By: Matt Edgar Issue: Rebuilding Our Infrastructure Section: Business
Campos EPC - Engineering America’s Fuel Transportation
It’s seemingly inconsequential, but everyday some Americans take for granted that they can turn on their thermostat, warm water, chill food, and fill up on gas. The natural resources that society finds as necessities to daily life are readily available. Often, the end user of oil and natural gas puts little thought into the complex processes involved in converting natural resources into a useable product. All the while, energy producers and transportation companies are at work, exploring and recovering the fuel sources to help society, while simultaneously helping to power the nation’s economic engine.
After oil and gas are discovered and extracted, they must be transported to a refinery. Generally, the most efficient and economical means of transporting large amounts of oil and gas is through buried carbon steel pipelines. The pipeline infrastructure across the nation is an overwhelming network composed of massive multi-diameter pipelines that bring oil and gas from the well sites to the refining facilities, across rural areas and state lines, which will ultimately serve the end consumer.
One group serving the needs of the midstream sector is Campos EPC, LLC. The Denver-based firm, according to its web site, “has the capabilities to perform turnkey pipeline projects with specialized expertise in the areas of hazardous liquid and natural gas pipelines.” Its core business, however, is “helping natural and liquid gas transmission pipeline companies to develop and implement their Pipeline Integrity Management Program,” says Jim Pyeatte, one of the firm’s principals. Six years ago, the company was founded by Marco Campos, a University of Colorado, Boulder engineering graduate, whose corporate website biography highlights his in-depth knowledge of pipeline operations, maintenance and construction, with an emphasis on Pipeline Integrity Management. In the firm’s early stages, Campos brought in other industry veterans, such as Jim Pyeatte, to “help the company grow strategically, utilizing my knowledge and network that I acquired over my career at Texaco Pipeline Inc.,” Pyeatte relayed.
Pipeline infrastructure requires intensive, on-going assessment and management regulated by the Department of Transportation that has developed codes to ensure that pipelines are constructed, maintained and operated in a safe manner; with minimal impact to the environment. Over the past 15 years, hazardous liquid and gas transmission pipeline companies have been forced to develop formalized Pipeline Integrity Management Programs in accordance with federal and state regulations.
Pyeatte explains that integrity management is a “formalized and documented process that assesses specific threats, inspects the pipeline using destructive and non-destructive techniques while developing and executing repair strategies to safely operate the pipeline until the next scheduled inspection, which typically occurs every five to seven years in high consequence areas depending on the product type.
Currently, the hazardous liquid industry has completed baseline assessments of all their pipelines in high consequence areas, whereas the natural gas pipeline industry has until December, 2012. Campos EPC supports clients nationwide, but locally the company has been focusing on clients such as Xcel Energy and MarkWest Hydrocarbon to support compliance with the December, 2012 deadline.
The first step of assessment is a thorough review of the documents for a particular pipeline, looking particularly at year built, pipe characteristics, appurtenances, valve types, historical modifications made to the pipeline, previous inspection results, leak history, etc.
Inspection tools like an Internal Line Inspection Tool (ILI), is used to run through the pipe using magnetic flux leakage principles to locate anomalies such as internal and external corrosion, mill anomalies and dents. The ILI tool collects data sent to a data analyst who interprets it much like a cardiologist reads a cardiogram. In conjunction with a GPS, anomalies are identified, and problems within the pipeline can be easily located, in some cases within a few feet, and repairs can then be made.
Pressure testing is another assessment method used. In this long-used technique, water is pumped into the line and is pressurized between 125-150 percent of the maximum allowed operating pressure. The line must hold pressure to assure that there aren’t any critical anomalies in the line while also testing the strength of the pipeline. A rupture or leak during these tests indicates areas of weakness. However, a limitation of this method is that it doesn’t identity areas of active erosion unless a rupture or leak occurs and the corrosion can be identified visually.
“Increased regulation and scrutiny of the industry have been a positive for not only the consumer and the environment, but also for the company,” states Campos. The firm has since doubled its revenue in the last three years, adding staff in areas like engineering, project management, procurement, and inspection. With increased staffing and the continued need for pipelines to transport our nation’s energy, Campos EPC subs-out $7 million per year in field services work. By continuously updating its process and safety manuals, as well as its business model to better serve its clients, end-users of oil and gas can be assured that it is life as usual by not having to think about the colossal infrastructure running beneath their feet.
To learn more about Campos EPC, visit http://www.camposepc.com or call 303.623.3345.