Accelerating the flow of innovation down the iPIPE

Enbridge joins consortium evaluating next-generation technology in the pipeline industry

It starts with a Shark Tank scenario.

And as technology appraisal goes, it’s definitely got teeth.

It’s the intelligent Pipeline Integrity Program (iPIPE), a North Dakota-based consortium of companies in the upstream and midstream pipeline industry that welcomed Enbridge as a member in April 2019 to the multi-year program.

The partnership was formed to accelerate development of next-generation technologies to better prevent and detect leaks on gathering pipelines. It not only allows developers to test their technology capability on operating pipeline networks—it also has an intriguing method of selecting those innovators.

“Every year we have two days’ worth of Shark Tank-type meetings where pipeline integrity or leak detection vendors pitch their products to the companies in the consortium. We get together, ask questions and vote on the technologies we believe have the most potential,” says Cam Meyn, Supervisor of Leak Detection Testing and Research for Enbridge’s Liquids Pipelines group.

“It’s a very productive format,” adds Phil Martin, a Technology and Information Services (TIS) Manager with Enbidge’s Liquids Pipelines Leak Detection team.

“For the consortium, it’s extremely nimble and things move very quickly on the evaluation front. For the vendors, it’s a chance to demonstrate their technology on live systems, real pipelines, which is very difficult for a lot of them to do on their own.”

Throughout ongoing evaluations, members of iPIPE have immediate access to research and development results. Since 2018, a wide range of technologies have been reviewed, with promising new systems being tested on upstream and midstream pipeline networks in North Dakota. This includes promising innovative technologies such as a golf ball-sized inline inspection tool and a polymer nanocomposite for leak detection.

Additionally, Enbridge is helping to evaluate a satellite-based leak and threat detection system that leverages machine-learning techniques. The first stage involved leak detection experts collaborating with the North Dakota region through a 16-week monitoring and field-checking exercise on our North Dakota pipelines. The results helped refine the satellite-based leak and threat detection system’s algorithms, and brought the technology closer to commercial reality.

Enbridge is committed to pursuing innovation and technology solutions that drive higher levels of safety, reliability and productivity in our energy delivery process. We saw the iPIPE consortium as an opportunity to advance new technologies in the areas of leak prevention and detection, while also entering into a collaboration that will help enhance pipeline industry safety as a whole.

“iPIPE continues to push the envelope, constantly seeking new technology that shows promise, but needs a bit of guidance to complete development and become commercial,” says iPIPE Program Manager Jay Almlie.

“We were planning at looking at some of these technologies anyway. But here was a group working together, sharing information, accelerating the process, and learning from each other,” says Ray Philipenko, Director of Enbridge’s Pipeline Control System and Leak Detection team.

Adds Enbridge’s Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Bhushan Ivaturi: “This is one example of how Enbridge Technology and Information Services is driving external industry collaboration to improve pipeline safety and reliability. It’s a win-win for Enbridge and the industry.”