05/01/2009

Demonstration center simulates pipelines

The results flow directly into the technology development of the company. This facilitates the development of systems for the entire pipeline network, including intelligent software solutions that can control and monitor the pipelines around the clock and identify damage by themselves.

In an age of scarce resources, pipelines—and their security—are becoming increasingly important. They are often thousands of kilometers long and place high demands on the entire transport system. On the one hand, they must guarantee that the transport of the needed raw materials conserves the available resources as well as possible, which requires powerful pumps in the case of oil and high-performance compressors for gas. And the pipelines must also be protected against damage of any kind, which entails continuous monitoring to prevent leaks. Efficiently monitoring such a complex distribution network requires a system that automatically measures the physical parameters such as pressure, along the whole line and transmits them to the control center via radio or satellite.

In its pipeline demonstration center in Fürth, near Nuremberg, Siemens simulates possible disruptions using a realistic miniature system. With a control center, a compressor station where the gas is compressed, and a measuring station at which the flow rate, temperature, pressure or vibration of the pipes is checked, the Siemens researchers can track the entire course of the oil or natural gas through the pipelines and test the monitoring systems. The test results are applied directly to the development work. To take one example, this helps perfect software solutions that independently identify damage based on measurements found to be outside the defined thresholds of the range of operating parameters, in which case the software automatically closes the valves in the critical section of the pipeline.

This expertise is one major reason why Siemens is currently involved in two large pipeline projects. In addition to providing technical furnishings for a South African pipeline between the major metropolitan center of Durban and the province of Gauteng, the company is also equipping a 3,456-kilometer pipeline in Canada with power-supply installations and electrical pump systems.