Key pipeline companies in North America take lead on safety research

TransCanada and Enbridge have pledged funding to evaluate cutting-edge technologies to enhance external leak detection at the Edmonton research facility in Canada, using a new pipeline simulator developed by Enbridge and known as the External Leak Detection Experimental Research (ELDER) test apparatus.

The partnership also illustrates the dedication and cooperation by both companies to significantly invest in innovation and technology with a common goal. Further enhancing safety and operational excellence will provide benefits the entire pipeline industry and directly address the public’s concerns over responsible development.

TransCanada and Enbridge will share equally in the new knowledge and advancements that can be applied directly to improve leak detection in their respective operations.

“Enbridge has said repeatedly as a company that we don’t compete in the area of safety, and this partnership with TransCanada represents clear proof of that approach. Enbridge has invested considerable time and resources into building a world-class leak detection testing apparatus, but we believe that working together with committed partners to discover the best technology on the market is in everyone’s best interest,” says Kirk Byrtus, Enbridge’s vice president of Pipeline Control.

“Pipelines have an excellent record of safety and efficiency delivering oil and gas, and TransCanada continues to strive for zero leaks or safety incidents on our pipelines,” says Vern Meier, TransCanada’s vice president of Pipeline Safety and Compliance. “Joining forces with Enbridge and other partners to test new methods for detecting leaks is an important step toward realizing this goal. New technologies must be proven to work before they are implemented on large-scale transmission pipelines.”

The ELDER apparatus is the first tool of its kind in scale and was purpose-built by Enbridge’s Pipeline Control Systems and Leak Detection (PCSLD) team, along with project research partner C-FER Technologies of Edmonton, Canada, to evaluate external leak detection technologies in a setting that very closely represents the actual conditions where liquids pipelines are installed.

This JIP represents a total funding commitment of $4-million, including $1.3-million from TransCanada, $1.6-million from Enbridge, and $1.1-million from the Alberta Ministry of Innovation and Advanced Education. Enbridge had previously invested $3-million over two years to develop and build the ELDER apparatus with C-FER Technologies.

Engineers from Enbridge, TransCanada, and C-FER Technologies will be performing a series of tests in 2014 on four external leak-detection technologies including vapor-sensing tubes, fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing (DTS) systems, hydrocarbon-sensing cables and fiber-optic distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) systems. From the selected technologies, an optimal technology for external leak detection on liquids pipelines will be further developed.

At present, the JIP involves only TransCanada and Enbridge, but it remains an open-ended arrangement. Other pipeline operators and energy industry leaders are invited to participate as committed partners.

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