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Interventions avert pipeline shutdowns, enhance safety

07.01.2012  |  Thinnes, Billy,  Hydrocarbon Processing Staff, Houston, TX

Keywords: [Belgium] [Antwerp] [Europe] [pipeline intervention] [gas] [flow] [safety] [shutdown] [plugging]

T.D. Williamson (TDW) recently performed its first pipeline interventions in Belgium. The interventions made it possible for two nitrogen pipelines located in the Albert I Canal in Antwerp to be relocated without shutting them down. This meant that product was able to flow without disruption.

TDW carried out the operations for a company on behalf of the Flemish Government in conjunction with its Antwerp Masterplan, a major initiative designed to ease traffic congestion on the Antwerp Ring Road. To achieve this, part of its strategy is to divert container traffic from the roads to a central container terminal in Limburg on the Albert I Canal. There, container traffic will board transport ships and travel on the canal, alleviating road congestion. To address the traffic jams on the Ring Road and the bottlenecks on the canal, work has begun on the first of 57 new bridges that offer higher clearance for passing ships. By installing new bridges, ships will be allowed four stories of storage and, therefore, much greater capacity.

To prepare for installing the new bridges, all pipelines located in close proximity to the existing bridges must be relocated. TDW was retained to provide train intervention services to ensure that product flow would continue through two industrial gas pipelines near the Bridge Geel-Oevel and the Bridge Grobbendonk while they were relocated.

The plugging system relies upon plugging technology to temporarily block sections of active piping systems. It links two plugging heads to form a “train” that provides a double block and bleed function. Traditionally, other methods have been used to achieve double block and bleed, including the use of two separate valves with a bleed port between them. This system is a double-block and bleed design that makes it possible to insert two plugging heads through a single fitting. The method allows a technician to install two barrier surfaces (Fig. 1), including a bleed port for pressure and product evacuation, between work (such as welding or pipe cutting) being performed downstream of the line’s pressurized contents.

  Fig. 1. The technicians from
  T.D. Williamson, hard at work
  on a pipeline intervention in
  Antwerp, Belgium.


With support from the company’s facility in Herentals, Belgium, TDW technicians carried out the intervention operations on the two pipelines near the Bridge Geel-Oevel and the Bridge Grobbendonk. Technicians used a standard 660 tapping machine to hot tap the line, and one six-inch single position double-block and bleed plugging system to plug the lines. Each line was isolated, creating a secure environment for relocation of the pipeline, as required for installation of the new bridges. The operations were executed by two teams of two technicians, and were carried out simultaneously over the course of five working days. At no time was service interrupted.

Over time, this system has been used successfully for customers seeking to carry out routine maintenance and emergency repair work on pressurized piping systems located subsea, in remote onshore environments and in refineries and processing plants. HP



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