Acoustic Sensing on Gas and Oil Pipelines for Leak Detection

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering & the Environment


Pipeline networks are the most economic and safest mode of transportation for oil, gases and other fluid products. As a means of long-distance transport, pipelines have to fulfill high demands of safety, reliability and efficiency.
Leakage from pipes is a major issue in both the oil and gas sectors, not only in environmental and economic terms, because of wasting important natural resources, but importantly from a safety perspective.
Pipelines can traverse thousands of miles often across inhospitable territory in remote areas. Acoustic methods predominate in the armoury of available leak detection methods but, historically, these have been difficult to implement in places where access is limited.

Two potential acoustic sensing technologies are currently available to address this problem: optical fibres laid either adjacent to the pipeline or on the ground surface above it; or geophones mounted on the ground above the pipeline. Optical fibres offer the possibility of continuous acoustic monitoring of pipelines and remote detection of leaks. Still in its infancy, the technology would benefit considerably from greater knowledge of how the leak noise in a gas/oil pipe radiates into, and propagates within, different types of soil until it can be detected by the fibre. Likewise the efficacy of a geophone-based solution will depend on the leak noise propagation in the soil.
An alternative solution is to exploit fine metal rods inserted into the soil, ideally such that one end of each rod touches the pipeline and the other is visible at the ground surface, where its response can be detected by more traditional sensors, such as accelerometers or strain gauges. There are a number of potential advantages to this approach, including

implementation is likely to be inexpensive;
deployment is likely to be relatively straightforward;
the vibration attenuation in the rod will be significantly less than that in the soil, thus the signal received will be greater, increasing the chances of the detection of a leak.

The aim of this project is to explore all three alternatives, particularly in relation to the soil type and the pipeline parameters (e.g. contained fluid, pipe material, pipe dimensions, pipe depth) and to determine optimal solutions for the differing scenarios.

The project will be a balance of theoretical and experimental work (with concomitant soil analyses and acoustic data acquisition and analysis), with the experimental work being largely undertaken at test sites owned by industrial partners in the UK.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/R512187/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2021
2108480 Studentship EP/R512187/1 24/09/2018 30/09/2022 Olusegun Adesina