The Technology Development Center (TDC) is a major commitment by the energy pipeline industry to address the key issues that it faces to ensure the safety of the national and international pipeline system. Having a single location able to accumulate former in-service pipe materials with real-world pipeline features/flaws is invaluable to PRCI’s R&D Program and the industry, and provides a central point for hosting industry-sponsored training and workshops.
The TDC is located over eight acres in Houston, Texas and includes a five acre state-of-the-art pull test facility, and over 20,000 sq. ft. workshop and test facility with an additional 9,000 sq. ft. of office and meeting space. It provides the industry with an independent third party site to fully understand the capabilities of current tools and to guide the development of the new technologies needed to push towards that goal.
In July, PRCI broke ground on a new Technology Development Center (TDC)
The effort to locate the new site was spearheaded by the PRCI TDC Steering Committee made up of PRCI members and staff who were involved in TDC planning since its inception and understood the incredible opportunities and benefits the pipeline industry would reap from its utilization.
On July 15, PRCI held the TDC Grand Opening, attended by over 200 PRCI members and industry stakeholders.
Expecting to open with approximately 600 pipe samples, that goal was easily surpassed through the support of many members. A key resource of the TDC are the many pipe samples with defined & measured defects that enable service companies to work on real world samples to improve their inspection technologies and provide a greater degree of assurance of the integrity of pipeline systems.
PRCI completed the construction of a 6-inch liquid flow loop at the TDC. The design incorporates the ability for continuous test cycles, and has the physical space and access to include a variety of pipeline configurations that can be encountered in pipelines ranging from the easily piggable to “difficult to inspect.”
The population of pipe samples at the TDC continued to grow to over 1,100 samples with a large variety of diameters and defect types, both real and manufactured.
That year, $2.4 million USD of funding was directed to research projects that utilized the TDC. Additionally, a number of non-ballot activities including PRCI-led consortia and third-party testing were successfully executed yielding valuable results to the participating organizations. Additionally, all of PRCI’s Technical Committees met at least once at the TDC, enabling meeting cost savings and providing conferencing options as a response to travel restrictions.
The pipe inventory grew to over 1,300 samples. Using the inventory of pipes, strings with diameters from 6- to 32-inches were built and even pulled through a 42-inch diameter pipe string. Part of the uniqueness of the TDC is the ability to create the needed assets for each of the projects. These samples create exceptional value and research opportunities for PRCI members and the pipeline community.
The facility was used for both PRCI and non-PRCI related work; both operators and service providers used the facility individually and as collaborators.
The TDC experienced a 300% increase in year-over-year third-party projects, as well as assisting the Integrity & Inspection Technical Committee deliver over $3 million USD worth of PRCI project work.
The TDC is now being utilized by both members and non-members in a variety of ways that often-combine classroom learning with hands-on training. The TDC provides not only a place to execute research, but to also demonstrate how to put the research into practice. PRCI is continually working to enhance the tools, processes, and personnel involved in pipeline safety and integrity. The TDC hosted the American Society of Mechanical Engineers inaugural Robotics Forum and a joint PRCI and American Petroleum Institute workshop on dent assessment and management.
The opportunity for industry collaboration that the TDC provides was made especially apparent when PRCI was awarded an unprecedented seven research projects valued at nearly $4 million USD by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). While certainly not the only deciding factor for the awards, it was noted by visiting PHMSA delegates that the TDC provided an exceptional venue for executing pipeline research.
The TDC hosted several PRCI and industry workshops in 2019 that brought additional learning opportunities to members and non-members alike as it continues to be utilized in a variety of ways that often combine classroom learning with hands-on training. The TDC provides not only a place to execute research, but also to demonstrate how to put the research into practice.
The events of 2020 made it a tough year for everyone. The TDC adjusted to the “new normal” as recommendations became available and continued operations with a completely additional set of safety standards. “Social distancing” and masks became the norm, along with new sanitation measures. Retrospectively, although these changes are simple and now commonplace, over 40 events were able to be safely hosted at the facility, including pull tests, sample scanning, and conferences.
A major undertaking began in maximizing the value of the extensive pipe and coupon inventory housed at the TDC. It became increasingly obvious that the TDC needed a way for members and customers to search for samples, and a major campaign to better organize, label, and store our physical samples was initiated. Additionally, a searchable, publicly available database has been commissioned to be completed in 2021.