Enbridge’s 2014 Investments in Pipeline Technologies and Emerging Technologies
Investments in System Integrity, Leak Detection and Damage Prevention
Joint Industry Partnership to Test External Leak Detection Technologies
In late 2013, in partnership with TransCanada Corporation, Enbridge (LP) announced a joint industry partnership agreement to perform groundbreaking research in the area of leak detection. Together, TransCanada and Enbridge are conducting tests on a number of leading external detection technologies, using the External Leak Detection Experimental Research (ELDER) test apparatus in Edmonton. The first tool of its kind in the world, ELDER allows external leak detection technologies to be evaluated in a setting that closely represents the actual conditions where liquids pipelines are installed.
In 2014, engineers from Enbridge, TransCanada, and C-FER Technologies (a not-for-profit research agency that works with oil and gas pipeline operators to develop and evaluate leading-edge technologies) performed a series of tests on four external leak-detection technologies – vapour-sensing tubes, fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing systems, hydrocarbon-sensing cables, and fiber-optic distributed acoustic sensing systems – all focusing on discovering which technology is optimal for enhancing existing methods of external leak detection on liquids pipelines.
Enbridge and TransCanada will share equally in the knowledge and the advancements provided by this research, and apply them directly to improve leak detection capabilities in their operations.
The joint industry partnership represents a total funding commitment of $4 million, including $1.6 million from Enbridge, $1.3 million from TransCanada and $1.1 million from the Alberta Ministry of Innovation and Advanced Education.
Aerial Based Leak Detection
In December 2014, LP entered a joint industry partnership with TransCanada Corporation and Kinder Morgan Canada to explore aerial-based leak detection methods. Through the partnership, the companies will focus on understanding the most promising technologies to perform aerial leak detection. As part of this agreement, C-FER Technologies will perform studies and testing to evaluate the performance of commercial airborne leak detection systems, including their ability to detect leaks at different elevations.
Assessment of In-Line Inspection Technologies
In 2014, LP co-led a Pipeline Research Council International (PRCI) project to evaluate the reliability and performance of existing in-line inspection technologies to detect and diagnose cracks. The project provided an opportunity for LP and other industry participants to better define tool performance and assess the reliability of the in-line inspection tools available for inspecting a range of crack conditions and pipe features. PRCI plans to use the results of the study to establish industry best practices for in-line inspections tools for cracks.
Electromagnetic Acoustic Transducer
Electromagnetic acoustic transducer (EMAT) is an emerging ultrasonic testing technique that operators can use to measure pipe thickness and detect cracks. In the past, EMAT was used primarily for gas pipelines, and is now being tested for use in liquids pipelines. In 2014, LP successfully evaluated the use of EMAT to detect pipeline cracking, including crack-like dents caused by mechanical damage.
Since 2013, LP has tested a commercially available magnetic tomography technology to analyze metal loss in station and terminal piping without the need for excavation. Magnetic tomography is an imaging technique used to characterize pipe sections by registering changes in the magnetic field of the pipeline. In 2014, LP continued field trials of the technology, using relief and tank lines at the Cushing Terminal in Cushing, Oklahoma, and the Superior Terminal in Superior, Wisconsin.
In 2014, LP tested the use of a bracelet probe, which is a new magnetic technology for inspecting corrosion on facilities piping. The use of the bracelet probe allows LP to directly inspect external corrosion on facilities piping without the need to remove insulation and protective metal cladding, as required by existing technologies. We operate insulated pipe mainly in northern Alberta, where insulated pipe is required to transport higher temperature bitumen product from steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) oil sands operations.
Distributed Fiber-Optic Sensing for Strain Monitoring
Pipelines travel through various environments and are subjected to natural ground movements due to landslides and unstable slopes. To effectively monitor and mitigate these forces, LP is investigating a sensor technology to detect strain to the pipeline as a result of ground movement. In 2014, LP installed a distributed fiber-optic sensing system to detect and monitor the strain on a pipeline section at an active slope in Manitoba. Traditional strain gauges have also been installed to enable us to evaluate the performance of this technology.
Advanced Underwater Sensing
LP has acquired an advanced Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), and, in partnership with Michigan Technological University, is testing the equipment’s capabilities to support our pipeline integrity management program. The AUV is being used to collect sonar images to map the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac near our Line 5 crossing in northern Michigan. We expect the use of the AUV to enable faster, more efficient surveillance of the crossing with ultra-high resolution. In 2014, university staff conducted four tests of the AUV technology at the straits.
Wireless Network to Support Remote Pipeline Monitoring
In 2013, our Emerging Technology department invested US$10 million in On-Ramp Wireless, a California-based developer of wireless solutions for energy automation and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. On-Ramp’s technology is the first purpose-built wireless network designed for connecting a large number of remote monitoring devices with very small data requirements. We plan to use On-Ramp’s wireless platform to support long-range sensor monitoring of our pipelines, helping to drive operational efficiencies and deliver information regarding pipeline integrity. In 2014, we made a follow-on investment of US$5 million in On-Ramp.
Fiber-Optic Acoustic Monitoring System
In 2014, our Emerging Technology department invested $4 million in Hifi Engineering. The Calgary-based company has developed a next-generation fiber-optic acoustic monitoring system that listens for disturbances along pipelines. With its high-fidelity acoustics, the monitoring system has been designed to locate extremely low rate leaks and identify indications of strain before a leak occurs. LP is currently testing Hifi’s technology through the External Leak Detection Experimental Research (ELDER) test apparatus in Edmonton.
Tank Leak Detection and Prevention
Since 2012, our Emerging Technology department has invested $1.5 million in Syscor Controls and Automation, a Canadian developer of wireless sensors used for deployment on storage tanks. Through this investment in Syscor, we are furthering our vision of being the safest operator of hydrocarbon facilities. Syscor’s wireless sensors are capable of detecting temperature, pressure, inclination and vapour, thereby mitigating the risks associated with tank failures. In 2014, Emerging Technology made a follow-on investment of $0.5 million in the technology company. Syscor is currently undertaking a pilot project at one of our liquids tank storage facilities in Alberta.
Video Surveillance with Optical Sensing
In 2013, our Emerging Technology department invested $1.5 million in IntelliView Technologies, a Calgary-based developer of intelligent video solutions for industrial surveillance applications. IntelliView’s cutting-edge system uses automated, computerized monitoring and analysis of live feeds from remote video cameras and optical sensors to rapidly detect and report oil leaks or other potential operational incidents. In early 2015, we plan to trial the technology at a pump station in central Alberta and deploy it at a pipeline pig trap location in Michigan.
Fiber-Optic Damage Prevention Technologies
GD is leading an evaluation of fiber-optic damage prevention technologies with the involvement of other North American utilities through NYSEARCH, a collaborative research, development and demonstration organization for gas utilities. The goal is to evaluate the most-effective technologies to protect critical pipelines from third-party damages. In 2014, GD ran a pilot along a 2.5-kilometre (1.5-mile) section of high-pressure reinforcement pipeline in the Ottawa region. The project tested the capabilities of different fiber-optic monitoring systems to detect threats of manual and mechanical digging under identical test conditions, to determine the capabilities, strengths and weaknesses of each system. Preliminary results of the test suggest that, with further refinement, the technologies could be a valuable tool in helping to prevent damage to our high pressure gas distribution mains.
Advanced Gas Leak Detection Technology
GD continues to evaluate a new type of leak detection technology that is significantly more accurate and sensitive to finding gas leaks than current technologies. The cavity ring-down spectroscopy analyzer technology measures the levels of methane gas in a sample based on laser light absorption, promising to be a highly sensitive and specific detection method for natural gas leaks. The technology can be used on foot or mounted on vehicles. In 2014, the business conducted field trials to determine the optimal solution for integrating this technology with existing leak-survey practices. If successful, the technology could provide GD survey technicians the tool they need to detect gas earlier along distribution mains and in difficult-to-access areas.
3D Laser Mapping
In the U.S., GPP piloted the use of 3D laser mapping of pressure vessels to detect internal and external corrosion at the Weatherford gas processing plant in Texas. The mobile 3D imaging technology allows inspections to be carried out more accurately and quickly than standard manual methods. In 2015, GPP plans to expand the use of the application to other gas processing facilities.
GPP also began using an X-ray photospectrometer as a non-destructive testing method to scan pipe and vessels to analyze materials specifications. Combined with other non-destructive material testing procedures, the data provided from the scanner will help document material specifications otherwise unknown and vital to the long-term integrity of the equipment.
Investments in in a Cleaner Energy Future
As global demand for energy continues to grow, we know that society wants to see wider use of clean power – and we believe finding lower-impact, lower-carbon energy solutions is in everyone’s interests. Our GD business unit is advancing innovative technologies that enable customers to increase the efficient use of natural gas and reduce emissions. And, through our Emerging Technology department, we hope to add clean power platforms to our portfolio in the years to come. For example, we have investments in pre-commercial renewable and alternative energy technologies, large-scale electricity storage and carbon capture and utilization.
Investments in Energy Efficiency, Gas Savings and Emissions Reduction
GD supports widespread market adoption of new technologies that drive energy efficiency, gas savings and emission reductions while simultaneously reducing end-user costs. These efforts are undertaken in support of GD’s demand-side management program. GD participates in these projects as a member of the Canadian Gas Association and the Gas Technology Institute, and is taking an interest in a number of active projects:
- Renewable natural gas (biogas) processing, using activated biochar, a charcoal-based filter
- Testing of condensing rooftop units (high-efficiency gas-fired heating systems)
- Demand controls for central hot water systems
- Advanced load-monitoring controllers and condensing economizers (heat exchangers) to improve boiler efficiencies
Solar Power Technology
Since 2011, we have invested in next-generation solar technology through a $9.8-million investment in Morgan Solar, a Canadian start-up. Our investment is intended to help Morgan Solar commercialize a new line of concentrated photovoltaic (PV) panels that boost the power output of solar cells. The technology provides an innovative means of generating solar power more efficiently, for less cost and with a lower environmental footprint.
We have a 50-per-cent interest in the Wasdell Falls Run-of-the-River Hydro Project on Ontario’s Severn River, about two hours north of Toronto. Currently under construction, the 1.65-MW project will begin commercial operation in 2015. The project is expected to have a low impact on its surroundings. Without substantial alterations to rivers and canals, it will direct water through a slow-moving turbine that returns the water to the river.
Electricity from Waste Energy Sources
Since 2012, we have invested in Genalta Power, a privately held Canadian corporation that owns and operates independent power plants that produce and sell environmentally friendly electricity generated from waste energy sources. In Alberta, Genalta owns and operates five projects that generate up to 37 MW. In addition, it has another 11 projects (total generating capacity of 98.5 MW) in Alberta and Ontario that are in the near-term and engineering phases.
Utility-Scale Energy Storage Technologies
As one of Canada’s largest producers of solar and wind power, and a company with large renewable energy projects in the U.S. as well, we are investing in technologies that support large-scale energy storage.
In April 2012, our Emerging Technology department entered into a partnership with Mississauga, Ontario-based Hydrogenics Corporation, whose water electrolysis technology can convert surplus renewable energy into hydrogen gas. Under the partnership, which included a $5-million investment by Enbridge, excess electricity from renewable generation would be converted into renewable hydrogen through electrolysis and injected into GD’s natural gas distribution network. By converting electricity to gas and storing it in vast natural gas pipeline networks, more renewable energy can be stored for long periods, increasing the amount of clean energy that can be generated and made available for consumers.
Currently, Enbridge and Hydrogenics are jointly developing a power-to-gas storage plant that will deliver 2 MW of storage capacity and will be located in the Greater Toronto Area. Hydrogenics will supply the facility’s next-generation proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzers and is partnering with Enbridge to develop, build and operate the energy storage facility to provide regulation services to Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO). The project is expected to begin commercial operation in 2016.
Our Emerging Technology department has also invested $6.5 million in Temporal Power, an Ontario-based manufacturer of electrical energy storage systems. Temporal Power’s electrical energy storage technology is based on 4,080-kilogram (9,000-pound) solid-steel flywheels – essentially, mechanical batteries that store electrical energy as kinetic energy through continuous high-speed rotation. These flywheels can store surplus energy from renewable sources and then release that power quickly and powerfully back to the grid via an electricity generator – keeping the grid in balance and enabling the grid to embrace intermittent renewable sources such as wind and solar.
Temporal’s technology has been incorporated into a 2-MW flywheel energy storage facility in Harriston, Ontario. The recently commissioned project, which is owned by NRStor Inc., will provide service to IESO.
In 2014, our Emerging Technology department invested US$10 million in Skyonic, a Texas-based developer of carbon-capture technology. Skyonic has developed a new process that captures carbon dioxide and converts the GHG into other products, including sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate, hydrochloric acid and bleach. In 2015, Skyonic will commence operations at a carbon capture and conversion demonstration project in San Antonio, Texas, with support from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Carbon Capture and Storage
We are a funding partner in Aquistore, an independent carbon storage research and monitoring project located near Estevan in southeastern Saskatchewan. The project is intended to prove that storing carbon dioxide deep underground is a safe, workable solution to reduce GHG emissions. The project is being managed by the Petroleum Technology Research Centre in collaboration with partners from the private sector and the universities of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and with federal and provincial funding. In 2015, the project will begin injecting liquefied carbon dioxide captured from SaskPower’s Boundary Dam coal-fired electrical generating station.
Our Emerging Technology department also continues to fund a number of projects to improve efficiencies in energy transportation and other areas of the oil and gas industry:
Advanced High-Density Polyethylene Pipe
In 2013, our Emerging Technology department invested US$8 million in Smart Pipe Company, a developer, manufacturer and installer of a high-strength, spoolable, composite high-density polyethylene pipe. The technology, developed by the Texas-based company, is highly applicable in difficult-to-access areas such as river crossings and urban areas, as it does not require trenching of a right-of-way. In addition, the Smart Pipe technology does not rely upon the structural integrity of the carbon-steel pipe through which it is pulled. We are evaluating opportunities to deploy the technology in LP, GD and GPP.
Marine Transportation of Compressed Natural Gas
Since 2010, our Emerging Technology department has invested $10 million in Sea NG, a Canadian company committed to commercializing marine compressed natural gas transportation. Sea NG has developed a system to transport compressed natural gas by sea. The gas will be held in purpose-built modules called coselles (coiled pipe in a carousel) that are designed to hold large amounts of compressed natural gas. This technology has the potential to reduce GHG emissions by displacing diesel and heavy fuel oils currently used in numerous coastal and island markets with clean, abundant natural gas.
Our Emerging Technology department invested $15 million in N-Solv Corporation in 2001 to support the development of an innovative bitumen extraction technology. N-Solv’s technology uses warm solvent to recover bitumen from in situ (in place) reserves efficiently, sustainably and economically. Since 2013, N-Solv has continued to successfully operate its pilot plant near Fort McMurray, Alberta.