According to a study by TechSci Research, the global oil and gas pipeline leak detection industry is expected to surpass $1.8 billion in the next five years. This is in part due to the increase in oil and gas leaks over the past few years.
Houston Public Media reported that, in Texas alone, the frequency of leaks, fires and other hazardous events has more than doubled since 1995. Research shows that weather, age and corrosion are all common causes of leaks.
According to Business Wire, most pipelines across the globe are between 30 and 100 years old. With age comes greater chance of corrosion and leaks. These pipes are therefore propelling the need for increased leak detection across oil and gas companies worldwide.
In Texas, the rapid increase of leaks is likely due to aging pipelines, according to Houston Public Media. However, funding to study pipelines and incorporate leak detection technology has dropped over the past seven years. Over the past five years alone, only $1.3 million has gone toward research of this kind. This is compared to the $8 million granted to research between 2003 and 2008.
Sam Mannan, a chemical engineering professor at Texas A&M University who leads oil and gas safety research at the university, explained to Houston Public Media that lack of funding and research could be detrimental to Texas oil and gas.
Meanwhile, California governor Jerry Brown signed three bills into law regarding the care and upkeep of oil and gas pipelines in the state, according to the Los Angeles Times. It was reported that Brown was reacting to an oil spill in May that leaked 20,000 gallons off the coast of Santa Barbara.
One bill requires pipelines in environmentally sensitive areas to have leak detection technology and automatic shut-off valves. The second states that the fire marshal inspect pipelines annually to detect any issues that need addressing. The third invites commercial fishermen and other nearby boats to help contain oil spills, thus speeding up the cleanup process.
On Oct. 1, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration also passed stricter regulations on pipelines throughout the country, according to a press release. The new rule requires all hazardous liquid pipelines, such as oil and gas, to have a leak detection system in place. It also states that following extreme weather, all pipelines in the affected area should be checked for damage.
"Hazardous liquid pipelines crisscross the country and pipeline failures can have profound impacts on local communities and the environment," Anthony Foxx, U.S. Transportation Secretary, said in a press release. "This proposed rule is an important step forward to enhance safety, and protect people and the environment."
Old pipelines pose a greater risk to surrounding environments than newer ones, though age and corrosion are not the only factors driving the oil and gas leak detection market up. New pipelines being built are beginning to incorporate the use of leak detection technology at deployment, according to a press release from TechSci.