Preparing for the unexpected: Pipeline health and integrity and a foundation of trust

March 3, 2016 Mike Crutchley

Our expertise constantly evolves as inquiring minds search for solutions to new problems.


Sometimes our clients can do everything right in their pipeline integrity management programs, and still are faced with unpredictable circumstances. One of the jobs of the engineer is to sometimes provide the right solution under adverse conditions. It’s a clear reminder that even in this day and age when you have very effective technology, it’s important to always make sure we are really thinking everything through. We are often asked to help clients prepare for the unexpected.

Recently, we had clients call us in because they couldn’t get a read on their pipeline, and we investigated. Since pipelines are underground, we rely on strain gauges to be our eyes, telling us if any strain is compromising the integrity of the pipe. The gauges went offline in this case, so our team went to the site to fix them. While there, they found some significant and concerning external corrosion on the pipeline. Our team was tasked with investigating the cause, repairing the pipeline, and re-applying the pipeline coating.

We found unexpected corrosion that was caused by various factors: the shifting soil on the location, moisture interfering with our strain gauges, and the combination of coatings on the pipeline not working as they should. The site, which historically was a landslide zone, proved to have unforeseen impacts on the pipeline.

Not only did we face time constraints to repair the corrosion, we battled adverse weather conditions on the site. This caused initial problems for the application of the coatings to the pipeline.

After helping our client apply the correct coatings, we continually provide them with the information they need to maintain the integrity of their pipelines. 

We pride ourselves on being a valued partner with our clients, on a multi-year scale. Our client trusted us because they knew that we have the team and the expertise. We also have the ability to adapt. Keeping costs low is really important to our clients right now. This has led to us researching more economical options while keeping safety and efficiency top of mind. 

We are constantly learning new approaches and methods to ensure the safety of pipelines through our communities and environments. That’s why pipeline integrity is crucially important and why we are constantly monitoring the health of a pipeline. In theory, everything could check out and look right, but you don’t truly know how that site is going to change over time.

Every day, we face the “unexpected”.  No one knows everything. We can follow policy and practice but sometimes unexpected consequences can happen. The important thing is to not have scientific arrogance. Always have an inquiring mind and keep up to date on the information and the take lessons learns from one situation to another and to other clients.

About the Author

Mike Crutchley

Mike is a hands-on Professional Mechanical Engineer (licensed in Alberta and Ontario) and Senior Project Manager with high energy.

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