Long pipelines crammed with electronics are being tested in the waters of Orkanger harbour.
They are the first in the world able to report their technical condition to personnel onshore.
The SmartPipe project has been ongoing since 2006 when the Research Council of Norway and a group of oil companies provided about 25 million to fund the research programme.
As oil production moves into increasingly deeper waters and more environmentally-sensitive areas, the pipelines carrying the hot well stream to the production platform must be in good condition. The aim of the SmartPipe project is real-time monitoring.
Crammed with electronics
Sensor belts have been fitted to the new pipelines at 24-metre intervals. There is a thick insulating jacket containing polypropylene around the outside of the steel pipe sections carrying the well stream. It is here that the electronics are concealed, and along which data are transmitted wirelessly either onshore or to a platform.
SINTEF researchers have developed an entirely new concept for transmitting data via a belt containing a series of sensors designed to measure pipeline wall thickness, tension, temperature, vibration and acceleration. If this succeeds, Norway will become the first country in the world with a concept that has both domestic and global potential.
Many components have to work
At Orkanger, 250 metres of pipe will be deployed in the sea for testing. This is just a small fraction of the length of a real oil pipeline, many of which are more than 100 kilometres long.
However, it’s long enough for the researchers to find out what they’re looking for. If the electronics package can survive being underwater, will the pipeline behave as it should after being through a production process involving temperatures as high as 200 degrees? And will the sensors succeed in transmitting data to personnel onshore?