StarTrak Pipeline Technologies, Inc       
    27233 West Highway Blvd
    Katy, Texas. 77494
    Phone (281) 391.6311

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Pipe Line & Storage Facilities using Low Earth Orbit Satellite Systems To relay operations data.

Low power system can monitor pipeline pigs Rectifier data, and Startrak's new "Watchdog" Described as an "Intelligent Pipeline Marker"

Ernest D. Casey, President, StarTrak Pigging Technologies, Inc. Katy, Texas.
Thomas J Cooney, Vice President Business Development DATASYST

"Oil and Gas pipelines are the backbone of the Nation's energy infrastructure" a statement made by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta. It goes on to say, " these pipelines provide resources for our national defense; to heat and cool our homes; to generate the power for our business enterprises and to fuel an unparalleled national transportation system".

In order to provide increased safety and security of pipeline operations, the US Department of Transportation has laid down new guidelines by which pipeline operations will be conducted. The industry as a whole has prided itself on the self-imposed safety
Regulations on which, it has operated successfully throughout this past decade. However, as many US pipelines are beginning to age, it becomes necessary for increased safety regulations to ensure public safety. Due to the recent downturn in the economy and company mergers, a shortage of skilled labor has been created, in the industry where the present day staff is generally overworked. Companies are searching for new methods of automation for their systems, to provide both increased safety factors and lower operating costs.

In order to solve many of the industry's problems, StarTrak Pigging Technologies, of Katy, Texas has developed systems utilizing satellite technology. Pipeline & Energy operators now have a new communication system for acquiring data in order to operate their systems more efficiently, with a higher degree of safety, cost effectively. By use of Low Earth Orbit Satellite Systems, low power communications can be erected throughout most remote parts of the world in order link both onshore and offshore operations data to control centers.

Presently there are three communication companies in the United States, which are presently in operation utilizing L.E.O. systems. Orbcomm LLP - GlobalStar - Iridium.

The Orbcomm Satellite Constellation comprises of 35 satellites in orbit 500 miles above the earth. The system is designed to handle small packets of data at a very low cost. Orbcomm is a two-way communication system, ideal for sending and receiving e-mail and other short data messages. Orbiting time is approximately 90 minutes. Here in the United States we have 2.7 satellites in view at all times.


GlobalStar Satellite Constellation consists of 45 satellites plus two spares in orbit at 830 miles above the earth. GlobalStar initially set its sights on providing voice communications to a worldwide market but is capable of two-way data and voice communication to most parts of the world.

Iridium Satellite Constellation consists of 66 satellites orbiting in 6 planes, 485 miles above the earth. Total orbit time is approximately 100 minutes. Iridium is capable of providing both voice and data communications to any part of the world. Boeing is currently operating the system.

All three companies are capable of providing two-way data communications, at relatively low cost, covering most, if not, all parts of the world including offshore facilities.

Pipeline operators, in particular, have a new communications tool for managing their lines by linking onshore and offshore operations data to control centers. Data can be transmitted from any location in the world to any other location.

StarTrak Pigging Technologies, Inc. of Katy, Texas has developed master control monitoring stations that can communicate with satellite systems to provide operators with such capabilities as:

  • Acquisition of pipeline operating data including inline devices, cathodic protection information, and pipeline security systems.
  • Reliable data transmission, even in severe weather conditions.
  • Remote operating capabilities also E-mail facilities.

    In order to ensure maximum safety and efficiency, it is necessary for pipeline companies to monitor all facets of their operations.

    Safety factors
    Pipeline flow rates
    Cathodic protection data including rectifier current, voltages, metering. Including high/low voltage alarms.
    In order to provide protection against external corrosion. Pipe/soil Potentials.
    Line pressures and temperatures.
    Leak detection and ability to isolate leakage.
    Valve status information and ability to close off valves in emergencies.

    Passage indication of in-line travelers such as pigs, spherical pigs and inspection devices such as Magnetic Flux-leakage Inspection pigs, Geometry pigs, Ultrasonic devices, and especially Geographical Survey type pigs. Other aspects of data requirements may include pipeline coating integrity, storage facilities, and remote areas where leaks may occur, these include valve stations, tanks, and offshore loading facilities.

    Efficiency factors
    Automation of pig and sphere launching facilities especially those in remote areas and offshore operations.
    Flow rate and line pressures
    Compressor and pumping equipment
    Knowledge of batch locations in multi-products pipelines.
    Regular pigging operations for line cleaning.
    Communications between operators and field technicians.

    Pipelines transport oil, gas, liquid petroleum products, chemicals, and slurries from one location to another. Offshore pipelines transport crude oil and gas from well heads to land bases for onward transportation. Offshore systems include tanker-loading facilities for shallow water ports in many parts of the world. Here, crude oil is unloaded, stored and pumped to the nearest refinery for processing. Multi-product systems transport products to end-users often far removed from refineries throughout the US and in many other countries of the world.

    These pipeline systems are known as common carriers due to the fact that ownership is normally shared by more than one company and products shipped can be for various companies. Batches are carefully monitored throughout their travel and can be separated by either batching pigs, spherical pigs or have no separation where the interface is accepted. Pigs and spherical pigs may be monitored by either mechanical or magnetic equipment whereas the lapped products by gravitometers or similar instrumentation.

    The monitoring of pigs in offshore pipelines, especially "smart" pig is necessary and vital to inspection reporting. Inspection pigs are used to locate defects in the pipeline. Defects can be in the metallurgy, or they can be mechanical defects such as intrusions or buckles, which can be caused by a ship's anchor or during dredging operations.

    Inspection pigs usually are equipped with two methods of determining distance traveled; an odometer also an internal time clock synchronized to GPS time. Both of these systems are used in order to provide accurate timing and to monitor the distance traveled against known points such as a valve station or erected external benchmark. By use of these systems, any defects found, during inspection operations, can be accurately located. Errors in defect location can be extremely costly to both pipeline companies and contractors. It is, therefore extremely important to incorporate a complete communications system into this type of operation especially as pipelines are being laid in much deeper waters during the last few years.

    StarTrak Pigging Technologies has developed methods of communicating essential data using Low Earth Orbit Satellite technology. The benefits of the utilization of LEO systems over other forms of communication are the cost savings on both the equipment and air time and the reliability of the system. This form of communications system is unaffected by weather conditions as suffered by many of its counterparts. Transmission from earth based stations to satellite does not require large antennae systems, a simple whip type antenna is all that is required.

    New Systems:

    Pipeline Cathodic Protection Data.
    Rectifiers are situated along the route of pipeline systems in order to provide a negative DC current to the pipe as opposed to earth potential. Normally the voltage level is between -0.85vdc and -1.2vdc. This provides protection against corrosion for the outer skin of the pipe, which is insulated from earth by a coating or wrapping.

    It is very necessary for operators to be aware that these systems are operating correctly at all times. Normally, a monthly inspection of the rectifiers includes checking voltages, metering and pipe/soil potentials at each of these stations. One can appreciate the extent of labor that this requires especially under bad weather and winter conditions. Should a rectifier fail between inspections, this would not be known until the next visit.

    However, some companies have installed flashing beacons above rectifier sites, which can be seen and monitored from the air. A major pipeline company has calculated that the cost per rectifier, per month for capturing data is in the region of $150.00 US.

    StarTrak Pigging Technologies, Inc. has designed a system that can be mounted adjacent to the rectifier. The unit is programmed to monitor rectifiers, on a weekly basis and transmit the data including pipe/soil potentials, also pre-set voltage limit alarms, back to pipeline control centers or to corrosion control supervisors computer systems linked to Internet facilities.

    This system has expanded capacity of 16 digital and 16 analog i/o therefore it has the versatility of handling additional systems such as pig passage information, permanent leak detection systems, wrapping evaluation and pipe damage alerts. A Quake Global Communicator has been selected to provide high-speed data transmissions to and from remote assets. These units communicate data to the Low Earth Orbit Satellite System, which, in turn is downloaded to a nearest Earth Station, switched to a secure Internet connection and relayed to Pipeline Control Centers. The operating cost of such a system is less than 10% of normal operating costs.

    Leak Detection System: Moving fluids through pipeline systems is an energy-efficient means of transportation, proven safe and effective over years of industry experience. In recent years, total mileage of installed pipelines has increased dramatically. This trend is expected to continue. It is the responsibility of pipeline operators to ensure that their systems operate efficiently and safely. Leaks are a rare occurrence, but present serious problems when they occur. An unchecked leak represents loss of valuable product; clean up costs; increased hazard to life and environment.

    The amount of product loss in a monitored pipeline depends on: Minimum detectable hole size Elapsed time from leak to action. StarTrak Pigging Technologies, Inc. has teamed up with Acoustic Systems Incorporated, of Houston, Texas, in order to provide the finest and most reliable leak detection available. The system is known under its trade name WaveAlert ® Leak Detection System, which provides leak occurrence and location information quickly and accurately based on direct measurements. Use of Low Earth Orbit Satellite technology may be utilized for data transmission throughout most parts of the world, even in the remotest areas.

    "Watchdog" The Intelligent Pipeline Marker:
    Energy companies erect test lead stations in order that pipeline operators can monitor pipe/soil potentials regularly and thus protect their pipelines against external corrosion. The current practice of pipeline technicians physically visiting each of these sites monthly or bi-monthly, while effective, is time consuming and costly. In addition, most pipeline-related accidents can be attributed to technicians' driving from site to site rather than to normal defects. StarTrak simplifies this entire process by transmitting this critical data on a weekly or monthly basis. Using low-earth orbit (LEO) technology,, StarTrak's Watchdog system enables two-way communications between pipelines and pipeline control centers most anywhere in the world.

    Watchdog, which currently has patents pending, is designed to help energy companies monitor important status and performance parameters related to their remote pipeline operations without leaving their office. Watchdog has three primary functions - transmitting weekly or monthly: Pipe/soil potentials Monitoring pipeline pigs Reporting that pipeline damage has occurred. By using Watchdog to obtain this important information, energy companies can save substantial revenues by increasing efficiency, while improving the safety of their valuable assets.

    How often have we seen pipeline technicians running from road crossing to road crossing to monitor the passage of pipeline pigs? Watchdog allows operators to remain at their stations and watch the passage of pigs on their computer screens. The author has actually witnessed 32 technicians in five vehicles attempting to listen for the passage of pigs at road crossings.

    It is not until pipeline operators run either a conventional pig or an inspection pig that they find damage to the pipe or the external pipeline coatings that relate to corrosive elements attacking the pipeline. One major problem in many countries, is third party Illegal-tapping. It is only when it is noticed that receipts fall below the level that has been pumped, that operators either know that they have a leak or that someone has tapped into the line. Watchdog is able to detect both the sound and vibration of such an event and immediately alert operations personnel.

    Leak Detection for Storage Tanks & Remote Facilities: StarTrak Pigging Technologies LEO monitoring system is an ideal solution for remote monitoring for oil spills such as may occur from underground storage tanks, valve pits or remote pumping facilities.

    Utilizing Leakwise Oil Sheen Monitoring System in conjunction with StarTrak systems, operators can be alerted immediately an oil spill has occurred. Additional applications are available in order to detect and monitor floating hydrocarbons in: sewer systems, oil/water separators, cooling water trenches, canals, storm water run-offs, retention ponds and boiler condensate tanks.

    Offshore Operations: Offshore functions include Pigging operations in which pigs are monitored and data transmitted from a surface buoy to the nearest satellite.

    For shallow-water operations, a magnetic sensor is located on or near the pipe and attached to surface electronics by cable. In deep-water applications, data transmissions between the sub-surface sensor and the surface buoy are carried out by an acoustic link. Valve monitoring and E-stop facilities can be accomplished by communicating from a surface buoy to sub-surface electronics by acoustic modems and transducers.

    In some crude oil pipelines, it is necessary to monitor on-line temperatures to detect possible problem areas where wax build-up may occur. A StarTrak temperature survey pig may be used to detect the suspect problem areas. If not, especially in deep waters, all data can be transferred from sub-sea locations to the surface. Such subsurface data transmission to be received by instrumentation that is housed on a permanently positioned buoy. The digitized information is transmitted through the LEO network to a central operating control station. Additional information such as wind and wave action can also transmitted by the same system.

    For offshore inspection pigging operations, temporary buoys are installed at pre-determined stations along the route. Differential global positioning system coordinates are taken at each subsurface sensing station, which has its own internal reference. Upon the passage of a magnetic tool, the station becomes active and causes a transmission to take place, which provides atomic clock time of the event to one-tenth of a second along with station identification. In the event that the tool becomes obstructed during the inspection process, it can be quickly located. This method provides the Inspection Company with solid offshore bench-mark facilities to assist in accurate reporting.


    Another extremely good application for use of LEO systems is that it enables the remote control of offshore compressor stations and other platforms after personnel have been evacuated during extreme bad weather conditions, such as hurricanes. Crews normally are evacuated at least 48 hours prior to the anticipated arrival of the severe weather. That means that the operation is shut down and not re-started until the crews arrive back usually 48 hours after the storm has passed the area. In these precautionary shutdowns, the lost revenues can amount to millions of dollars.

    The use of satellite technology, which can provide reliable communications under the most severe weather conditions. The offshore remote site can continue operating until wind and wave action becomes most severe. At that point, operators can remotely shut down operations and re-start it when wind and wave action subsides.

    Transportation and Vessel Monitoring: Global Fleet Monitoring is now a realization by use of LEO systems. By this method, transportation both on land and at sea can be monitored to GPS coordinates to ensure that transportation can be run more efficiently. Not only can this system be utilized to locate or track vehicles but it can also be utilized to provide other data such as temperatures inside of insulated vehicles also engine and transmission service data.
    Vessels coming into port are accurately monitored right up to their moorings. In addition, while at sea, fax and e-mail facilities can be available even in the remotest parts of the world. Recently, it was announced that Erik Lindburg, Charles Lindburg's grandson, landed in France after duplicating his grandfather's historic flight. Erik had on board Echo Flight equipment with GPS in order to provide up to the minute flight data and E-mail facilities using Low Earth Orbit Satellite Communication Systems. The USA Today article mentions the GPS and the send/receive email capability, along with graphical NEXRAD and graphical METAR.

    BackOffice Solutions:StarTrak Pigging Technologies, Inc. has teamed with DATASYST, Inc. to promote integration of the data gathered by the StarTrak Pigging Technologies, Inc. front-end sensors with a company’s back-end systems using a custom-built technology solution. By use of this technology, it enables companies to track, monitor and communicate with remote and mobile assets anytime, anywhere. A few bytes of vital information or a short critical message can be pivotal to making business decisions that will enhance productivity or avoid losses.

    The DATADVANTAGE System was designed using multi-tier client/server architecture, providing modularity and easy customization. The system consists of three main components: the Message Gateway, the Database Server, and the Web/Application Server.

    The Message Gateway functions as the interface between your front-end sensor and the rest of the system's solution. Data messages are routed through the communications network, or networks, of your choice and are processed by the Message Gateway. The Message Gateway, in turn, routes the data messages to the Database Server.

    The Database Server functions as the central repository for all data messages received by the system. Over time, as data is collected by the system, standard data mining tools can be employed to dig out nuggets of information that will help your enterprise spot trends that can open up potential new markets or point to areas needing improvement, making your business more efficient and profitable.

    The Web/Application Server contains the business logic associated with your particular business solution. In addition to supporting web-based applications, it can also support sending messages to third-party commercial pager and fax networks. Should business needs require it, the system's solution can be custom configured to provide formatted data that will interface with existing legacy systems, providing a total front-end to back-end systems integration solution.

    Integrating new or existing legacy Back-Office services, businesses can now gain a competitive edge by more effectively managing remote and mobile assets using multiple technologies conveniently and efficiently everywhere in the world. END

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    StarTrak 2012 All right reserved
    StarTrak Pigging Technologies
    27233 West Highway Blvd.
    Katy, Texas 77494
    Ph. 281-391-6311