For the past decades, helicopter surveys have been the state-of-the-art solution for right-of-way (ROW) monitoring to protect pipelines from third-party-interferences (TPI’s). When TPI activities damage a pipeline, it can lead to disastrous events. Therefore, aerial inspection early-warning systems are used to mitigate these risks. Recent developments in Earth observation (EO) technology make satellite-based ROW-monitoring a new contender as a valid TPI early-warning system.
The main drawbacks of aerial platforms relate to weather dependence, unreliability due to a low temporal re-visit rate and subjective reporting by the human observer. Nevertheless, the industry has been holding on to this technology, as it is a proven concept with a perceived high performance and is well-integrated into operations. The satellite-based system, CoSMiC-EYE (Combined-Sar-Multi-spectral-Change detection), has been developed by Orbital to overcome these weaknesses, while operating with a similar false alarm rate and providing an easy-to-use workflow. Presented in an intuitive user-interface, this solution is ready to be integrated into pipeline operators’ monitoring capabilities.
In the past two years a number of studies and operational pilots were completed to compare the satellite-based solution to conventional helicopter inspections. In this paper we present and detail our findings of this work which was executed together with a number of European pipeline operators. These results will show, among other valuable insights, that satellite-based ROW-monitoring can in many cases outperform traditional aerial inspections methods in terms of number of relevant detected TPI’s, low false alarm rate and illustrate a proven early-warning capability.
When protecting communities, the environment and assets is the main goal of a ROW-monitoring solution, then CoSMiC-EYE is the way forward. EO-solutions no longer behold for the distant future, as the pipeline industry has been assuming. The contrary is true, a satellite-based solution is already here and is ready to become the new industry standard.