Preventing the Costs of  Pipeline Failures
Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Preventing the Costs of Pipeline Failures

Do you know the cost of pipeline failures?

At PICA Corp, we often deal with clients that are facing the aftermath of a pipeline rupture or failure. In the absence of preventative maintenance and examination, such faults are not uncommon, particularly in lines transporting raw sewage, wastewater, and other harsh liquids. Beyond being costly to repair, ruptures and leaks can have disastrous results for the surrounding ecosystem, as well as put the public at risk.

Consequences of an undetected rupture will vary depending on the location and severity, but may involve:

-Flooding of the area with toxic waste. In one case, PICA observed a sewage plant losing over 4.5 million gallons of sewage within the first 24 hrs. This is not only difficult to contain, but poses a significant health and safety risk for residents nearby.

- Damage to the surrounding area and the potential for things to rapidly spread if not detected immediately.

- Necessary involvement of health officials, environmental specialists, engineers, and countless hours of labour to contain flooding, safely clean the area, swap to backup lines and more.

- High possibility of heavy environmental fines.

- Average cost of clean up and repairs is typically millions of dollars.

Prevent Failures Before They Occur

The best way to avoid ruptures and cracks is to invest in a consistent maintenance plan that involves regular inspection of your lines. Not only will this help your team identify any problem areas before they develop significant damage, but it will also save on replacement costs in the long-term. Common methods of inspection include:

Listening Systems

Placed on either the pipe O.D. or inside the pipe to listen for the sounds of leaks.

Acoustic Systems

Attached either to the pipe O.D. at small or incremental distances or internally via insertable devices that travel the length of the pipe and search for any acoustic indication of leaks.

Electromagnetic Inspection

Due to their convenience and accuracy, electromagnetic methods have become an increasingly popular method of inspection for pipelines. There are two types of technology: Near Field Technology (NFT) and Remote Field (RFT), each with their own distinct advantages.


Near Field uses an impedance technique that sends a signal through the pipe using an exciter coil. The signal is then received by a single detector that is close to the exciter. This is referred to as the “Pitch-Catch” technique.


RFT was first patented in the 1940’s for use evaluating down-hole casings and tubings and has since been extensively adopted for inspecting carbon steel heat exchanger tubing, cast iron water mains, deep water well steel casings, concrete pressure pipes, oil and gas pipelines, and now wastewater lines. RFT uses a “through transmission” technique, which means it is able to detect wall-loses defects at (sensor lift-off) distances distances of up to 1.5”, on the I.D. or O.D. of the pipe.

Both techniques are highly effective at detecting wire breaks and cylinder thinning in PCCP pipes. NFT tools are lighter, capable of traveling through BFV’s, and can travel at faster speeds than RFT tools. NFT tools are available in an autonomous model, as well as a walk-through model for larger PCCP pipes.

RFT tools are not affected by sensor distance from the pipe wall or the thickness of internal cement liners, and have equal sensitivity to inside and outside thinning. In addition, RFT tools support high-resolution array for all pipe sizes and are available in an autonomous model (learn about our SeeSnake) or pull-through models for larger pipes, such as our RAFT or EMIT units.

Not sure when you had your pipelines inspected last? PICA can help ensure the safety of your main lines, as well as protect you against avoidable ruptures. Contact our team today to learn more.