Pipeline metering and regulating (M&R) stations, typically unmanned sites, are critical to pipeline operations. It’s not uncommon in the industry for operators to design and build new M&R stations as greenfield projects independent of previous project discoveries or standards developed in previous projects. The unintended consequences of this can leave operations and maintenance personnel confused with the system and can lead to unnecessary design and maintenance costs.

A standardized approach to M&R station design can help alleviate some of these issues, resulting in lower costs, improved schedules for both construction and maintenance, and progress toward operational goals. Ultimately, standardizing the approach provides uniform designs across the system. Those designs aid in simplifying operations and maintenance activities while still efficiently meeting the needs of the downstream end users.

Reduced Cost

The amount of time spent by the design engineer and the operations group can be greatly reduced during the design phase, resulting in cost savings from utilizing existing standard designs. This is especially true with regard to specific equipment or layouts. For example, standardizing a regulator skid layout removes the engineering need to validate the design for every station, which reduces cost for each such project.

During typical field operation activities, it’s not unusual for issues to arise. Having a standard set of materials or equipment in the system allows operators to stock specific materials. Then they can respond quickly to maintenance issues without trying to source and expedite material, which can be pricey. For instance, if an operator makes a specific type of regulator or flowmeter standard, the operator can quickly replace failed components without the stress and cost of sourcing a typically long-lead piece of equipment. This approach allows operators to limit inventory to their standardized equipment, which can be utilized across the system.

Improved Schedules

A previously agreed-upon approach to design, equipment selection and layout of a M&R station can minimize the design time required and streamline procurement.

Having standardized pieces of equipment allows preapproved vendors to provide standardized packages in a fraction of the time. This can reduce several design cycles involving the engineer, vendors and operators, speeding outcomes and saving time.

Promoting Operational Goals

M&R station designs vary significantly between operators in different regions. They can even differ greatly within an operator’s own system from area to area. This creates challenges for the training of operations and maintenance personnel, who need to be able to operate and maintain all pieces of equipment within the system. Having a multitude of equipment types can increase the risk of operational issues and the potential for making mistakes in the field.

A standardized approach to M&R station design starts with the operator’s engineering group. Developing a set of design standards with agreement from all stakeholders — in operations, engineering, management, commercial, etc. — should be the foundation. Additionally, the approach should include standard equipment design (e.g., FM/CV/regulator skids, EFM/GC buildings, pig L/R, filter separators, heaters, etc.) and establishing a list of approved vendors and manufacturers to increase efficiencies and reduce unknowns.

With increasing reliance on natural gas, having reliable and efficient pipeline M&R stations is growing in importance. Standardization is a best practice that can help operators rise to the challenge.


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David Slavin provides design services for pipeline and pipeline facilities at Burns & McDonnell. He has experience planning, designing and managing engineering projects, as well as construction oversight and field experience.