Reducing downtime risk in oil and gas pipelines

Knovel helps estimate component and equipment lifetimes, and assess redundancy systems for pipelines

Centrifugal pump failure can bring oil and gas pipelines to a halt, costing companies millions of dollars. To protect business continuity, one hydraulic engineer at a major transporter for oil and gas was tasked with estimating the feasibility of having backup pumps in a redundant pump system. The engineer turned to Knovel to discover which pumps had the appropriate lifespans and, thus, the longest mean time between failures.

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Oil and gas production companies push their product through pipelines using large centrifugal pumps. The output of a centrifugal pump is determined by the physics of the system: the pressure or head, and the flow of the fluid—and have an optimal combination at which they can function with maximum efficiency. Outside that range, the efficiency and the lifespan of the pump decrease. In addition, high pressures and flows can decrease the important parameter mean time between failures (MTBF) of the pump or its component parts. A short MTBF exposes the company to very high costs due to the repeated downtime.

In this case, the client company owns and operates a pipeline system, providing transport for oil, refined petroleum products and natural gas liquids. Downtime due to pump failure was a major concern. As part of a business continuity improvement project, they tasked a hydraulic engineer with evaluating the feasibility of a redundant pump system where a second pump could take over whenever the main pump failed.

R&D Solutions


The engineer chose Knovel, a recognized and reliable source of consolidated engineering information, to perform the in-depth research into the feasibility of running a redundant pump system. Knovel provided all the data in an easy-to-find, uniform and actionable resource set. Otherwise, multiple databases would have been needed, adding considerable time to the project.

Among the specific information that the engineer researched and found were:

  • Crude properties;
  • Pressure and flow relationship charts for different fluids;
  • Methods for evaluating the reliability of pumps under different conditions;
  • Statistical methods for estimating the MTBF for pumps and their components; and
  • Average MTBFs and lifespans for different pump

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Confident that the sources in Knovel are reliable, the hydraulic engineer was able to produce a credible recommendation that saved his company millions of dollars.

Process Engineer


Equipped with information about the MTBFs for pumps working under different conditions, the engineer could now determine a given pump’s lifespan. This provided better insight into the existing pumps and their potential problems, and helped to inform decisions on which types of equipment might be worth investing in.

With Knovel’s reliably curated and vetted sources, the engineer was able to produce a credible recommendation about the systems where purchasing redundancy pumps would benefit the company most. The cost of the recommended redundancy purchases was $2M—far less than the millions of dollars that downtime would have cost.

Knovel also helped the engineer build a clear business case, featuring data and references from trusted sources. By providing all the necessary information through a single interface, Knovel saves research time, even for complicated and computationally intensive projects such as this one. Ultimately, this means engineers can more quickly make informed decisions about risks that can cost millions of dollars, and implement risk mitigation strategies before problems arise.

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