Supporting Resiliency for Pipelines
FEBRUARY 24, 2023 / PIPELINES
Gathering, transmission, and distribution pipelines traverse vast geographies, encountering integrity threats arising from natural geohazards along their routes. Floods, earthquakes, and landslides can rupture pipelines causing environmental damage and economic loss, posing a safety risk to the public. BGC’s pipeline work has focused on supporting operators with geohazard management through the lifecycle of pipeline operation from routing and design to operation and abandonment. BGC currently supports geohazard management on 440,000 km of pipelines around the globe and partners with pipeline operators to actively reduce failure rates compared to industry average statistics.
Climate change impacts geohazard frequency, intensity, duration, and timing. Geohazard assessments considering a changing environment are key to reducing pipeline failure rates in the long term. Increases in precipitation and temperature from climate change are altering pipeline exposure to floods, droughts, and forest fires. Integrating climate change in pipeline work improves understanding of how geohazards are projected to change in space and time in the future. A changing climate means some pipelines will become more susceptible to geohazards in certain areas and less susceptible to others. Understanding the difference is important for allocating resources to design, manage, or mitigate pipelines commensurate with the hazard.
For new pipeline projects, climate change considerations are included in the designs of pipeline slopes and watercourse crossings. By incorporating climate-adjusted frequency-magnitude curves for rainfall and flooding, BGC better prepares clients and their pipelines for these changes throughout their service life. The flood magnitude used to design the depth of the pipeline at watercourse crossings will change over time; in some areas, it will decrease over the service life and will increase in others. BGC uses the latest climate change science to inform the design flood at watercourse crossings without applying undue conservatism to the modelling.
During the operational period, incorporating climate change into geohazard assessment methods improve annual planning and budgeting for integrity management and geohazard mitigation efforts. Climate change resiliency is supported by BGC’s geohazard management platform, Cambio™. Cambio enables routine assessments, management, and mitigation of geohazard threats to pipelines. Cambio allows for hazard assessments to be updated over time capturing changing site conditions through ground inspections and detailed investigations.
Cambio’s real-time monitoring modules also provide pipeline operators with up-to-date notifications on precipitation and flood events with the potential to impact their pipelines. Understanding the relationship between hydroclimate extreme events and geomorphic processes is important to develop monitoring programs to protect pipelines. Determining appropriate thresholds for geohazard monitoring programs is a challenge because the relationship between processes such as streamflow, scour, and precipitation is often unclear. BGC analyzed historical changes observed at approximately 100,000 pipeline watercourse crossings through the course of our hydrotechnical inspection program and related these changes to observed precipitation events. Changes in the pipeline depth of cover (DoC), particularly decreases exceeding 0.3 m (i.e., “significant”), were identified as a key metric to characterize changes to site conditions. Relating metrics like the depth of cover to hydroclimatic extreme events is one of the ways BGC is exploring to refine the monitoring program by informing site-specific thresholds that could adjust over time due to climate change.
As pipeline infrastructure adapts to new needs fueled by the energy transition, it is anticipated that geohazard management in a changing climate will remain an important part of overall pipeline integrity. The effects of climate change are driving demand for an accelerated global energy transition to cleaner energy sources. The global energy transition presents opportunities for the pipeline industry as developed nations build networks for hydrogen and carbon dioxide, while nations relying on biofuels and coal shift towards cleaner natural gas. Pipelines are critical infrastructure that will help meet global energy demands for decades to come. As new pipelines are constructed, and aging ones become more vulnerable over time as products being carried change, BGC will continue to service clients in an effort to reduce failure rates and geohazard risk in the future.
BGC is dedicated to helping clients address climate change in their projects in ways that align with your priorities, budgets, and goals. Interested in hearing how? Contact our Climate Change Team.