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Enbridge, TransCanada, Kinder Morgan working together to evaluate aerial-based pipeline safety technologies

Pipeline companies Enbridge Pipelines Inc., TransCanada Corporation, and Kinder Morgan Canada have signed a Joint Industry Partnership (JIP) agreement to conduct research into aerial-based leak detection technologies, in the interest of enhancing across-the-board pipeline safety.

The goal of the project is to identify technologies capable of viably detecting small leaks from liquid petroleum pipeline systems to improve pipeline safety. The project is expected to involve laboratory research and field trials to evaluate the feasibility of commercially available aerial-based leak detection technologies, for use with crude oil and hydrocarbon liquids pipelines.

Kinder Morgan, Enbridge, and TransCanada have each committed $200,000 to the new partnership agreement. All three companies involved in this partnership agreement will share equally in the new knowledge and advancements that can be applied directly to improve safety and efficiency in their respective operations.

Potential technologies to be tested may include infrared camera-based systems; laser-based spectroscopy systems; and flame ionization detection systems, with sensors suitable for mounting on light aircraft or helicopters.

Representatives of Enbridge and C-FER Technologies are currently surveying commercial vendors of these airborne leak detection technologies to validate their feasibility for liquid hydrocarbon pipelines. Project research and trials are expected to begin during the third quarter of 2015.

Data analysis will be conducted by Alberta Innovates - Technology Futures, and testing will be carried out by project research partner C-FER Technologies (1999) Inc. of Edmonton.

The challenge with airborne leak detection systems is not with the aircraft, but with selecting appropriate sensors to detect liquid hydrocarbon leaks before they reach the surface. This program helps operating companies understand which technologies are best suited for detecting these leaks, and will provide vendors with unique information on what leaks actually look like. This information will help those vendors fine-tune their systems to detect leaks with greater reliability.

—Brian Wagg, Director of Business Development and Planning for C-FER Technologies

ELDER. A previous Joint Industry Partnership (JIP)—established by TransCanada and Enbridge, and now including Kinder Morgan—has already yielded leak detection research using a state-of-the-art pipeline simulator known as the External Leak Detection Experimental Research (ELDER) test apparatus.

Work on the ELDER leak detection project continues at C-FER Technologies’ Edmonton research facility. Enbridge and TransCanada have each committed $1.6-million to the ELDER project, while Kinder Morgan has committed $1-million. The project has a total funding commitment of more than $6-million.

Engineers from C-FER Technologies, Enbridge and TransCanada performed a series of tests throughout 2014 on four external leak-detection technologies: vapor sensing tubes, fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing (DTS) systems, hydrocarbon-sensing cables and fiber-optic distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) systems. All engineering and test data is shared among committed project partners.

Since 2013, the ELDER program has carried out four tests, and collected data from the 13 participating vendors, representing hundreds of recorded leaks in the ELDER apparatus. Data analysis is ongoing, but some participating vendors have already reviewed test results with the intention of using them to improve their systems. The ELDER program is expected to continue into 2016.

Comments

HarveyD

Permanent, full time (24/7) leak detectors are required. Routine airborne checked are not enough.

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