Pims In Space

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In many countries due to legislation it is mandatory for pipeline operators to have a Pipeline Integrity Management System (PIMS) in place. Examples of these legal requirements are the directives NTA8000 (NL) and ASME B31.8S (USA). This study analyzed how space technology can improve Pipeline Integrity Management. The involved users were GasUnie (NL) and Sasol Gas (SA).

The following space assets are included in the study:

  • Earth Observation - Earlier studies show that with satellite images (e.g. SAR and optical) possible threats to pipelines can be identified. It can be used to detect large industrial vehicles or areas where landslides occur or subsidence takes place, or where ground cover over the pipeline thins due to erosion, agriculture or digging.
  • Satellite Communication - Pipelines integrity can be monitored using potential measurements on the coating. Measurement points are typically present every few kilometers, but often read out only by hand. For remote areas the pipeline could be equipped such that data from various measurement points is collected (through e.g. a SCADA network) and sent via satellite communication to the pipeline operator. Central data processing facilities will then check the data for anomalies (e.g. corroded pipelines or other failures) in an autonomous fashion. Also inspectors can make use of satcom-equipped terminals to receive inspection tasks and transmit inspection results in near real time.
  • Satellite Navigation Currently most of the measurements such as detection of corrosion within a pipeline is done in station coordinates. Converting the measurements to geo-referenced data and using GPS (or in the future GALILEO) positioning will help pipeline inspectors to localize the buried pipe, which needs to be maintained. This localization is currently an issue. Many of the pipeline systems have been built in the sixties and location of specific pipes needs to be determined from drawings. Exact positioning can help to link all types of inspection data obtained during helicopter and field inspections to the relevant pipe sections, overcoming the drawbacks in using the traditional station coordinates and paper drawings of the pipeline.

Pipeline integrity management is a key concept in the gas and pipeline industry. This concept involves the definition of a Pipeline Integrity Management System (PIMS), which describes all activities to ensure that the pipeline system is safe and operational 24/7. The activities that are part of a PIMS include: design, construction, inspection, management, maintenance and documentation of the pipeline infrastructure. When such an approach is implemented a pipeline operator can demonstrate and verify that their pipelines are safe and that all significant risks are identified and, where possible, mitigated. The objective of this study is to investigate and define feasible and sustainable integrated services that will improve and lower the costs of PIMS-related activities by using space technology and assets. This study didnot only focus on the combined use of space assets but also on integrating the new application in a Pipe Integrity Management System.

Users and their needs

Pipeline operators

User needs analysisAs you can read from the graph above represent third party interference, corrosion and ground movement the majority of safety related events. PIMS in Space specifically should support pipeline operators to prevent these events. PIMS in Space also could lower inspection and maintenance costs by a more effectively allocation of resources, e.g. only inspections when really necessary.

Service/ system concept

  • Use of EO data to support pipeline inspections
  • Real-time access to in situ pipeline sensor data
  • Automatic detection of anomalies.
  • Integration with existing PIMS system


Space Added Value

  • Space assets provide frequent images of the pipeline infrastructure and the surroundings.
  • Space assets allow transfer of data from remote areas to a local data station.
  • Space assets provide location and better targeted maintenance of (buried) pipes.

Product Benefits

Cost reduction in pipeline inspection.
More frequent (and thus better) pipeline inspections.

Product Features

The project aims for an integrated approach of a wide area sensor network. The sensor suite comprises EO imagers and radars for observing the surrounding conditions of the pipeline, in-situ sensors measuring basic pipeline data, and a communication network so that all data can be analyzed centrally.

PIMS architecture

Project Deliverables:

The study showed that PIMS in Space is technically feasible and should offer via an integrated system the following services:

  • Service 1: The detection of third party interference or encroachment: If a change is found in successive high resolution images of the same area, a warning is created and sent to the end-user. Inspections schedules can be adapted accordingly. Follow-up measurements in very high resolution can be requested.
  • Service 2: Monitoring of ground elevation: If changes are larger than prescribed limits (in mm / year), a warning is created and sent to the end-user.
  • Service 3: Monitoring of pipeline health status based upon cathodic protection measurements. When the health status exceeds certain prescribed limits, a warning is created and sent to the end-user.
  • Service 4: A mobile device, acting as a Location Based Service (LBS), will provide location based information about warnings coming from Service 1, 2 and 3 to service engineers during inspection field trips.

A system architecture to support these services has been developed. Part of the architecture is the integration of "PIMS in Space" with PIMS-systems currently used by pipeline operators.

It is estimated that via PIMS in Space pipeline operators could lower their inspection costs with 5 - 10%.

Key Issues

  • Consolidation of user requirements.
  • Analysis whether current EO-sensors can meet end-user requirements (e.g., with respect to required resolution of EO-sensor).

Current Status

The PIMS In Space feasibility study has been concluded. The final presentation was held in May 2012. A demonstration project with GasUnie and Sasol Gas, amongst others, is under preparation.

Prime Contractor




Status Date

Updated: 11 June 2012 - Created: 15 February 2014