As per the pipeline and hazardous materials safety administration (PHMSA) Mega rules for “Safety of Hazardous Liquid Pipelines”, implementing a leak detection system (LDS) on hazardous liquid pipelines is not limited to high consequence areas (HCAs) only. Operators must implement an LDS on almost all portions of a hazardous liquid pipeline system. A range of factors should be considered such as complexity in physical configuration, diversity of pipeline materials and characteristics, instrumentation and communication equipment, meeting regulatory deadlines, etc. These make implementation of any single leak detection technology challenging for a Pipeline Operator. Therefore, for each pipeline segment it is critical to select the best suited leak detection method that will be compliant with the regulations, perform efficiently, and be cost effective.

The purpose of this paper is to suggest a process for selecting an applicable leak detection system (LDS) for a segment of pipeline. The LDS needs to be evaluated regarding the performance of the leak detection method in terms of reliability, sensitivity, and accuracy. The selected LDS should: minimize leak hazards to the environment, ensure quick response time by field personnel, and ensure effective communication to the control center to initiate proper actions upon confirmation of a release.

In this paper, local and federal regulations are reviewed to determine whether a sample pipe segment should be included in the jurisdictional scope. In addition, a risk assessment model, which evaluates the likelihood and consequences of a leak on a pipeline, is introduced to assist in prioritizing implementation of LDS on a system that includes multiple segments or pipelines. A risk matrix that uses actual industrial data for implementing an LDS on pipe segments is also presented. Furthermore, several criteria are considered under the leak detection program based on existing industrial recommended practices such as API 1175 and API 1130 to ensure that the best suited leak detection methodology is selected for a segment of a pipeline.


According to Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) rules specified in parts 49 CFR 195.134, 195.444, and 195.452 [1], operators of existing hazardous liquid pipelines must implement an effective LDS on all portions of a hazardous liquid pipeline system including the areas that are not considered High Consequence Area (HCA) by October 1, 2024. Pipeline operators must also perform an evaluation to determine the kind of LDS to adequately protect the public, property, and the environment.

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