RAFA Solutions Develops System to Monitor Pipeline Health Without Stopping Oil Flow

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"The modular architecture of the CompactRIO system allows for easy and cost effective maintenance and provides an opportunity to integrate new types of sensors by changing only the modules and upgrading the software application."

- Arev Hambardzumyan, RAFA Solutions LLC

The Challenge:
Preventing pipeline failure by locating oil pipeline defects and damages without stopping the flow of the product.

The Solution:
Combining the benefits of rugged CompactRIO hardware and an FPGA to create a stand-alone system for simultaneous data acquisition from up to 256 sensors, data processing, and data logging to monitor the health of pipelines without stopping oil flow.

Author(s):
Arev Hambardzumyan - RAFA Solutions LLC
Rafayel Ghasabyan -

RAFA Solutions was established in 2012 and is a systems integrator that provides robust and flexible advanced solutions for machinery control and automation. The company, an NI Silver Alliance Partner for over two years, focuses on the development and manufacturing of daughterboards for Single-Board RIO, FlexRIO, and CompactRIO products. RAFA Solutions also provides market-ready products and services for the development of custom modules and solutions. Our team offers expertise in embedded design and development in material science, oil and gas, food, mining industries, and more.

Problem Background and Solution

One of the most important challenges in any pipeline system is detecting pipeline defects and damages early. Pipelines can serve for a long time if problems are managed. If they are not managed, the consequences can be critical. Pipeline health monitoring becomes complicated when you must monitor the systems without stopping oil flow in the pipe.

We can implement a solution by creating a stand-alone, rugged system that detects and locates pipeline defects and predicts all possible defects and pipeline damages. The main purpose of this project was to create a system to inspect and monitor the health of oil pipelines without stopping the product pipe flow.

We used the magnetic flux leakage method to detect pipe defects. This method helps detect metal loss due to corrosion, gouging, and other defects. We used Hall sensors to detect defects like corrosion, faulty welds, cracks, and leakages. We also equipped the system with rotation and vibration sensors and odometers. We used the data collected to locate defects.

We chose CompactRIO as the system’s hardware platform. Our main system requirements were a small and rugged form factor, low power consumption, and modularity. The system also needed to include a powerful FPGA and processor to provide simultaneous data acquisition from up to 256 sensors.

We built the monitoring system using a cRIO-9025 controller with an 800MHz processor, a cRIO-9116 reconfigurable 8-slot chassis featuring a Xilinx Virtex-5 FPGA, and eight NI 9205 analog input modules. Using CompactRIO products, we developed a highly reliable monitoring system that could work as a stand-alone system for long periods of time. It is one of the main benefits of the system, as it was intended to check pipelines of several hundred kilometers during one usage. The hardware also needed to have low power consumption that could be supplied by batteries.

One reason we chose NI hardware was the ability to build the software application using the LabVIEW graphical programming environment, which helps to create easily configurable applications in a short time. We developed the application using LabVIEW software, the LabVIEW Real-Time Module, and the LabVIEW FPGA Module.

Using LabVIEW, we created an easily reconfigurable software application that we intended for support of different-sized oil pipelines (12 in., 14 in., 24 in., and more). We used the LabVIEW FPGA Module to develop data acquisition application and implement signal filtering on the FPGA. We used the LabVIEW Real-Time Module to develop communication of the hardware with the software application running on the host computer, to provide an opportunity for configuring the hardware and software from the host application, to transfer logged data from the hardware to the computer for later offline analysis, and to implement real-time testing of the sensors and the hardware modules.

We used the real-time part of the software application for data conversion and logging. Data acquired from the sensors required further offline analysis to determine the types of pipeline defects being logged using custom data formats. We also used the real-time part to convert to the custom data format. As data should be logged for considerably long periods of time, we used an external hard drive to store data.

The real-time application gave us the opportunity to test the sensors and the hardware. We tested each of the sensors separately in order to define nonfunctioning sensors using a separate window of the host application. We released the project in India for, and in cooperation with, Indian Oil Corporation LTD. We tested the system on-site using the customer’s pipeline testing facility.

Solution Benefits

The main benefits of the solution are the small form factor, rugged design, and easily configurable and user-friendly software application. We achieved the goals we set for the solution using NI off-the-shelf technologies while reducing development cost and duration. We created a software application using LabVIEW, which we can easily upgrade to include new features and support new types of pipelines.

The modular architecture of the CompactRIO system allows for easy and cost effective maintenance and provides an opportunity to integrate new types of sensors by changing only the modules and upgrading the software application.

Conclusion

We used NI technologies to provide the customer with a solution that fully meets system requirements. The oil pipeline monitoring system was successfully installed on the oil pipelines in India. Easy-to-use technologies helped us develop high-quality hardware as well as a software solution in a considerably short time and consequently reduced the cost of development.

Author Information:
Arev Hambardzumyan
RAFA Solutions LLC
Hovsep Emin 123
Yerevan
Armenia
Tel: (+374)10219769
arevh@rafasolutions.com

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