in all the control room documents that impact a big part of that.
Russel: In the control room, you tend to get thrown to thinking about – those of us that are technologists, you tend to get thrown to thinking about – the CPM system, how it’s integrated to SCADA, how that alarms, and what do you do about that.
What you miss in the control room with that mindset is, well, a lot of the leak detection alarms are the phone ringing because somebody’s calling a number off a sign, off a pipeline marker. That’s another kind of leak alarm, potentially.
Jason: It is.
Russel: Interesting. Was there anything else that you took away from the process that was surprising or that you think that the pipeliners in general ought to know about this leak detection standards development?
Jason: I think, when you’re a user of those documents, you look at them, and you don’t really think a lot about what went on with those. You don’t think about the passion that a lot of people put into those documents. The teams that worked on these documents, they brought everything they had to these discussions.
There weren’t people that just quietly sat in the background. Everybody came and had informed opinions and career experiences. We’d go through things, and somebody would say, “Well, this exact thing has occurred to me, and this is the way that I think it should be handled.” Then we could sit and discuss that.
These documents are written with real world experience. It’s not a lot of assumptions and that kind of thing. This is people that have been in these situations before and people that have actually built pipeline management systems.
That experience, for me in general, just to get exposed to that, is a huge career advancement.
Russel: Oh, I couldn’t agree with you more. That’s one of the greatest things about doing the whole podcast thing is the learning. Oh, my gosh. I know so much more about pipelining than I did. I’m a firm believer that, whatever your particular technical discipline, understanding the other disciplines you’re working with, what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it makes you better at your discipline.
Jason: Absolutely. I guess I would say if anybody has the opportunity to participate in these API meetings, you’re going to learn more than pretty much anything else you will do, just based on exposure to your peers across the industry.
That’s the thing that I learned. I didn’t understand how much passion there was around sharing information in these formats.
Russel: Yeah, and really trying to put something together that’s going to be useful. I find often that you read these standards, and it’s often hard to get the context about why they were written. I know there’s always some lead-in information, but to me, that never seems to be enough.
It’s like there’s a level of context you need to have, if you have that context, and read the standard, the standard makes a lot more sense.
Jason: Right, absolutely.
Russel: That’s one of the reasons I like doing podcasts about these things, because I think it helps to do that. What do you think the future is for all this? Where are we headed with leak detection overall, and how do you think these standards are going to need to evolve in the next five years or so?
Jason: I think there’s going to be more technology development. At the API conference, I guess the big topic was AI and machine learning, trying to give our controllers some backup. When you put a controller in charge of these pipelines – and they’re not just looking at leak detection systems, they’re trying to do cuts, they’re trying to monitor energy usage – it’s a busy job.
People can only focus on so many things at one time. Developing tools to assist our controllers is a real big opportunity, and I think that’s where a lot of the research is going.
I guess, at the end of the day, we need to be careful to make sure that our technology is keeping pace with what we can expect out of the people using the technology, and that we’re not oversaturing people. If you’re oversaturated, and you can’t pay attention to everything that’s going on, the leak detection system can’t help you.
We need to make sure that we’re getting the controllers, the help they need, to understand what’s going on. I think there’s going to be more effort placed on leak detection volume. Like we were talking earlier, the little leaks that turn into big volumes.
We’ve spent a lot of time as an industry focusing on rupture class events, because that’s where the significant risks are. I think we’re doing pretty good on that side. You’re in a lot of control rooms. I think most pipeline operators are really good with ruptures.
It’s the smaller leaks that we’ve got down to that, where all of the research and the development is probably going to take place.
Russel: I agree with that. I think that’s true. I do that, just overall, across the industry, we really understand the importance of identifying ruptures quickly and responding quickly. I think everybody gets that.
I think that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done on the smaller leaks, but I think there’s also a lot of work that needs to be done on alarm analysis.
Russel: I was having a conversation at API over lunch. I was talking to a couple of gentlemen from the Pipeline Safety Trust. They were asking me about leak detection. They are obviously very interested in how that works, what are the limitations, and all that.
I said, “Well, the biggest limitation today is not really the systems. The biggest limitation is the ability to work through all the alarms and determine which one’s a real leak.”
Jason: You’re right.
Russel: Leak alarm response, 99 percent of the time, is an exercise in interpreting weak signals. It’s very rare that you get a leak alarm, and you go, “Oh, yeah, that’s definitely a leak.” Usually, it’s, “I’ve got a leak alarm, and what’s going? Am I starting up? Am I shutting down? Have I been changing flow rates? Did the product density change?”
You’re asking all these other questions to see, do I actually have a leak, or is that just a hydraulic change that’s reporting as a leak?
Jason: You’re absolutely right. The biggest challenge that I think a lot of operators face is you can set your detection thresholds at minuscule levels, but you’ll spend so much time in a leak alarm state, analyzing those alarms, that the impact of the alarm starts to lose importance, because you’ve just always got alarms.
Russel: That’s right. If you get a leak alarm every day, you’re going to become numb to leak alarms.
Jason: Right. The response to that is that you need to understand your pipeline system. Like you were mentioning, it’s a complex environment, and no two days are alike. You can tune these systems to be perfect on a Monday, and on a Tuesday, when the temperature changes by 20 degrees, the tuning you did on Monday might not be valid anymore.
Russel: I actually think that one of the places where AI offers a lot of promise for pipeline operators is do the leak alarm analysis. I could build an AI that looks at the hydraulics and says, “Oh,” and could weed out a large number of alarms that are hydraulic transients.
Jason: I agree.
Russel: Even that would be a big improvement. Of course, we don’t have any standards around all that, and there’s a lot of risk in doing it that way. There’s some real R&D dollars that would need to be spent and some operators that would have to get behind the idea to be able to field test it and wring it out.
I think that’s another area where we could see a lot of improvement. I think we’re going to see a lot of investment and interest in how do we find the smaller leaks that are around for a long time, and then likewise, I think that we’re probably going to start seeing some interest in, “What can I do to the first level of alarm response using some kind of AI?”
Jason: Yep. I think the encouraging thing is that you and I are not alone in these opinions. Leak detection departments across the industry, they’re all having very similar discussions and talks, and are all focusing on improvement.
To go back, we’ve gone from a system that was optional 20 years ago, to something that’s mandatory today, to something that is also viewed as a core competency, and something that people are continually trying to improve. Nobody is resting on their laurels.
Russel: I would assert, too, Jason, that the leak detections programs we see in place 10 years from now are going to make what we’re doing today look arcane.
Jason: I completely agree.
Russel: Continues to be lots of opportunity for nerds like us to [laughs] live in this space.
Jason: [laughs] Absolutely, yup.
Russel: Oh, goodness. All right, well, look, it’s always great to get together and talk to you, Jason. Always appreciate it. I just want to say thank you for being willing to spend your time and effort to lead a working group. I think that that’s one of those things that you do in our industry that there’s a lot of reward that comes from it and a lot of recognition, but it’s also a lot of hard work.
It’s really valuable and needed, so thank you for doing that. When I have questions, and I would encourage others on this podcast, when you have questions, call Jason. I’ll bet he’d be glad to answer your questions.
Jason: Absolutely. Well, thank you for your kind words. Also, I’ll say that I’ve got to thank everybody that assisted. Leading the team, in some ways, was easier than some of the people that had subgroups. We had people that split out and did subtopics and had to write tables about leak detection and that kind of stuff.
Jason: It very much was a group effort, and I thank everybody that was a part of it, including you. Like I said, you were at a lot of the meetings.
Russel: Yeah, it’s definitely a topic I have interest in, for sure, for sure. Well, listen, thanks again, and until next time.
Jason: Sounds good. Thank you.
Russel: I hope you enjoyed this month’s episode of The Pipeline Technology Podcast and our conversation with Jason. Did you know it’s time to submit your nominations for the 2022 Pipeline & Gas Journal Awards? Simply go to the episode page at PipelinePodcastNetwork.com, and click the link to submit your application. [Note: the nomination period closed on July 15th. Join us for the awards event on November 17th in Houston.]
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Thanks for listening. I’ll talk to you next month.
Transcription by CastingWords