Pipeline simulation is the creation and operation of a “virtual pipeline” that closely replicates the physical pipeline and its operation. Pipeline simulation uses mathematics, specifically the laws of fluid mechanics and conservation of mass and energy to represent the hydraulic behavior of the fluid. A simulation can be as simple as calculating pressure drop in a single pipeline segment, or as complex as taking live measurement data from an operating pipeline network and using these data to drive a virtual pipeline side-by-side with its real-world counterpart. A virtual pipeline is also an extremely effective tool for training pipeline operators.
Critics of Information Services (IS) departments coined the phrase “islands of automation” to characterize the uncoordinated evolution of their Information Technology (IT) infrastructures. Pipeline simulation, as a compute-intensive application, has been critically dependent on the available IT platforms, and has been marooned on these islands for years. This paper charts how the application of simulation technology has changed over time as the available IT platforms have evolved. It offers suggestions as to how, in the coming years, pipeline simulation applications will be freed from these technology shackles as IS departments embrace new architectures in response to corporate business requirements.