Aboveground Pipeline Inspection for Unpiggable Pipelines


Inspecting unpiggable pipelines poses significant challenges due to their inaccessibility and complex structure. These pipelines, often characterized by their inability to accommodate traditional in-line inspection (ILI) tools like pigs, require innovative solutions to ensure their integrity and operational safety. This article delves into the advanced technologies and methodologies employed in the inspection and maintenance of unpiggable pipelines from aboveground, highlighting the role of EMPIT and its groundbreaking Current Magnetometry Inspection (CMI) technology.

Understanding Unpiggable Pipelines

Unpiggable pipelines are those that can't be inspected using conventional pigging tools due to various physical and operational constraints. These pipelines may have multiple bends, diameter changes, or be located in hard-to-access areas, such as densely populated regions or environmentally sensitive zones.

Challenges in Inspecting Unpiggable Pipelines

The primary challenges in inspecting unpiggable pipelines include physical barriers like tight bends and varying diameters, as well as difficulty accessing pipelines buried deep underground or in urban areas. Traditional inline inspection (ILI) tools often fall short, necessitating the development of advanced inspection technologies.

Advanced Unpiggable Pipeline Technology

Innovations in pipeline inspection technology have significantly improved our ability to monitor and assess unpiggable pipelines from aboveground. These advancements include robotic inspection tools, tethered inline inspection systems, and digital twin technology, all providing comprehensive data and insights into pipeline conditions.

Unpiggable Pipeline Solutions

To tackle the challenges of inspecting unpiggable pipelines, various solutions have been developed:

  • Robotic Inspection Tools: These tools are equipped with advanced sensors that navigate complex pipeline geometries, delivering detailed inspection data.
  • Tethered Inline Inspection Tools: These flexible tools can be deployed in pipelines with multiple bends and varying diameters, ensuring thorough inspections.
  • Digital Twin Technology: Digital twins create a virtual replica of the pipeline, allowing for real-time monitoring and predictive maintenance planning.

EMPIT's Role in Pipeline Inspection

EMPIT has emerged as a leader in unpiggable pipeline inspection with its innovative CMI technology. This method allows for non-invasive inspection from the earth's surface, overcoming the limitations of traditional ILI tools.

  • Current Magnetometry Inspection (CMI): CMI uses magnetic field data to detect corrosion and other defects in buried pipelines, enabling in-service inspection without disrupting operations.
  • EMPIT's Success Stories: EMPIT's CMI technology has been successfully implemented in asset strategies and maintenance strategies for some of the world's largest oil and gas companies, proving its effectiveness in maintaining pipeline integrity and safety.

Unpiggable Pipeline Integrity and Assessment

Maintaining the integrity of unpiggable pipelines is crucial for preventing leaks and failures. Regular assessments and advanced corrosion detection methods are key components of an effective pipeline integrity management program.

  • Corrosion Detection Methods: Techniques such as magnetic flux leakage (MFL) and eddy current testing (ECT) are used to detect and quantify corrosion in pipelines.
  • Predictive Maintenance Strategies: Using data analytics to predict potential failures and schedule maintenance activities proactively is a cornerstone of predictive maintenance.

Unpiggable Pipeline 3D Mapping

3D mapping technology provides a detailed spatial representation of pipelines, enabling precise monitoring and assessment. This technology is crucial for identifying areas of concern and planning maintenance activities.

Monitoring and Testing of Unpiggable Pipelines

Continuous monitoring and various testing methods are essential for ensuring the integrity of unpiggable pipelines.

  • Leak Detection Techniques: Advanced acoustic and ultrasonic methods are employed to detect leaks in pipelines accurately.
  • Non-Destructive Testing (NDT): NDT methods, such as radiography and ultrasonic testing, allow for the inspection of pipelines without causing damage.
  • Wall Thickness Measurement: Techniques like ultrasonic thickness gauging help measure the wall thickness of pipelines, assessing their structural integrity.

Asset Management for Unpiggable Pipelines

Effective asset management strategies are crucial for maintaining unpiggable pipelines. These strategies involve regular inspections, data management, and predictive maintenance planning to ensure long-term pipeline integrity.

Pipeline Coating Integrity and Inspection

Pipeline coatings play a vital role in protecting pipelines from corrosion and environmental factors. Regular inspection and assessment of coating integrity are essential for maintaining pipeline health.

  • Coating Assessment Techniques: Techniques such as holiday detection and adhesion testing are used to assess the condition of pipeline coatings.
  • Advanced Coating Solutions: Innovations in coating materials and application methods enhance the protective capabilities of pipeline coatings.
  • Digital Inspection Tools for Coatings: Digital tools and sensors provide real-time data on coating conditions, enabling proactive maintenance and repair.


The inspection and maintenance of unpiggable pipelines require innovative solutions and advanced technologies. EMPIT's CMI technology, along with other cutting-edge tools, ensures the integrity and safety of these critical infrastructures. As the pipeline industry continues to evolve, adopting these technologies will be crucial for maintaining the reliability and efficiency of unpiggable pipelines.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are unpiggable pipelines?

Unpiggable pipelines are those that can't be inspected using conventional pigging tools due to physical constraints or complex geometries.

How does EMPIT's CMI technology work?

EMPIT's CMI technology uses magnetic field data to detect corrosion and other defects in buried pipelines, enabling non-invasive inspection from the earth's surface.

What are the benefits of digital twin technology in pipeline inspection?

Digital twin technology creates a virtual replica of the pipeline, allowing for real-time monitoring, predictive maintenance planning, and enhanced decision-making.

Why is corrosion detection important for unpiggable pipelines?

Corrosion detection is crucial for preventing pipeline failures and ensuring the long-term integrity and safety of the pipeline network.

What are the challenges of inspecting unpiggable pipelines?

Challenges include physical barriers, accessibility issues, and the limitations of traditional ILI tools in navigating complex pipeline geometries.

What is predictive maintenance in pipeline management?

Predictive maintenance involves using data analytics to predict potential pipeline failures and schedule maintenance activities proactively, reducing downtime and improving safety.

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It’s for a reason that we are amongst Germany’s Top 100 innovators. Because our mission is to overcome these inspection challenges and, together with our clients, continuously improve the safety and reliability of all pipelines.