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Feb 23 2017

Eyeing new technology for pipeline leak detection

Posted by TransCanada

Testing new tech in the real world

Not unlike speed skating, the pipeline business is a high-tech, high-performance industry. And thanks to one complex and evolving piece of equipment, the similarities don’t stop there.

In 1998, an innovative university research project quickly led to the founding in 2003 of a Calgary-based company focused on real-time video analytic applications in hospitals, airports and wildlife settings – in addition to its usefulness in tracking lanes for speed skating.

Jump ahead 14 years and IntelliView Technologies Inc. is now implementing its patented technology in pipeline leak detection and asset security with sophisticated video equipment and software designed to measure temperature, size, speed, shape and colour that can alert monitoring stations to small anomalies.

Year-long trial on the Keystone Pipeline System

In late 2015, IntelliView implemented its technology at a TransCanada pump station on the Keystone Pipeline System in Alberta for a year-long trial. Beyond leak detection alone, the program also incorporated site security using Intelliview thermal cameras and a suite of defined analytics. The installation was partly funded by the Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures Product Demonstration Program, under which IntelliView was the recipient of an award.

For TransCanada, the year-long trial – which wrapped up in October 2016 – provided an opportunity to assess potential implementation of this technology to complement the company’s existing robust leak detection and security system.

"In terms of leak detection, there are many layers to the monitoring systems we have in place from computational modelling tools, continuous line pressure measurement, 24/7 control room surveillance, to in line acoustic leak detection devices and periodic aerial patrol surveys,” said Erik Tatarchuk, vice-president of Liquid Pipeline Operations at TransCanada.

“As part of our extensive R&D program, we’re also interested in testing new technologies that might enhance our existing system like the monitoring system offered by IntelliView.”

During the last year, engineers and security experts from across TransCanada worked with IntelliView to support and evaluate the project and its potential application.

Four rounds of testing under varying conditions

Al Moosa, a project manager in TransCanada's leak detection group who has been overseeing the trials, says that four rounds of testing were completed – each under varying conditions.

“The testing went well and over the year we learned many things about the thermal camera leak detection system,” said Moosa.

“We now know a lot more about the performance of the system in a real scenario under real conditions for above ground facilities.”

The leak detection team is continuing to assess the results of the trial.

“Early leak detection can save millions of dollars in product loss and cleanup costs, as well as limiting environmental impact,” said IntelliView Executive Chairman, Bill Hews.

“We are delighted TransCanada has recognized the potential value of our leak detection and intrusion video-based solutions for pipeline facilities as a potential complement to their existing assurance programs, and agreed to partner with us in testing and demonstrating the capability of our system for their own use as well as others in the industry.”

Leading R&D program

With one of the industry’s largest R&D programs, in the past five years, TransCanada has dedicated more than $141 million towards technology development. In 2015 alone, more than $45 million was spent on R&D activities, with a focus on technology advancements in the areas of in-line inspection, cathodic protection, leak detection and coating technology.

In 2016, TransCanada once again landed a spot on Canada’s Top 100 Corporate R&D Spenders List by Research Infosource, Inc.