"Pigs" not always smart enough to spot pipeline cracks

|By:, SA News Editor

U.S. pipeline operators have a problem - finding cracks before they rupture and turn into oil spills.

The "number one asset," a torpedo-like robot called a "smart pig," can't always spot the fissures, or the data collected can take months to analyze.

A case in point came when Exxon Mobil (XOM) inspected a pipeline in Arkansas in February using a smart pig, only for the line to split open a month later and spill 5,000 barrels of crude. The device didn't find the minute cracks along the seam of the pipe that caused the burst.

The boom in U.S. oil output is straining the country's 184,000 miles of pipeline, with the volume of spillages jumping by 77% so far this year to 93,000 barrels.

Companies affected include EEQ, EEP, BKEP, MWE, KMR, KMP, SXE, EPD, PAA MMP, HEP and PSXP.