Smooth oil and gas pipeline operations depend to a great extent on how they are initiated. When a pipeline is installed, a lot of preparatory work is carried out before the line is put into regular operations. The preliminary phase of quality inspections and tests comes under the pre-commissioning phase. This includes inspection of oil and gas pipeline when they arrive from the supplier to ensure quality standards are met, audit of the storage area and how the pipes are stored before installation, review of the installation set up, and several other quality checks. 

Commissioning is the stage of getting the pipeline into operations. This involves preparatory work and introducing oil and gas products into the pipe to commence movement to their destinations. Oil and Gas companies often have third-party agencies offering pre-commissioning services and conducting detailed pipeline inspections using pipeline commissioning checklists to ensure the pipes are satisfactory before operations are commenced. 

Why is Pipeline Commissioning Important?

Commissioning is all about priming the pipeline for optimum performance. The pipeline network is crucial to operations, and companies rely on them for the daily movement of tons of oil and bi-products to various destinations for processing or distribution. They must be robust to handle the volume of material being moved, the high pressures to transport oil and gas, and the various external stresses on the network from the physical environment. When new pipelines are installed, they are usually not ready for operations because of their impurities: grease, dirt, debris, oil, vapor, etc. These impurities create contamination risks, disrupt operations, and even result in accidents. For instance, when combined with oxygen, hydrocarbons can cause explosions. When hydrocarbons leak, they can impact the environment severely or result in fires that can be disastrous to oil and gas operations. Sometimes vapor and air pockets can get trapped in the pipes, become highly pressurized and explode. Commissioning ensures these risks are addressed by providing the pipeline is cleaned and purified of all contaminants. This increases the pipeline’s safety, reliability, and efficiency and can also augment the life of the pipe system. Experts conduct various procedures and tests to ensure and validate the hygiene of the pipeline. 

Compliance with Safety and Manufacturing Standards

Commissioning is also vital to ensure that the company complies with the needed safety standards and manufacturing quality mandates. They must ensure that pipelines, valves, gaskets and connectors, pumps, and all related monitoring equipment are up to specifications, in line with project and client requirements, and meet industry standards. They must also ensure that staff is not at risk during the pre-commissioning tests and inspections. That’s why commissioning requires a lot of planning and collaboration. The commissioning process can take place after pre-commissioning once the entire pipeline and the related infrastructure are set up. Operations teams check to ensure that safety equipment, fire protection, and risk management systems are installed and ready before commencing the commissioning process. Then, a commissioning team is put in place. They ensure that the crude oil or product is available, sufficient water is at their disposal, and all required staff at various points of the pipeline are ready & deployed. Finally, the needed approval and statutory clearances are in order. 

Performance Analysis and Checks

The commissioning process informs many of the operational strategies and decisions the company will follow during the in-service years. In addition, this phase provides essential data points on the system’s functioning, product movement, temperatures, pressure readings, potential risks, challenges, etc. These data points enable insights for operations teams to use during day-to-day pipeline management. 

Pipeline Pre-commissioning Procedure

Among the many pre-commissioning procedures and checks, some of the common ones include the following.

  • Pipeline Flushing/Cleaning is one required method for cleaning pipes and ensuring they are free of natural gas or other chemicals. This is usually done using internal moving devices called Pigs or chemical compounds. 
  • Pigging helps remove debris, clean the pipe internally, and conduct procedures like sealing of water or the oil product when commissioning happens. In addition, pigs are used even when the pipelines are in service to help in maintenance work and inspection of the pipeline for dents, leaks, or corrosion. 
  • Hydrostatic Pretesting involves using a liquid, often water with a dye, to reveal pipeline vulnerabilities. Then, when the fluid is passed through the pipe at high pressures, the lines are screened to find weak spots, thin sections, and tiny portions that can impact the pipeline’s integrity. 
  • Pipeline Dewatering is a necessary process in the pre-commissioning phase. Usually, after hydrostatic pressure tests, the pipes contain water and vapor residue. These must be removed through a dewatering process so that the moisture does not contaminate the product during transit.  
  • Pipeline Purging is conducted to remove any air present in the pipes. Air contains suspended impurities which can affect the quality of the gases being moved through the pipes. Pipeline purging removes air trapped in the pipes using inert Nitrogen gas.
  • Vacuum Drying is also used to eliminate moisture particles in the pipeline. By creating a high vacuum and low pressure, moisture is vaporized and can be eliminated more effectively. 
  • Nitrogen Drying is often deployed as a technique to eliminate the last bit of residual moisture and reduce the risk of corrosion and contamination.  

Safety Tips for Pipeline Commissioning

All pre-commissioning tests involve risks because of the nature of the operations. Detailed briefings are conducted before these tests to ensure that staff is thorough in their knowledge of safety regulations, safety drills, use of safety equipment, and emergency and evacuation procedures. The team also inspects and tests safety equipment before these pre-commissioning tests are conducted. All employees involved in these tasks are equipped with the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to mitigate the risk to life and limb. 

Fielda – Empowering Pre-commissioning and Commissioning Teams for Efficiency

Fielda gives oil and gas companies the power of GIS mapping and end-to-end field data digitization. With Fielda, inspection teams can eliminate cumbersome paperwork involved in the many inspections, tests, and procedures of the pre-commissioning and commissioning phase. With simple custom checklists and a flexible workflow, inspectors can plan, schedule, and manage data collection much faster and more effectively. Using Fielda’s offline data capture, they can conduct field data gathering exercises with zero disruptions, even in remote sites. Automated reports, dashboards, and triggers help teams stay connected, collaborate more effectively, and make informed operational decisions.

Learn about Fielda’s oil and gas pipeline commissioning data collection App today to simplify your operations.