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United States Patent Application 20170246667
Kind Code A1
Hailey; Jeffrey C. ;   et al. August 31, 2017

System and Method Of Preventing Flow Blocking When Using An Automated Pig Launcher

Abstract

A flow assurance system and method includes procedures to query current valve states and determine the likely effect of new valve states on product flow when using an automated pig launcher. The system and method allows for modulating the mainline bypass valve, kicker valve, and isolation valve between fully opened and fully closed states; prevents flow blocking of the pipeline during this modulation; enables new and different, as well as a broader range of, pig launching options for an automatic pig launcher; and integrates with existing automatic pig launchers.


Inventors: Hailey; Jeffrey C.; (Tulsa, OK) ; Shouse, Jr.; Lee R.; (Chelsea, OK) ; Keenan; William C.; (Broken Arrow, OK) ; Geren; Troy D.; (Tulsa, OK) ; Kandalaft; Tarek; (Tulsa, OK)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

TDW Delaware, Inc.

Wilmington

DE

US
Family ID: 1000002663876
Appl. No.: 15/595547
Filed: May 15, 2017


Related U.S. Patent Documents

Application NumberFiling DatePatent Number
14989442Jan 6, 20169651190
15595547

Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: B08B 9/0325 20130101; F16K 17/003 20130101; F16L 55/46 20130101; F16L 55/26 20130101; B08B 9/055 20130101; G01L 19/0092 20130101; F16L 55/38 20130101
International Class: B08B 9/032 20060101 B08B009/032; F16L 55/46 20060101 F16L055/46; F16K 17/00 20060101 F16K017/00

Claims



1. A method of enabling a product flow system of a pipeline pig launcher to launch a pipeline pig into a mainline, the method comprising: determining, using indicator data from a mainline bypass valve indicator, a kicker valve indicator, and an isolation valve indicator, a current state of valves, the current state being in a range of fully opened to fully closed; sending a request over a network to a microprocessor in communication with valve controllers to change the current state of one or more of the valves to a new state, the new state being different than the current state and in a range of fully opened to fully closed; determining, using the microprocessor and the current state of valves left unchanged and the new state of valves to be changed, an effect on product flow, the effect being one of increasing the product flow or decreasing the product flow; the microprocessor allowing the request if the product flow associated with the valves left unchanged is outside the predetermined range; the microprocessor denying the request if the product flow associated with the valves left unchanged is within a predetermined range; wherein the microprocessor includes a set of computer executable instructions stored on non-transitory computer readable medium.

2. A method according to claim 1 wherein the request is denied if at least one of the kicker valve and the isolation valve current state is closed and the requested new state of the mainline bypass valve is closed.

3. A method according to claim 1 further comprising: querying over the network pressure indicators located upstream and downstream of a mainline bypass valve; calculating, using the microprocessor and pressure data from the pressure indicators, a differential pressure across the mainline bypass valve; and comparing, using the microprocessor the differential pressure to a predetermined differential pressure.

4. A method according to claim 3 further comprising stopping modulation of a valve before it reaches the new state if the differential pressure is not within a predetermined range.

5. A method according to claim 4 further comprising reversing modulation of the stopped valve back to its last current state.

6. A method according to claim 1 further comprising verifying a current state of the valves prior to the sending a request.

7. A method according to claim 1 further comprising verifying the new state of the one or more valves after allowing the request.

8. A method according to claim 1 further comprising querying said valve indicators over the network.

9. A method according to claim 1 wherein the network is an internal network, an external network, or a combination of an internal and an external network.

10. A method of enabling a product flow system of a pipeline pig launcher to launch a pipeline pig into a mainline, the method comprising, the automated pig launcher including a microprocessor, valve indicators, and valve controllers in network communication with one another, the method comprising: querying over the network a current state of valves as indicated by the valve indicators; sending a request over the network to one or more of the valve controllers to change a current state of one or more valves to a new state, the new state being different than a current state and in a range of fully opened to fully closed; determining, using the microprocessor and a current state of valves left unchanged and the new state of valves to be changed, an effect on product flow, the effect being one of increasing the product flow or decreasing the product flow; the microprocessor allowing the request if the product flow associated with the valves left unchanged is outside the predetermined range; the microprocessor denying the request if the product flow associated with the valves left unchanged is within a predetermined range; wherein the microprocessor includes a set of computer executable instructions stored on non-transitory computer readable medium.

11. A method according to claim 10 wherein the request is denied if at least one of a kicker valve and an isolation valve current state is closed and the requested new state of a mainline bypass valve is closed.

12. A method according to claim 10 further comprising: querying over the network pressure indicators located upstream and downstream of a mainline bypass valve; calculating, using the microprocessor and pressure data from the pressure indicators, a differential pressure across the mainline bypass valve; and comparing, using the microprocessor, the differential pressure to a predetermined differential pressure.

13. A method according to claim 12 further comprising sending a command over the network to stop modulation of a valve before it reaches the new state if the differential pressure is not within a predetermined range.

14. A method according to claim 13 further comprising sending a command over the network to reverse modulation of the stopped valve back to its last current state.

15. A method according to claim 10 further comprising querying over the network a current state of the valves prior to the sending a request.

16. A method according to claim 10 further comprising verifying the new state of the one or more valves after allowing the request.

17. A method according to claim 10 wherein the network is an internal network, an external network, or a combination of an internal and an external network.

18. A method of enabling a product flow system of a pipeline pig launcher to launch a pipeline pig into a mainline, the automated pig launcher including a microprocessor, valve indicators, and valve controllers in network communication with one another, the method comprising: determining, using the microprocessor and a current state of valves left unchanged and a new state of valves to be changed, an effect on product flow of a request to change one or more valves to a new state, the effect being one of increasing the product flow or decreasing the product flow; the microprocessor allowing a request to change a valve to the new state if the product flow associated with the valves left unchanged is outside the predetermined range; and the microprocessor denying the request if the product flow associated with the valves left unchanged is within a predetermined range; wherein the microprocessor includes a set of computer executable instructions stored on non-transitory computer readable medium.

19. A method according to claim 18 further comprising: querying over the network a current state of valves as indicated by the valve indicators; and sending over the network the request to change one or more valves to a new state using the valve controllers.

20. A method according to claim 18 further comprising: querying over the network pressure indicators located upstream and downstream of a mainline bypass valve; calculating, using the microprocessor and pressure data from the pressure indicators, a differential pressure across the mainline bypass valve; and comparing, using the microprocessor, the differential pressure to a predetermined differential pressure.

21. A method according to claim 20 further comprising sending a command over the network to stop modulation of a valve before it reaches the new state if the differential pressure is not within a predetermined range.

22. A method according to claim 21 further comprising sending a command over the network to reverse modulation of the stopped valve back to its last current state.

23. A method according to claim 18 further comprising verifying the new state of the one or more valves after the modulating.

24. A method according to claim 18 wherein the network is an internal network, an external network, or a combination of an internal and an external network.
Description



CROSS-REFERENCE To PENDING APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application is a continuation application of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 14/989,442, filed Jan. 6, 2016, the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety.

BACKGROUND

[0002] This disclosure relates to launchers used to launch a pipeline pig into a pipeline system. More specifically, the invention relates to systems and methods of preventing flow blocking when launching a pig using an automated pig launcher.

[0003] Pipeline pigs perform various pipeline maintenance, cleaning and inspection operations while the pipeline continues to operate under pressure and transport product. The pig is introduced into the pipeline by way of a trap (the "pig launcher") connected to the pipeline. Once the pig is placed inside the launcher, the closure door of the launcher is closed and pipeline flow is used to push the pig into and through the pipeline. The pig continues to travel through the pipeline until the pig reaches a receiving trap (the "pig catcher").

[0004] Referring to FIG. 1, a prior art pig launching system uses gravity to launch a pig into a main pipeline. Pipeline product is diverted into and flows through the launcher when the kicker and isolation valves are opened and the mainline bypass valve is closed,

[0005] Pig launching and receiving systems vary from one to another depending on specific purpose and pipeline product. Variations include such things as placement of valves, length of the launch tube or barrel, type of closure door, and the means to move a pig into the reduced cross-section area of the barrel (e.g. gravity, screws).

[0006] Regardless of those variations, all launchers and receiver include the barrel which holds one or more pigs, a large branch connection which connects the barrel to the pipeline system, and a set of valves that divert and control flow through and to the launcher (see e.g. FIG. 1). The set of valves typically includes the mainline bypass valve, mainline trap or isolation valve, and trap kicker or kicker valve. When ready to launch a pig into the pipeline system, a Tee section diverts pipeline fluid flow into the end of the barrel, behind one or more of the pigs positioned in the barrel.

[0007] In order to launch itself properly into the pipeline, the pig must experience an adequate pressure differential across the pig body. Gravity assistance can be used to move the pig into a position to better accomplish this. Referring to FIG. 1, a prior art pig launching system uses gravity to launch a pig into a main pipeline. Pipeline product is diverted into and flows through the launcher when the kicker and isolation valves are opened and the mainline bypass valve is closed,

[0008] The ability to control bypass flow through the pig body, therefore, is critical to providing sufficient acceleration of the pig during its launch into the pipeline and controlling the speed of the pig as it travels through the pipeline. In many cases--such as those where minimal flow is available to push the pig out of the launcher and into the pipeline--it is desirable to have minimum to no bypass flow through the pig during the initial launch phase, that is, up until the time at which the pig passes the isolation valve.

[0009] U.S. Pat. No. 4,135,949 to Reese discloses monitoring the operating condition of a pig launcher to prevent opening of the launcher closure when there is a pressure in the launcher and to prevent flow into the launcher when the launcher closure is not in place. For example, the override maintaining the isolation valve in a closed position cannot be removed until the pressure in the barrel reaches a set point of about 1/2 to 1 psig.

[0010] Fully automated pig launchers have the potential to launch pigs in ways that manual and semi-automated pig launchers could not. For example, a fully automated system could modulate the mainline bypass valve to create differential pressure sufficient to launch a pig without the use of gravity assistance. However, this modulation could potentially block product flow in the pipeline by closing or partially closing the mainline bypass valve when the kicker or isolation valves are closed or partially closed. Therefore, a need exists for a system and method to prevent this flow blocking and assure adequate flow of pipeline product.

SUMMARY

[0011] A flow assurance system and method of launching a pipeline pig involves the following components and steps, with the steps of the flow assurance module being executed by a set of computer executable instructions stored on non-transitory computer readable medium and executed by a microprocessor. The requests or commands to query valve states, change or stop changes to valve states, and to reverse valve states can occur over a network in communication with the valve controllers and valve- and pressure indicators. The steps include:

[0012] querying a mainline bypass valve indicator, a kicker valve indicator, and an isolation valve indicator;

[0013] determining, using indicator data from the valve indicators, a current state of each of the valves, the current state being in a range of fully opened to fully closed;

[0014] sending a request to change the current state of one or more of the valves to a new state, the new state being different than the current state and in a range of fully opened to fully closed;

[0015] determining, using the current state of valves left unchanged and the new state of valves to be changed, an effect on product flow in a mainline, the effect ranging one an increased, decreased, or unchanged product flow;

[0016] denying the request if the effect is undesirable; and

[0017] modulating the one or more valves to the new state if the effect is desirable (e.g., at least one of the kicker valve and the isolation valve current state is closed and the requested new state of the mainline bypass valve is closed).

The current state of the valves is verified prior to the sending request step and after the modulating step.

[0018] The method also can include the steps of querying pressure indicators located upstream and downstream of the mainline bypass valve; calculating, using the pressure data from the pressure indicators, a differential pressure across the mainline bypass valve; and comparing the differential pressure to a predetermined differential pressure. Modulation of a valve can be stopped before it reaches the new state if the differential pressure is not within a predetermined range. The modulation can then be reversed to bring the stopped valve back to its last known current state.

[0019] Objectives are to provide flow assurance when using an automated pig launcher and modulating the mainline bypass valve; prevent flow blocking of the pipeline during this modulation; enable new and different, as well as a broader range of, pig launching options for an automatic pig launcher; and provide a flow assurance system and method that can integrate with existing automatic pig launchers.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0020] FIG. 1 is a schematic of a prior art gravity assisted pig launching system and its associated valves.

[0021] FIG. 2 is a schematic of an embodiment of a pig launching system and its associated valves and sensors.

[0022] FIG. 3 is a schematic of an embodiment of a control system used in connection with the pig launcher of FIG. 2 to prevent flow blocking of the pipeline.

[0023] FIG. 4 is a flow diagram of an embodiment of a valve monitoring and flow assurance process.

[0024] FIG. 5 is a flow diagram of an embodiment of the error procedure for the valve monitoring and flow assurance process of FIG. 4.

ELEMENTS AND NUMBERING USED IN THE DRAWINGS AND DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0025] 10 Automated pig launcher

[0026] 11 Launcher barrel

[0027] 13 Mainline bypass

[0028] 15 Mainline

[0029] 17 Tee Section

[0030] 18 Retractable pin or launch pin

[0031] 19 Upstream pressure indicator

[0032] 21 Mainline bypass valve

[0033] 23 Mainline bypass valve indicator

[0034] 25 Kicker valve

[0035] 27 Kicker valve indicator

[0036] 29 Isolation valve

[0037] 31 Isolation valve indicator

[0038] 33 Downstream pressure indicator

[0039] 35 Upstream flow meter

[0040] 37 Downstream flow meter

[0041] 39 Pig signal indicator

[0042] 40 Communication interface or network

[0043] 50 Computing device

[0044] 51 Computer readable media

[0045] 53 Memory

[0046] 55 Microprocessor

[0047] 60 Flow assurance module and method

[0048] 70 Valve change procedure

[0049] 71 Operator acknowledgement regarding current valve states

[0050] 73 Valve state verification

[0051] 75 Request to change valve state

[0052] 77 Determine effect on product flow

[0053] 79 Operator acknowledgement to stop flow

[0054] 81 Modulate valve to requested new state

[0055] 83 Check differential pressure against predetermined range

[0056] 85 Determine whether valve is in the requested new state

[0057] 87 Verify valve indicator matches new state

[0058] 90 Error procedure

[0059] 91 Stop all operations

[0060] 93 Indicate error state

[0061] 95 Error while modulating valve between current and requested new state

[0062] 97 Reset valve to last known state

[0063] 99 Receive acknowledgement before re-start of operations

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0064] Referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, an embodiment of a valve monitoring and flow assurance system and method for use with an automated pig launcher 10 prevents blocking product flow of a pipeline while changing valve states, including valve state changes made without human intervention.

[0065] The launcher 10 includes a launcher barrel 11, a mainline bypass 13 connected to a mainline 15, and a tee section 17. A launch pin 18 holds a pig in its launch position and, once launched, a pig signal indicator 39 indicates its passage into the mainline 15. The valves--which includes the mainline bypass valve 21, kicker valve 25, and isolation valve 29--are each monitored by a respective valve indicator 23, 27, 31 to determine whether the valve 21, 25, 29 is correctly indicating a known state.

[0066] The launch pin 18, valve indicators 23, 27, 31, and pig signal indicator 39 are in communication with a communication interface 40--which can be connected to or part of a PLC network or a mobile network--in communication with a computing device 50 having a flow assurance module 60 (see FIG. 3). The same is true of pressure sensors or indicators 19, 33 and flow meters 35, 37.

[0067] Valve state data from the valve indicators 23, 27, 31, differential pressure data from pressure indicators 19, 33, and flow data from meters 35, 37 are passed through the interface 40 for processing by one or more microprocessors 55 of computing device 50. The microprocessor 55, together with the computer-readable media 51 and memory 53 of the computing device 50, implements a flow assurance module 60. The known number of pigs loaded into the launcher barrel 11, along with data from the retractable pin 18 and pig signal indicator 39, is used to determine available pig status.

[0068] Referring to FIG. 4, the flow assurance module 60 includes a valve change procedure 70 which executes various checks and processes various requests to the valves. The valve change procedure 70 begins with operator acknowledgement 71 regarding current valve states. If a valve state is verified 73, and the same holds true of the other valve states, then a request 75 can be sent to change one or more of the valve states between this known state and a second state. For example, the request 75 could be directed toward modulating flow through the mainline bypass valve by changing its state between a first partially opened state and a second partially opened state, the flow through the mainline bypass valve in the second state being greater than (or less than) that in the first state.

[0069] The request 75 is then evaluated 77 to determine whether changing the one or more valve states, given the current state of a valve or valves, is desirable, thereby bringing the system into a desired operating condition, or undesirable, such as one that could stop or block product flow:

[0070] If MAINLINE=open, then KICKER=open or closed, ISOLATION=open or closed, OR KICKER & ISOLATION=both open or both closed;

[0071] IF MAINLINE=closed, then KICKER.noteq.closed and ISOLATION.noteq.closed;

[0072] IF KICKER=closed, or if ISOLATION=closed, then MAINLINE.noteq.closed;

[0073] IF KICKER & ISOLATION=open, then MAINLINE=open or closed.

[0074] If blocking is, or is likely, to occur, then operator acknowledgement 79 is needed to change the valve state. If blocking is not going to occur, then the request 75 is implemented 81 and the one or more valves change states, with differential pressure 83 upstream and downstream of the mainline bypass valve being monitored to determine whether it is within the proper upper and lower bounds. Once the one or more valves have finished changing states, the valves are again monitored 87 to determine whether the valve indicators are matching a predicted state 85.

[0075] Referring to FIG. 5, if an error is received, an error procedure 90 is started, all operations are stopped 91, including valve changes. For example, if the error indicator 93 indicates the error occurred while moving one of the valves between states 95, and if the system is set-up to reset the valve to its previous state, then the state change request 75 is reversed 97 to bring the valve back to its previous state. Operator acknowledgement 99 of the error correction is required before the re-start of operations.

[0076] The embodiments described above provide illustrative examples of the flow assurance system and method defined by the following claims, including the range of equivalents to which the claim language is entitled.

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